Green’s Dictionary of Slang

shakedown n.

1. an impromptu bed, somewhere to sleep, not necessarily a proper bed.

[UK]E. Burt Letters from Scotland I 93: The same Blanket that serves them for a Mantle by day, is made a Part of their Bedding at Night, which is generally spread upon the floor: this, I think, they call a Shakedown.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London II 164: ‘Give a poor fellow the price of a shake down, and may you never be without the comforts of an upright.’ ‘What mean you [...] by a shake down and an upright?’ ‘[...] A shakedown is a two-penny layer of straw, and saving the tatters on my back, not a covering at all.’.
[UK] ‘A Merry Christmas’ Bentley’s Misc. Mar. 264: There be some dry straw left [...] I’ll go and see, and give you a shakedown here.
[Ire]S. Lover Handy Andy 162: Others had a shake down of clean straw.
[UK]New Sporting Mag. (London) Dec. 395: The owner of the invaded territory getting a ‘shake down’ among the Sahib’s niggers for the night.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Ask Mamma 492: Having seen the belaboured Anthony Thom safe in a shake-down, Mrs. Margerum [...] set off.
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 75/2: A shake-down was arranged for Joe and I, and soon my ‘chum’ was in the Land of Nod.
[Aus]C. Money Knocking About in N.Z. 86: Mr. Handyside [...] very kindly gave me a ‘shakedown’ and a good feed.
[US]Galaxy (N.Y.) Aug. 172: In the way of additional furniture, it had a common deal table, three broken wooden chairs, a few dishes and cooking utensils, and two ‘shakedowns’, as the piles of straw stuffed into bed-ticks are called.
[UK]‘Old Calabar’ Won in a Canter III 258: ‘Give me something to eat, and a shake-down to-night’.
[UK]B. Patterson Life in the Ranks 67: There is a plenteous supply of straw, which enables everyone to make a pretty comfortable shakedown.
[Aus]H. Lawson ‘Bogg of Geebung’ in Roderick (1972) 22: A weary, hard-up sundowner was always pretty certain to get a meal and a shake-down at Bogg’s lonely hut.
B. Potter ‘The Tailoring Trade’ in Booth Life and Labour of the People of London 218–19: If he himself sleeps and eats in a separate room, some of his workers will take their rest on a shake down between the presser’s table, the machines and scattered heaps of garments.
[UK]J. Astley Fifty Years (2nd edn) I 301: My host gave me a shakedown in his hut.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 24 Jan. 12/2: The wind carried away some slates [...] and the let the rain through on my shakedown.
[UK]C. Tomalin Venturesome Tom 54: We gave him a night’s shakedown, a good breakfast and a parcel of ‘tommy’ to carry away with him.
[UK]A. Brazil Fourth Form Friendship 30: ‘We’e full up, all six beds; there isn’t even a corner for a shakedown’.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 Sept. 52/2: I gave him a feed and a shake-down. Next morning he got rations at the store and left for the Roper.
[Ire]Joyce Ulysses 611: At all events he wound up by concluding, eschewing for the nonce hidebound precedent, a cup of Epps’s cocoa and a shakedown for the night plus the use of a rug or two and overcoat doubled into a pillow.
[US]J. Spenser Limey 26: That night I had a shake-down in Sprout’s apartment.
[UK]D. Davin For the Rest of Our Lives 240: We’ll fix you up here with a shakedown.
[Aus]D. Niland Call Me When the Cross Turns Over (1958) 63: When it was time for bed Bow-tie freshened up the shakedown.
[UK]C. Stead Cotters’ England (1980) 121: Eliza had gone to stay with Irish friends [...] who always had a spare bed and a couple of shake-downs for those who came by.
[UK](con. 1940s) O. Manning Danger Tree 14: If anyone offers you a shake-down, that’s all right so long as you ring Transit and release your billet.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 323: Swimming pools and cocktail bars made a big change from Arthur Pringle’s pub and a shake-down on the floor of the old manor.

2. attrib. use of sense 1.

[UK]Sinks of London Laid Open 9: A room or cellar, with its two or three shake-down-beds upon the floor.

3. a boarding house.

