Green’s Dictionary of Slang

air n.

(US) nonsense, rubbish, empty chatter.

[US]J.R. Lowell Biglow Papers (1880) 15: Sez he, ‘Stan’ back!’ ‘Aint you a buster?’ / Sez I, ‘I’m up to all thet air, I guess I’ve been to muster.’.
[US]V.W. Saul ‘Vocab. of Bums’ in AS IV:5 337: Air — False talk.
[US]Irwin Amer. Tramp and Und. Sl. 18: Air. — Loose or misleading talk; idle chatter.
[US]Ragen & Finston World’s Toughest Prison 789: air – Loose or misleading talk; idle chatter.
[US]G. Wolff Duke of Deception (1990) 184: You’re all air [...] just a crummy, deadbeat talker.
[Aus]A. Weller Day of the Dog 155: You’re all talk, Pretty Boy. All air. I sure am wasting my time here.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

airball (n.) [SE ball/-ball sfx]

(US) an idiot, a fool, someone who has nothing but air, and no brains, in their head.

‘W.T. Tyler’ Shadow Cabinet 11: The man’s an airball, a bubblegum airball.
Probert Encyc. 🌐 Airball is American slang for a slow, dim, eccentric or unpleasant person.
air biscuit (n.)

see separate entry.

air blast (n.)

(drugs) an inhalant.

[UK]‘What Police Must Learn’ in Dly Teleg. 8 Nov. 🌐 air blast — inhalant.
air-brain (n.)

(US, orig. teen) an idiot, a fool, someone who has nothing but air instead of brains.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Fall 1: air-brain – stupid person.
air-condition (v.)

see separate entry.

air dance (n.)

(US prison) a hanging.

[UK]Partridge DU (3rd edn) 788/2: air dance, air jig, air polka. (All preceeded by the.) Hanging as a death sentence since ca. 1925.
[UK]J. Morton Lowspeak.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 104: Air Dance also Dance Inmates executed by hanging are said to have done the air dance.
posting at GSI Guitar Forum 10 July 🌐 time to give them f*%#@^g clowns a necktie party and watch them do the air dance!!!! just give me the word – I’ll bring the rope!
air express (n.)

(US gay) sexual intercourse with an airline steward.

[US]R.O. Scott Gay Sl. Dict. 🌐 air express: [1980s] sex with a male airline attendent.
air guitar (n.)

the non-existent (or at best cardboard cut-out) ‘guitar’ that is ‘played’ by fans of heavy metal rock bands; occas. ext. to other ‘instruments’.

Hartford Courtant (CT) 24 Apr. 2/5: [pic. caption] Roy Charette displays his prize-winning form at playing the ‘air’ guitar. The guitar, you see, isn't really there.
R. ‘Bud’ Philson Easy Air Guitar 1: As any performing air guitarist will tell you, there’s no such thing as becoming an ‘overnight sensation.’ [...] Don’t worry. By acquiring this Philson Stratoblaster Air Guitar, you’ve already proven you have what it takes to rock and roll in the big leagues.
[US]Tarantino & Avery Pulp Fiction [film script] 51: A high-energy country number, which Mia plays air-guitar to.
[US](con. 1970s) G. Pelecanos King Suckerman (1998) 93: He [...] played some air guitar with the hand that did not hold a beer.
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 242: Arnello put a fist to his lips and blew into his air bugle. ‘Dit doot dit doot ditooo. Charge!’.
[UK]Indep. Rev. 7 Mar. 1: He is playing the instrument known to followers of popular music as ‘air-guitar’.
[US]G. Tate Midnight Lightning 42: The broomstick straws he angrily found on the boy’s bedroom floor had dislodged during some furious air-guitar sessions.

see separate entries.

airhole (n.)

(US) a euph. for arsehole n. (1)

in A.H. Fauset Folklore from Nova Scotia (1931) 134: Mary had a little lamb, / Its face was black as charcoal, / Every time it shook its tail, / He showed his little airhole.
airlock (v.)

see separate entry.

air loft (n.)

see separate entry.

airmail (n.) [pun]

1. (UK/US) garbage (and, in prison, human waste) that is thrown out of windows, esp. in tenements and prison, instead of being taken to dustbins, loaded into disposal chutes etc; thus airmailer n., the person responsible.

[US]Life 4 Dec. 44: Cops pounded up tenement stairways, putting the arm on mop-shakers and air-mailers.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn 240: Throwing garbage out of windows is referred to as airmail. We do not want any airmail from this Project.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 99: Air Mail Garbage or things thrown from windows of cellhouses or cells onto prison guards.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] Malone doesn’t kid himself that the same people who take his turkeys won’t be dropping ‘airmail’—bottles, cans, dirty diapers—on him from the upper floors of the project buildings.

