HOBO SLANG OR JARGON
Accommodation - A local freight train. It may carry passengers.
Adam and Eve on a raft - Two fried eggs on toast. "Wreck 'em" if they are
scrambled. "With their eyes open," if not.
Alligator bait - Fried or stewed liver. Too costly now for hobos.
Anchor - A pick. Companion tool of the shovel or banjo.
Angel - A person who gives more than you expect. One who takes an interest
without trying to reform you.
Angel food - Mission preaching about the Bread of Life.
Angelina - Punk or road kid acting as a hobo's companion.
A-No-1 - A famous tramp who writes his name "on everything like J. B. King." He
writes books about his alleged adventures. Many young hobos write this monicker
on water tanks
Auntie - Angelina grown older.
Axle grease - Butter. Sometimes called plaster.
Baldy - Generally an old man "with a high forehead".
Balloon - A roll of bedding carried on the back; a bindle.
Banjo - A short-handled shovel.
Barnacle - A fellow who sticks to one job a year or more.
Bazoo - Mouth. A term of derision. "Shut your bazoo!"
Beefer - One who whines. Sometimes an informer.
Belly robber - A boarding boss who tries to save money on food.
Benny - An overcoat. A vest used to be called a ben.
Big four - A duck egg omelet. See chapter on food.
Big Ole - The fellow who tries to show the boss how strong he is. He'll do all
your work if you praise him.
Big school or house - The state penitentiary. (The stir.)
Bindle - Bedding roll slung on the back.
Biscuit shooter - Camp waiter or hash slinger. Also a flunkey.
Bit or jolt - A term in prison. A long stretch is the opposite of a short term
Bitch - A tin-can lamp with a shirt-tail wick. See bug. Also more recently a
lamb or preshun.
Black bottle - Poison allegedly given hobos in hospitals. Many hobos believe
this bottle exists.
Blanket stiff - Western type of hobo who carries his bed. He is also called a
Blinds - False door at end of baggage car. Hobo ridingplace.
Blinkey - A blind hobo
Bohunk - A Polish or other Slavic laborer.
Boil up - To cook one's clothes
Bone polisher - A vicious dog. Also called a tailor's helper.
Boneyard - Any graveyard. Also refers to a hospital
Boodle - Cheap grafting
Boodle jail - A jail that may be worked for a good winter's lodging.
Boomer - A hobo who is always on the go. He has a travel itch.
Boston bum - One of those superior fellows
Bottle wagon - An iron coal-car.
Bouncer - The strong man who throws the sleepers and drunks out of the mission.
He is usually a mission stiff.
Bowery barometer - Curbstone philosopher from the New York main stem. General
information bureau but not a highbrow.
Bridal chamber - Flop house where the guests lie on the floor. It is also a
mining term meaning the miner's workplace.
Broad or brod - A woman
Browning Sisters - The Angelina sorority. "He belongs to the Browning Sisters"
or "to the Brown Family."
Buck - A Catholic priest good for a dollar.
Bug - Same as bitch. These are lamps for the jungle.
Bull artist - A hobo with the gift of gab. Becoming a parlor term.
Bull cook - Camp flunkey doing the heavy work for the chef.
Bum - Amply defined in the book. It is a term of many meanings
Bumpers - Couplings between freight cars upon which hobos sometimes ride if
there are no empties on the train.
Bundle tosser - Hobo harvest hand who pitches bundles or bouquets.
Butts - The stem of a cigar picked up on the street.
Cacklers - White collar workers.
Cages - The cubicle rooms in the cheap lodging houses.
Cake eater - The nice boy of the town. Not used much by hobos.
Calaboose - The police station or the village lock-up.
California blankets - Newspapers when used to sleep on.
Call - Hobo dish: Baked potato mashed with butter and served with liverwurst and
Candle eaters - Term sometimes used for the Russians.
Candy - Candy kid is the fellow who gets the good breaks. Candy job is the
pleasant job. Candy team is the favorite span of mules in the outfit.
Cannon ball - A fast train. "The Wabash Cannon Ball" is the mythical hobo train
that travels everywhere.
