Green’s Dictionary of Slang

wooden adj.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

wooden aspro (n.) [Aspro, a painkiller]

[1970s+] (N.Z. prison) a blow on the head with a truncheon; the truncheon itself.

wooden casement (n.) (also wooden cravat)

[late 17C] the pillory.

wooden dessert (n.)


wooden doublet (n.)

[mid-18C] a coffin.

wooden fit (n.) [one drops ‘like wood’ to the ground]

[late 19C–1900s] a fainting fit.

wooden habeas (n.) [SE wooden + pun on habeas corpus, lit. ‘thou shalt have the body’, a writ whereby an accused and jailed person must be brought before the court and the reason for their imprisonment justified]

[late 18C–early 19C] a coffin; thus go out with a wooden habeas, to die in prison.

wooden horse (n.)

[mid-16C–17C] the gallows.

wooden kimono (n.) (also kimona, kimono, wooden kimona)

[1910s+] a coffin.

wooden nickel (n.) (also wooden money) [a non-existent and undoubtedly worthless coin]

[1920s+] (orig. US) something worthless; thus phr. don’t take any wooden nickels, be watchful.

wooden nutmeg (n.) [the use of such ‘nutmegs’ in confidence trickery; thus the negative image of such individuals] [mid–late 19C] (US)

1. a native of Connecticut.

2. a confidence trickster.

3. a trick.

wooden overcoat (n.) (also oak overcoat, wooden coat, ...suit, ...uniform)

[mid-19C+] a coffin, often used in fictional versions of organized crime; thus wooden overcoat man, an undertaker.

wooden parenthesis (n.) [the sides of the pillory supposedly resemble the curves of a parenthesis, i.e. ( )]

[early 19C] the pillory.

wooden ruff (n.) (also wooden shoes) [like the SE ruff it encircles the neck]

[late 17C–mid-19C] (UK Und.) a pillory or the stocks; thus wear the wooden ruff, to stand in the pillory.

wooden shoes (n.)

1. [late 17C–mid-18C] the supporters of the Old Pretender, James Stuart (1688–1766) [the wearing of wooden sabots by the French].

2. [mid-18C] the French, France; thus foreigners in general.

3. [1940s] (US Und.) a Dutchman.

wooden spoon (n.) [the actual wooden spoon trad. awarded to that Cambridge undergraduate unfortunate enough to come bottom in the year’s mathematical tripos. Note the synon. wooden wedge, named after the philologist Hensleigh Wedgwood, who took last place in the Cambridge classical tripos of 1824]

1. [mid-19C] (US campus) at Yale, a prize conferred at the end of the junior year for the ‘most popular man in class’.

2. [late 19C] a fool.

3. [20C+] (orig. sporting) a metaphorical prize for the competitor or team who comes last in a sporting contest.

wooden surtout (n.) [SE surtout, an overcoat]

[late 18C–mid-19C] a coffin.

woodentop (n.) [the BBC-TV children’s series, launched in 1965; it featured a family of wooden dolls who lived on a farm] [1970s+]

a uniformed police officer.

wooden tree (n.)

see triple tree n.

wooden ulster (n.) [SE ulster, a long, loose overcoat]

[late 19C] a coffin.

In phrases

wooden (out) (v.) [woodener n.1 (1)]

[20C+] (Aus./N.Z.) to knock down, to knock out.