2. (US) a stone or similar heavy weight dropped from a freeway overpass, building roof etc.

[US]J. Stahl Plainclothes Naked (2002) ?: It came at him like a rock dropped off a freeway overpass.(Airmail, in happy cop lexicon).
[US]N.Y. Post 29 Jan. 28/2–3: The city’s housing projects, especially the roofs and hallways, are dangerous – not just in the minds of officers, but also in reality. Drug dealers hone their shooting skills on the roofs and launch projectiles such as bicycles or rocks (known as ‘airmail’) at cops on the sidewalks.
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 111: No one would use a bottle as ‘ait mail’ and drop it on any of us as we walked a beat below.

see separate entries.

air pudding (n.) (also wind pudding)

(US) nothing, esp. nothing to eat.

[US]J.W. Haley Rebel Yell and Yankee Hurrah 54: Thanksgiving. While our friends at home suffer through roast turkey, mince pie, and plum pudding, we cram ourselves on air pudding.
[Aus]Coburg Leader (Vic.) 18 May 4/5: A trophy will be presented to be competed for by the committee viz: A wind pudding.
[US]J. Flynt Tramping with Tramps 141: I have known them to live on ‘wind-puddin’,’ as they call air, for over forty-eight hours.
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 14 Oct. 5/2: All day Friday Robert wandered / [...] / With a emty belly growlin', Cause he nothin' had to eat. / [...] / Till he's nigh on fit to bust / With wind puddin.
[US]C. M’Govern Sarjint Larry an’ Frinds 53: We ain’t got no grub left an’ we’ll have to live on wind-puddin’.
[Aus]Truth (Perth) 5 June 12/1: They would feed us all on skilley, / With tract soup thrown in as well, / And wind pudding on a Sunday / Seasoned with blue flames from ’ell.
[US]N. Klein ‘Hobo Lingo’ in AS I:12 653: Wind pudding — ‘living on air,’ without work or the means of support.
A.P. Randolph in Messenger IX 131: The brother hood [of Pullman Porters] can’t print books, pay organizers, railroad and Pullman fares [...] on air pudding and wind sauce.
[US]S. James in Calt I’d Rather Be the Devil (1994) 149: [of praise without payment] ‘I can’t live on air puddings’ .
M. Daheim Streetcar Named Expire 6: Our Lady, Star of the Sea Parochial School does not operate on air pudding. 23 May [blog] They wanted monthly installments that we could of made providing we could live on air pudding and jam sandwiches (jam 2 pieces of bread together and pretend there’s something in between).
air raid

see separate entries.


see separate entries.

In phrases

ain’t holding no air

(US black) unimpressive, lacking credibility, lacking the basic knowledge required to take care of oneself within the ghetto.

[US]E. Folb Runnin’ Down Some Lines 57: Dis dude ain holdin’ no air! An’ he suppose’ be bad? [Ibid.] 227: ain’t holding no air. 1. Be unimpressive. 2. lack credibility. 3. Possess little or no knowledge of the streets.
[US](con. 1940s) Deuce Ofay Productions ‘The Jive Bible’ at 🌐 Ain’t holding no air: adj. Lacking rudiment; Bullshit. ‘He say he hit it with no one but me, but that ain’t holdin’ no air. He had some ho’s short and curlies in his teeth from eatin’ her fur burger.’.
Urban Dict. 🌐 ain’t holding no air (adjective) referring to one that tells lies; a liar. Dwayne said he’d flip for wish burgers but that foo AIN’T HOLDING NO AIR.
air pie (and a walk around) (n.)

a clerk’s lunch, i.e. no food.

[UK](con. 1930s) J. Wolveridge He Don’t Know ‘A’ from a Bull’s Foot 1: Expressions like ‘I’m living on Air Pie’ for ‘I’m going hungry’, [...] or ‘I’ve seen more dinner times than dinners,’ I heard my parents say.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 9/2: from ca. 1880.
[UK]J. Dawson Lucky Bunny [ebook] Moll could survive on cigarettes, on ‘air-pie and a walk around’, as Nan used to say.
air-surf (v.)

(US) of a woman, to have no underwear beneath a skirt.

[US]T. Robinson Hard Bounce [ebook] In her haste [...] Ms. Reese had left behind her frilly little blue panties. [...] Should I call her and let her know she was air-surfing under her skirt?
breathe someone’s air (v.)

(US prison) to get on someone’s nerves, to invade someone’s privacy.

[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 91: Breathin’ My Air Getting too close or invading the privacy of another inmate.
catch air (v.) [catch v.1 (2b)]

1. (US black) to leave quickly, to rush off.