Captain - Hobo salutation of the head man or big shot.
Card man - A union man or a hobo with a red I. W. W. card.
Carry the banner - To walk the street all night for want of shelter. Sometimes
it is called to lead Bruno.
Cat house - A brothel
Cat wagon - A brothel on wheels visiting the chaste villages of the middle west
or following the harvest crews.
Checker-board crew - A mixed gang of white and negro workers.
Cheesy - To be filthy with dirt.
Chicken in the clay - Fowl rolled in mud for roasting. See chapter on food.
Chow - Becoming now a common word meaning food.
Christ killing - To speak from the soap box giving the economic argument.
Chuck a dummy - To pretend a fainting fit.
Coffin nail - A vanishing term for cigarettes.
Collar and shoulder style - Everything is put on the table and the hobo guest
Combination stew - An ordinary jungle dish of vegetables and meat.
Combination train - A mixed passenger and freight local train. Is also called an
Come to Jesus - A come-to-Jesus manner means to feign piety. A come-to-Jesus
collar is one worn by a preacher.
Come-on guy - A fellow who boosts things along on the job
Con - A con is a tubercular person. The con is the conductor on a train. An
ex-con is a former convict.
Con game - This refers to any kind of graft involving trickery.
Con man - A grafter or trickster. It may mean ex-convict.
Connect - To make a touch. The reward for good panhandling.
Cookee - The second in command to the main stew-builder.
Cousin Jack - Generally refers to a Cornish miner
Croaker or croacus - A member of the medical fraternity
Crooked arm - Signal the boss gives when he wants more speed.
Crum boss - Man who builds fires in the bunk houses.
Crum up - Same as boil up.
Crummy - To be lousy. Also refers to the caboose on a train.
Crums - What the hobo may get but never keeps: lice. Also called gray backs and
Damper - Cash till or cash register.
Dead one - A drunken hobo. Also a hobo who has just spent all his money.
Dead picker - A yegg who robs a drunk or dead one. He kicks him first to see if
he is dead to the world and then robs him.
Dead soldier - An empty whiskey bottle lying beside the road.
Deck 'em - To ride the top of a passenger train.
Decorate the mahogany - To buy the drinks; to line the bar with thirsty throats
and brimming glasses.
Dick or fly cop - A detective either in public or private employ.
Dinkey skinner - The man who runs a dinkey engine on construction jobs.
Dipsy - Workhouse sentence. See give him the works.
Discard artist - One who carries around or wears picked-up clothes.
Dog robber - Boarding house keeper
Doughnut philosopher - A fellow who is satisfied with the price of a coffee and
feed. He does not object to the doughnut hole getting larger because it will
take more dough to go around it. He is the original breadline optimist.
Drag - A long
Drag - Hobo term for the main street of the town
Ducket - A ticket
Dump or joint - Hobo hangout or gathering place. It also applies to a restaurant
Dyno or dino - A rock man who handles dynamite. On the Coast he is a front and
back man who carries his blanket on his back like a western hobo and his cooking
cans in front like an Australian tramp.
Eat snowballs - To stay up North during the winter.
Economic argument - Soap-box talk about economics. Generally opposed to the
religious argument called angel food.
Evil eye - Some people are supposed to have an eye for wishing bad luck.
Panhandlers try to avoid such.
Exhibition meal - A handout eaten on the doorstep. The madam wants the neighbors
to witness her generosity.
Extra gang - A crew that works on the railroad track.
Eye doctor - A panhandler who can catch the eye of his client and hold it
without quailing. Also a pederast.
Eye opener - An early morning drink
Faded bogey - Negro acting as an informer.
Fagot or fag - A road kid with homosexual tendencies.
Fall guy - The goat. The fellow who gets caught. In the world of crime he is one
who takes the rap without squealing.
Fanner or fan - To be hit on the soles while sleeping on a park bench. To get a
fanner is to be moved on by the police.
Fink - A scab. One who takes a striker's job. Good hobos frown upon this
Fish - Jail term for new prisoners.
Fisheries - Missions along the main stem.