[Aus]Truth (Melbourne) 31 Jan. 6/1: I hit my veranda shake-down in a few minutes, dooked the landlady, smilled at the cook [and] kissed the housemaid.

4. in senses of extortion or coercion [the image of shaking one’s clothes (or cell) until money falls out].

(a) (US Und.) a brothel where one is liable to be robbed.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 78: shakedown A panel-thief or badger’s crib.

(b) (US) a rough dance.

[US]W. Hilleary diary 6 Feb. in A Webfoot Volunteer (1965) 156: The Officers have a dance tonight at the Commander’s and the boys contemplate having a ‘shakedown’ over in the row.
[UK]Farmer & Henley Sl. and Its Analogues.

(c) blackmail, extortion; also attrib.

[US]Brooklyn Dly Eagle (NY) 31 Oct. 6/2: The main business of tammany bosses is blackmail and ‘shakedown.’ Blackmail is extortion from vice and crime. ‘Shakedown’ is extortion from honest labor.
[US]Ade Knocking the Neighbors 70: The Head Crimp of this refined Shake-Down watched her do the Scene in which Ophelia goes Dotty.
[US]Great Falls Trib. (MT) 2 Mar. 12/2: Then would follow an artful shakedown, for Russell was certain the hotel man would rather come across than bear the disgrace of arrest.
[US]M.C. Sharpe Chicago May (1929) 158: It turned out I was being held for a shake-down.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Phoney Shakedown’ Dan Turner - Hollywood Detective Feb. [Internet] Nadine Carradine was the quail who’d tried to work a shakedown on Lew Sultan,.
Nevada State Jrnl (Reno, NV) 1 Nov. 14/2: Her husband was not engaged in any shakedown or blackmailing racket.
[US]Lait & Mortimer USA Confidential 164: Yet there is a lucrative field for shakedowns. Some who slip find themselves in hock for life to blackmailers.
[US]E. Torres Carlito’s Way 10: He tried to run a game on a friend of mine. Shakedown.
[US](con. 1960s) D. Goines Black Gangster (1991) 228: They ain’t goin’ stand still for no shakedown.
[US]C. Fleming High Concept 102: Simpson [...] smelled a shakedown.
[US]C. Stella Charlie Opera 65: What is this, a fuckin’ shakedown now?
[US]Codella and Bennett Alphaville (2011) 22: A little nebbish math whiz [...] who stood up to Lucania’s shake downs at school.
[US]D. Winslow The Force [ebook] Extortion. A lawyer word for ‘shakedown’.

(d) attrib. use of sense 3c.

[US]D. Runyon ‘Undertaker Song’ in Runyon on Broadway (1954) 335: He is only going back to his old shakedown dodge, so all you have to do is to buy him off.
[US]M. Spillane Return of the Hood 42: They had lived under the shakedown racket Big Step ran too long to help him out any.

(e) a search, either of a person, a place or one’s belongings.

[US]Jackson & Hellyer Vocab. Criminal Sl. 75: shake down [...] A personal search; a deprivation of one’s personal belongings [...] Example: ‘If this dick nails you you’ll have to stand a shake down.’.
[US]R. Chandler ‘Finger Man’ in Pearls Are a Nuisance (1964) 77: It isn’t a shakedown, if that’s what worries you.
[US]H. Miller Sexus (1969) 176: Was there going to be a raid, a shake-up – or a shakedown?
[US]N. Algren ‘Watch Out for Daddy’ in Entrapment (2009) 150: Hustling and hypes and shakedowns and busts are just a thing of the past.
[US]H. Salisbury Shook-Up Generation (1961) 172: SHAKEDOWN A police inspection to see if a boy is carrying weapons.
[US]B. Jackson Get Your Ass in the Water (1974) 101: There come a day when I had to lay / in my hideout way far from town. / And I sent word by another bird / to beware of the big shakedown.
[US]L. Heinemann Close Quarters (1987) 289: We went to the briefing room [...] and unpacked for a shakedown.
[UK] J. Morton Lowspeak.
[UK]‘Q’ Deadmeat 163: Police officers had a scrawny white youth [...] and were giving him a serious shake down.