[US]Miller & Cowan prefatory dialogue to ‘Lovesick Blues’ in Tosches (2001) n.p.: I went home this mornin’ and peeped through the window: that sweet thing of mine had done caught air.
[US]R. Fisher Walls Of Jericho 30: You two [...] catch air. I got a bug to put in the big boy’s ear. [Ibid.] 155: When I reach for Pat, he’s breezed. Never see a man catch so much air so fas’.

2. (US) to take a break.

[US]J. Thompson Criminal (1993) 59: The d.a. told the matron to catch some air.
for air (adj.)

(US black) for free.

[US]W.D. Myers Motown and Didi 50: ‘I thought I’d put some stuff [i.e. heroin] on the street [...] We ain’t even going to charge [...] just let everybody cop for air’.
get the air (v.) (also get air, get the fresh air)

1. (US) to be dismissed or rejected, esp. in the context of a love affair.

[US]Ade More Fables in Sl. (1960) 134: The Fable of Why Essie’s Tall Friend Got the Fresh Air.
[US]O.O. McIntyre New York Day by Day 9 Mar. [synd. col.] I [...] almost got the ‘air’ the second hour for desecrating its corridors in a bathing costume.
[US]W. Winchell On Broadway 1 Jan. [synd. col.] Ralph Barton [...] is getting air from his squaw.
[US]A. Halper Foundry 146: I got the air for eating a sandwich.
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 751: After all these guys getting the air, he might just walk in and get a job.
[US]O. Strange Sudden Takes the Trail 100: He’ll tell Ol’ Bob an’ I’ll get the air.

2. (US) to leave, also as interj.

[US]T.A. Dorgan Silk Hat Harry’s Divorce Suit 18 Nov. [synd. cartoon strip] Aw take that noise outside. Get the air!
[US]O.O. McIntyre ‘New York Day by Day’ 6 Oct. [synd. col.] The loungers [...] will be given instructions to ‘get the air’ and if they do not they will be thrown out bodily.
give someone the air (v.) (also give someone the fresh air, ...the gate)

(orig. US) to dismiss, to reject, esp. when ending a love affair.

[US]Ade ‘The Fable of the Two Ways of Going Out After the Pay Envelope’ in True Bills 99: A man who had been given the Fresh Air by a Soulless Corporation was out rustling for another Job.
[US]A. Baer Two & Three 26 Apr. [synd. col.] That family you gave the air to because they wouldn’t kick in when you jolted the rent up eleven notches.
[US]R. Lardner Big Town 149: When Bradley give him the air, I took him.
[US]Judge (NY) 91 July-Dec. 31: Give Him the Air or the Gate - To tell the boy friend you do not wish to see him any more.
[US]H.C. Witwer Yes Man’s Land 104: Why not have the girl give the hero the air and marry the villain?
[US]M. Fiaschetti You Gotta Be Rough 78: ‘He’ll be giving you the air pretty soon. He’s got another jane, and he’s nuts about her’.
[UK]P. Cheyney Dames Don’t Care (1960) 8: I got him hired at the Miranda House [...] but he was so lousy they gave him the air.
[US]H. McCoy Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye in Four Novels (1983) 275: You’re giving me the air, is that it?
[US]E. Gilbert Vice Trap 45: They give you the air, eh, for taking time off?
[US]R. Campbell In La-La Land We Trust (1999) 34: Manny Ostrava hinted at it when he gave us the air.
give somewhere the air (v.)

(US) of a place, to leave.

[UK]Variety 28 Mar. 40: He was sore [...] and gave the place the air [HDAS].
[US]C. Himes ‘Prison Mass’ in Coll. Stories (1990) 166: He had ducked down the next cross street with the intention of giving the neighborhood the air.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 141: One circus day down close to Madison Square, / she clipped for a week the gate receipts and give the town the air. / But a plainclothesman he trailed us down from New York to Los Angeles.
go up in the air (v.) (also go up on the air)(US)

1. (US) initially horse-racing use; to fail, to collapse.

Buffalo Dly Courier (NY) 16 Aug. 8/4: Niagara challenged him, making the pace too hot, and he went up in the air.
[US]Brooklyn Dly Eagle (NY) 12 June 3/8: Leda went up in the air in the backstretch and allowed Martha to glide past.
[US]Democrat & Chron. (Rochester, NY) 8 Aug. 5/2: The leaders bunched, when suddenly Snap went up in the air and fell to third place.
[US]L.A. Herald 19 Oct. 7/7: As the leaders swung into the stretch Visalia went up in the air and the whole field passed him.
[US]K. McGaffey Sorrows of a Show Girl Ch. xii: The benefit for the chorus girls has gone up in the air, for none of them would acknowledge that they were chorus girls.