Flagged - It may mean to be driven out of town
Flannel mouth - An Irishman. Sometimes called a chaw.
Flicker - To faint or simulate fainting.
Flipping a rattler - Boarding a moving box-car.
Floater - Same as boomer
Flop - To sleep or a place to sleep. To prone the body.
Flop house - A cheap lodging house or any hobo hotel.
Flunkey - Camp waiter. Always male. A woman is a hasher.
Fly-away - A deserter from the army or navy.
Forty-fives - Monicker for navy beans
Frisk or shakedown - To search. It usually means search by the police. But train
crews also go through the hobos.
Frog or frog eater - A Frenchman. A Canadian Frenchman is a pea soup.
Front - A whole layout of new clothes. "Put on a front."
Fuzz tail - Name for unpopular fellow. He is also a ring tail. Such hobos are
often under suspicion.
Galway - A priest.
Gandy dancer - Hobo track laborer
Gandy gumbo - Hobo dish described in the chapter on food.
Gay cat - Tenderfoot among the hobos.
Gentry - The leading natives of a place
Ghost story - Plausible tale told to the housewife.
Gin mill - Very old hobo term for a speakeasy.
Give him the works - To be given a job by a social agency
Glauming - Refers to crop gathering. We have berry glauming
Go with the birds - To go south for the winter.
Go-getter - Hobo who worries the social workers by writing to or calling on the
Going by hand - To walk. Hiking to the next water tank.
Going on the farm - When a train goes on the sidetrack. Also a railroad term.
Gooseberry bush - The clothes line. Gooseberries are the garments that adorn the
line in the moonlight.
Goy - Hobo who can work the Jewish agencies. Plural
Graveyard shift - Night work
Graveyard stew - Hot milk and toast.
Gummy - A hanger-on. A bum who goes along with the crowd but never contributes.
A sort of dead head.
Gunnells or guts - The rods or trucks of the train where hobos ride.
Gyppo - A sub-contractor with poor equipment
Handout - A parcel of food given out by the housewife. A lump.
Hard tails - Mules
Harness bull - A policeman who wears a uniform.
Haywire - When everything is balled up. A haywire outfit is something that is
all tied and patched together.
Head end - The front of the train. In front of or near the engine.
High ball - Signal for a train to pull out of town.
High diver - Yegg who picks pockets.
High jacker - Yegg who robs hobos with a gun or by brute strength.
His Nibs - The police magistrate.
Hit the ball - To speed up on the job.
Hitch - Prison term or army term. Same as bit.
Hitting the grit - To be forced off a fast moving train.
Hobo - The highest form of the genus vagrant.
Hobohemia - Universe of the hobo.
Hoghead or hogger - The engineer. This is also a railroad term.
Home guard - A fellow who always stays in town. Some live their lives on a
single block in the main stem.
Honey dipping - Working as a shovel stiff in a sewer
Hoosegow - Same as calaboose. Often called the can.
Hoosier - The natives
Hot - A person is hot when he is wanted by the law. No hobo will travel with a
man who is hot.
Hot shot - A fast freight or passenger train.
Hot stuff - Stolen goods. Something that must be dropped.
Hotel de Gink - A charitable or a municipal lodging house.
House dog - A fellow who goes about hunting jobs
How strong are you? - Meaning
Hump - "Over the hump" means to cross the mountains to the West Coast. It also
refers to the elevation in the freight yards for switching cars
Hundred proof - Meaning whiskey of the purest.
Hunkydory - Everything is fine. The term is getting into popular usage.
Hunt a wampus - A wild goose chase. The wampus is a black cat with a white tail
and it lives in the tall timber.
J. B. - J. B. Stetson hat. Prized among hobos because the band may be sold for
half a dollar.
Jail bird - A fellow who brags about his vag record.
Jake or George - The same as hunkydory.
Jawbone - Credit. To buy in the company store against one's pay.
Jerries - Men who work on the section gang. They do maintenance work while gandy
dancers work on contract jobs.
Jesus guy - A mission stiff. Sometimes called a faith man.
Jocker - A hobo who goes about with a road kid or punk.
