(Roughly) Daily

Special Valentine’s Day Edition: “I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum”*…

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If you’ve ever read a hardboiled detective story, you may have come across a sentence like,

“I jammed the roscoe in his button and said, ‘Close your yap, bo, or I squirt metal.’”

Something like this isn’t too hard to decipher. But what if you encounter,

“The flim-flammer jumped in the flivver and faded.”

“You dumb mug, get your mitts off the marbles before I stuff that mud-pipe down your mush—and tell your moll to hand over the mazuma.”

“The sucker with the schnozzle poured a slug but before he could scram out two shamuses showed him the shiv and said they could send him over.”

You may need to translate this into normal English just to be able to follow the plot.

Or maybe you want to seem tougher. Why get in a car when you can hop in a boiler? Why tell someone to shut up when you can tell them to close their head? Why threaten to discharge a firearm when you can say, “Dust, pal, or I pump lead!”

Want to learn the language of Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer and the Continental Op.?  Turn to William Denton’s Twists, Slugs and Roscoes: A Glossary of Hardboiled Slang.

*  Nada (Roddy Piper) in the tragically-unappreciated They Live.  The photo above is, of course, from the entertaining, but adequately-appreciated Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

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As we practice patois, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1929 that four men dressed as police officers entered gangster Bugs Moran’s headquarters on North Clark Street in Chicago, lined seven of Moran’s henchmen against a wall, and shot them to death.  The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it became known, was the culmination of a gang war between Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang and Bugs Moran’ North Side Irish gang.  Moran’s gang was in fact incapacitated, and was never again a force in Chicago; but Capone’s victory was short-lived, as Eliot Ness began his investigation later that year, and succeeded in jailing Capone in 1931.

(Real) police re-enact the massacre. (Library of Congress/Chicago Daily News)

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Written by LW

February 14, 2014 at 1:01 am

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