2. to lose one’s temper.

[US]T.A. Dorgan in Zwilling TAD Lex. (1993) 14: Manager Hertz went up in the air in a second.
[Can]R. Service ‘The Baldness of Chewed-Ear’ in Rhymes of a Rolling Stone 134: Why! Missis Chewed-ear Jenkins jest went clean up in the air.
[US]A.C. Inman 8 May diary in Aaron (1985) 173: She went all up in the air about me, blaming me for being selfish.
[Aus]Truth (Brisbane) 21 June 2/5: Public confidence was badly shaken by the circumstances of the sale [...] To use a slang phrase, the public went up in the air over it.
[US](con. 1910s) J.T. Farrell Young Lonigan in Studs Lonigan (1936) 106: She went up in the air like a kite, and talked very indignantly.
[US]M. Rand ‘Clip-Joint Chisellers’ in Ten Story Gang Aug. 🌐 Then he went up in the air like a balloon and exploded.
[UK]C. Harris Three-Ha’Pence to the Angel 89: Now don’t get all rorty, don’t go up on the air.

3. to lose one’s senses, to become over-excited.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Down the Line 14: Isn’t it cruel how a slob will cut the guy-ropes and go up in the air just because his Baby is by his side?
B.M. Bower Flying U Ranch 88: He’d go straight up in the air [DA].
hand (someone) the (fresh) air (v.)

to dismiss from employment.

S. Ford ‘Torchy and the Glory Be’ in Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 7 Nov. 35/1: When I’m handed the fresh air on payday, [...] I goes out and rustles for another job.
S. Ford ‘Where Spotty Fitted In’ in Eve. Star (Wash., DC) 3 Apr. 38/2: The youth had been at large for a week or more now, since he was last handed the fresh air.
S. Ford ‘A Case of Listen to Lester’ in Anaconda Standard (MT) 29 Aug. 23/6: At the end of three weeks Lester got the sack. It was a poor place to be handed the fresh air too.
have air and exercise (v.) (also take air and exercise)

1. to be whipped at the cart’s tail as a judicial punishment; to be similarly punished in prison.

[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: He has had air and exercise, i.e. he has been whipped at the cart’s tail, or as it is generally though more vulgarly, expressed, at the cart’s a—se.
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum.
[UK]B.M. Carew Life and Adventures.
[UK]Duncombe New and Improved Flash Dict. n.p.: Air and refreshing exercise, he took, he was whipped at the cart’s tail.

2. to be placed in the pillory.

[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc.

3. (prison) to serve a (short) prison sentence.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum n.p.: air and exercise To work in the stone quarry at Blackwell’s Island or at Sing Sing.
[US]Dly Dispatch (Richmond, VA) 1 Nov. 3/3: When a criminal has been taking ‘air and exercise’, he has been in the House of Correction; at college, or ‘boarding school’ when in jail.
[Aus]Crowe Aus. Sl. Dict. 3: Air and Exercise, a short term of imprisonment.
[Aus]G. Seal Lingo 44: Frequently it was difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish between the lawful and the lawless, a difficulty that saw many larrikins [...] brought in barnacles (handcuffs) before the beak (magistrate) and taking a little air and exercise inside.
in one’s airs (adj.)

1. emotional, hysterical.

[UK]Foote Englishman in Paris in Works (1799) I 45: If you are in your airs again, I may as well decamp.
[UK]‘T.B. Junr’ Pettyfogger Dramatized I iii: wolf: Who has called? fer.: Mr. Oakley, Sir, in his airs. He swears he’ll move the Court against you.

2. distant, stand-offish.

[UK]J. Gay Rehearsal at Goatham I i: Miss Betty Broach is in all her Airs to-day.
[UK]‘Walter’ My Secret Life (1966) III 517: I wrote to Esther, who met me in the lane, she was in her airs.

3. drunk.

[US]B. Franklin ‘Drinkers Dictionary’ in Pennsylvania Gazette 6 Jan. in AS XII:2 90: They come to be well understood to signify plainly that A MAN IS DRUNK. [...] He’s in his Airs.
let the air out of (v.)

1. (orig. US black) to stab someone.

[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad 121: Let the air out of someone Stabbing them.

2. (also let the air from) to debunk.

[US] ‘The Open Book’ in G. Logsdon Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing (1995) 114: We’ve been tamped full of tales about cowboys, [...] Well, it’s high time that someone debunked ’em— / Let the air from their counterfeit hides—.