John Family - This term is sometimes applied to the farmers
Jungle - Hobo's summer home. See the first chapter.
Jungle buzzard - A bum who loafs about the jungle begging from the hobos.
Junker or junky - A fellow who uses drugs
Kangaroo court - Mock court held in jail for the purpose of forcing new
prisoners to divide their money.
Keister - A suit case. Not often carried by hobos.
Kick - A pocket in the trousers.
Kicks - Shoes. Also called slides.
Knowledge box - Country school house where hobos sometimes sleep.
Lamb - Boy tramp or road kid. Boy companion of the wolf.
Lambing - To herd sheep
Leather poke - A wallet.
Lee of a reefer - The ice-box in a refrigerator car.
Library birds - Down and outers who loaf or roost in libraries.
Lighthouse - Stingy person. A procurer for a house of sin. Also one who is
placed to watch for the bulls.
Limpy - A cripple. If he has a wooden leg he is peg.
Little red wagon - A dump wagon. Driving one is a favorite job.
Little school - Reformatory or house of correction.
Lizzie tramps - Sometimes refers to the hitch-hikers and again to wandering
families traveling in automobiles.
Louse - A fellow who will steal the shoes of a hobo who befriends him.
Lump - Food received at the back door; a handout.
M. & C. - "Marmon and Cadillac," meaning morphine and cocaine.
Main guy - Same as captain. Refers to the person in charge.
Main stem - The chief hobo street in town.
Making a riffle - Same as to connect
Manana - Spanish for "tomorrow." Means put it off and embodies the spirit of
Man-catcher - The shark's assistant who urges a job on the hobo - usually to
fill a shipment of men.
Manifest - Fast freight carrying fruit or cattle.
Mark - A mark is a person or place good for food
Mission stiff - Man who gets "saved" for food and a flop.
Mix me a hike - Meaning "pay me off," or "give it to me."
Moll - A woman who pals with hobos. This term is not used much by the hobos.
Monicker - The hobo's informal name
Monkey chasers - West Indians or other Negroes from the tropics.
Mooching - A low form of begging. See chapter on subject.
Mop Mary - A scrub woman.
Moper - A bum who is even lower than a moocher.
Mouthpiece - The name the yeggs apply to lawyers.
Mud - Strong coffee mixed with weak milk.
Munie - Familiar term for a municipal lodging house.
Mushfaker - A go-about repair man. He may solder pots or mend umbrellas.
Sometimes hobos follow the art.
Nickel note - Five-dollar bill.
Noch - Hebrew shelter for homeless men. From hochnosis orchim
Nose bag - Lunch handed out in a paper sack.
Nuttery - Hospital for the insane. Also a nut factory.
O. B. U. - One Big Union. The ideal of the soap boxers.
Odd fellows - Fraternal symbol: three doughnuts and coffee.
On the hummer - Being on the bum but not down and out.
On the uppers - Being on the bum and nearly down and out.
One-Eyed Connolly - A gate crasher. Term refers to the famous no-pay fight fan
by that name. He has hobo imitators.
P. K. - The principal keeper of the little school.
Packing the mustard - Carrying the hod.
Padding the hoof - Going by foot. A practice good hobos avoid.
Palooka - A roving boxer who lives in the past.
Panhandling - Read the chapter on the subject.
Paul Bunyan - A chronic
Pay station - Social welfare agency that gives out money. Very rare.
Pay streak - To have a job that pays well.
Pea soup - French Canadian or Canuck. Often a lumber jack.
Peanut farm - Workhouse where the inmates crack stones.
Peddler or bob tail - A short local freight train.
Peg house - A place where
Pennsylvania salve - Apple butter.
Peoria - Thin soup. Generally potato water with salt.
Phoney man - Fellow who peddles cheap jewelry.
Pie card - One who hangs around and lives on a remittance man or some other
person with money.
Pig's vest with buttons - Sow belly
Pile driver or Java - Coffee
Pill peddler - The camp doctor. The label may fit any M. D.
Pogey - The workhouse. Sometimes the poor farm.
Poke - A leather wallet. Also a gin mill.