(f) (US prison) a search, whether of a cell or of an individual prisoner.

[US]H. Yenne ‘Prison Lingo’ in AS II:6 282: Shakedown—A search.
[US]D. Lamson We Who Are About to Die 54: Once in a while he really gives them [i.e. the cells] a shake-down.
[US]T. Runyon In For Life 255: There was the evening shakedown when we were on the yard.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 254: I would be sunk if there was a routine cell-house shakedown.
[US]B. Jackson Killing Time 184: You had to pull all your clothes off out in the hall for shakedown, spread your cheeks, things like that.
[US]N. Heard House of Slammers 206: Pills were always turning up in the periodic shakedowns of cells.
[US]Bentley & Corbett Prison Sl. 76: The Safealso The Suitcase A person’s anus […] The term safe came about because inmates keep contraband items secured there during ‘shakedowns.’.
[US]P. Beatty Tuff 150: He’d felt this way before, during a Rikers shakedown that didn’t involve him. During a cell-block search someone had handed him some contraband. He didn’t know what to do with it.
[US]Mother Jones July/Aug. [Internet] Mr. Tucker tells us to come in early to do shakedowns [...] ‘They got money in here. One dude in here, don’t say nothin', but he got like six to eight thousand dollars’.

(g) a payment, a bribe.

[US]E.S. Gardner ‘Honest Money’ in Penzler Pulp Fiction (2006) 48: I presume he wanted a shakedown.
[US]B. Schulberg On the Waterfront (1964) 8: Pilferage, shakedowns, kickbacks, bribes, short-gangs [...] and a dozen other smart operations.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 217: ‘He’s waiting for you to mention money.’ ‘I don’t do shakedowns.’.

(h) attrib. use of sense 3g.

[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Search for Climate’ in Ade’s Fables 70: Often he would be found in the Reception Room just next to the shake-down Parlor.
[US]J. Gray ‘The Nudist Gym Death Riddle’ in Vice Squad Detective [Internet] He had heavy dough in this joint, figuring to make heavier dough by the shakedown route.
[US]D. Maurer Big Con 22: The police grew ever more avaricious in their shakedown tactics.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Dissolve Shot’ Dan Turner – Hollywood Detective May [Internet] He’d put the shakedown bite on so many prominent guys and quails it was a wonder somebody hadn’t bumped him long ago.
[US]C. Hiaasen Strip Tease 122: The more participants in Mordecai’s shakedown enterprise, the smaller everyone’s cut.

5. see throwdown n.1

In compounds

shakedown artist (n.) (also shakedowner)

an extortionist, a blackmailer.

[US](con. 1900s) C.W. Willemse Behind The Green Lights 105: One of the first roundsmen I ever met was a ‘shake down’ artist.
[US]R.L. Bellem ‘Dead Man’s Shakedown’ in Dan Turner Detective Mar. [Internet] A shakedown artist never bumps the victim he’s milking.
[US]N. Algren ‘The Captain Has Bad Dreams’ in Neon Wilderness (1986) 34: Old rogues and wagon grifters, shakedown artists and coneroos, heel thieves and strong-arm merchants, [...] cat burglars from Brooklyn and live wires from nowhere.
[US]I. Shulman Cry Tough! 103: Protection men, shake-downers, fingerers [...] they too had to obey.
[US]J. Thompson Swell-Looking Babe 53: He’d have sworn that she wasn’t a shakedown artist.
[US]L. Bangs in Psychotic Reactions (1988) 117: Politicized shakedown artists, and prostitutes of both sexes.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skin Tight 81: Chemo prospered as a shakedown artist.
O.G. Peña Pena Files 190: A call someone made to Jack at his office that matched the exact time Jack was talking to the shakedown artist.
[US]C. Hiaasen Skinny Dip 313: It was possible that his wife was now sleeping with a shakedown artist.
[US]Simon & Lehane ‘Clarifications’ Wire ser. 5 ep. 8 [TV script] For six years we’ve had a file open on that shakedown artist.
[US](con. 1973) C. Stella Johnny Porno 127: Any more word on our friend the shakedown artist.