3. (US) to let down, to deflate emotionally.

[US]A. Zugsmith Beat Generation 25: He would never let the air out of a friend.
pound the air (v.)

(US Und.) to sleep.

[US]‘The Lang. of Crooks’ in Wash. Post 20 June 4/2: [paraphrasing J. Sullivan] A crook who sleeps soundly while imprisoned is said to pound the air.
[US]G. Henderson Keys to Crookdom 414: Pound the air. To sleep.
take the air (v.)

to leave, to escape; often as imper.

[US]H.C. Witwer Kid Scanlon 110: I’ll show them boobs somethin’ before I take the air.
[US]D. Hammett ‘Fly Paper’ Story Omnibus (1966) 36: Outside, then. Take the air. Dangle.
[US]‘Paul Cain’ ‘One, Two, Three’ in Penzler Pulp Fiction (2006) 15: His best play was to take the air.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Guns At Cyrano’s’ in Red Wind (1946) 211: Now you can take the air, mister.
[US]R. Chandler Lady in the Lake (1952) 23: All right [...] Out you go. Take the air.
toss someone in the air (v.)

(US) to jilt, to break off a relationship with.

[US]Ade Artie (1963) 29: She tossed me in the air.
up in the air (adj.)

1. (US) crazy.

[US]A.H. Lewis Wolfville 150: Folks locoed most usual – clean off up in the air an’ pichin’ on their ropes.
[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 26: Like all great men Mutt gets up in the air once in a while but always gets down in time to tend to business.
[US]Van Loan ‘Little Sunset’ in Ten-Thousand-Dollar Arm 96: You had us up in the air for a few days!

2. (also up in the sky) annoyed, irritated.

[US]‘Hugh McHugh’ Down the Line 68: Her husband had been up in the air with a bum automobile.
[US]R. Lardner You Know Me Al (1984) 43: I says Now I guess you’re sorry you didn’t let me hit. That sent him right up in the air and he bawled me awful.
[US]D. Parker ‘The Sexes’ in Parker (1943) 11: Is there anything in that to get up in the air about?
[UK]Punch 21 May 577/3: Why the Prime Minister should have ‘gone up in the air’, as they say, because it appeared in print that Gandhi was about to be arrested [...] was not revealed .
[US]F. Brown Fabulous Clipjoint (1949) 155: Now toots [...] don’t get up in the air like that. Take it easy.
[UK]W. Eyster Far from the Customary Skies 329: Hell, Oakie, I just got up in the air.
[NZ]N. Hilliard Maori Girl 177: God! was he up in the air!
[US]C. Brown Manchild in the Promised Land (1969) 429: All the shit you been through and you’re all up in the sky like this.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 94: My parents had died recently and I was totally up in the air.

3. happy, in a good mood.

[US]H. Green Actors’ Boarding House (1906) 25: The simple words sent Emma up in the air, if I may use so common an expression.
[US]S. Ford Shorty McCabe 87: I don’t know what I said next, but it didn’t matter much. He was too far up in the air to hear anything in particular.
[US]J. Thompson Getaway in Four Novels (1963) 6: Sure, now. Sure, you’re kind of up in the air [...] It isn’t every day in the week that a man gets hisself engaged.

4. doubtful, speculative, hypothetical; unresolved.

[US]B. Fisher A. Mutt in Blackbeard Compilation (1977) 32: The police are still up in the air in the Mutt case, although several clues to his where abouts are at hand.
[UK]A.G. Empey Over the Top 119: The investigators would then be up in the air, we would be safe, the Boches would receive a good bashing, and we would get our own back on Old Pepper.
[US]P. Rabe Murder Me for Nickels (2004) 34: He had been left up in the air.
[US]E. Shrake Strange Peaches 171: ‘How is our movie progressing?’ said Big Earl. [...] I said, ‘There are a lot of things still up in the air’.
[US]J. Ellroy Brown’s Requiem 186: There were no clues, the motive was still ‘up in the air’.
[UK]K. Waterhouse Soho 7: At this moment in time it is all up in the air.

5. (US) incompetent.

[US]R. Lardner ‘Carmen’ in Gullible’s Travels 23: They was all up in the air when it come to stickin’ each other. They’d of did it better with dice.

6. (US) cocky, self-opinionated.

[US]S. Crane ‘Santiago’ in Mason Fighting American (1945) 408: You needn’t be so up-in-th’-air, need ye?
[US]H. Hapgood Types From City Streets 52: It’s all up in de air wid ’em.
[US]J. Dixon Free To Love 244: Since he was at Crestwood for a conference, he’s been so far up in the air you can’t even sight him. He has the temperament of a prima donna.

In exclamations