Possesh - Road kid. The hobo's boy companion.
Possum belly - The boxes under passenger cars where hobos sometimes ride.
Potatoes and with it - Western jungle dish. See chapter on food.
Pound your ear - To sleep in a bed.
Preshun - Same as punk or possesh.
Prone the body - To lie down and rest.
Punk - Bread. Southern bread is called pone.
Punk - Road kid. Often used in derision.
Punk and gut - Bread and sausage.
Punk and plaster route - Traveling among the Pennsylvania Dutch.
Pusher - The straw boss. One in charge of the job.
Rank cats - Lowest of the genus bum.
Rattler - A fast train
Razor back - Circus roustabout. Also an Arkansas hog.
Read your shirt - To examine your clothes for crums.
Red ball - Fast fruit train. Good for long rides.
Reefer - A refrigerator car. Like many another railroad term it also belongs to
the hobo's lingo.
Remittance man - Hobo paid by his family to stay away from home.
Road kid - The boy apprentice among the hobos.
Robbing the mail - Snatching food and milk delivered at the doorstep early in
Rods - The nether structure of a freight car. Modern cars do not have rods. A
rod is a gun.
Roll - To roll means to rob a sleeping drunk.
Roll in the sawdust - In the barrel house
Sagebrush philosopher - Gabby fellow from the West.
Sallies - Salvation Army hotels and industrial workshops.
Salve eater - A snuff-chewing Swede. He is also a roundhead.
Sap - The policeman's persuader. To get sapped means to be clubbed by the bulls.
Scissorbill - Hobo who believes he can become President. He never gets next to
Scoffing - To eat. To scoff regularly means to miss no meals.
Scrape the pavement - To get a shave.
Scrapers' school - Barber college where students practice on hobos.
Screw your nut - Get wise to yourself.
Sea food - A sailor.
Set-down - To eat with your feet under the table. The reverse of the handout.
Sewer hogs - Ditch diggers.
Shack - A brakeman. Railroad term.
Shack fever - Tired feeling that comes in the spring. It is also called itching
Shakedown - Same as frisk.
Shanty man - Same as gyppo contractor.
Shanty queen - Wife of the shanty man. Any woman around a camp.
Shark - A man who sells jobs to the hobos. His assistant is called a man
Shatting on the uppers - To be broke
Shavetail - Young mules. See hard tail. A young army officer of low rank is also
Sheets - Newspapers for a bed.
Shellacker - Booster or promoter who puts on the varnish.
Shine - A Negro. Also called a burr head.
Shiner - A ten-cent piece.
Shiv - Razor. A blade but never a safety razor.
Shoo fly - A railroad detour
Side door pullman - A box car. Hobo's home en route.
Skinner - One who drives mules. Especially on construction jobs.
Skinner's delight - Hobo jungle dish. See chapter on food.
Sky pilot - A highbrow preacher. Not one of the mission kind.
Slave market - That part of the main stem where jobs are sold.
Sleep - A short term in the workhouse or jail. To be buried deep is a long term.
Slob sister - A moocher who weeps to his clients.
Sloughed - To be arrested; pronounced "slowed."
Slum - Derisive term for an uninviting stew or slumgullion.
Smoke - Strong liquor. Denatured alcohol.
Smoke wagon or gat - Same as rod
Snake - Hobo and railroad term for switchman. A snake is more friendly than a
shack to the hobos.
Snapper rig - Second-hand suit of clothes.
Snipe - Section hand or jerry. A section boss is a king snipe.
Snipe or navy - Butts of cigarettes and cigars.
Snipe shooting - To hunt for snipes in the gutter.
Snowbirds - A junker
Son of Adam - Hobo willing to do a chore for a handout.
Song and dance - To give the madam at the backdoor an interesting and
Soup - Liquid explosives for blowing safes. Used by yeggs.
Spearing biscuits - To fish food out of garbage cans.
Speed balls - Sherry wine. These days it may be any wine
Spider - A small frying-pan with a long handle. It may be an improvised one.
Spittoon philosopher - A hanger-on about the gin mill or along the curbstone
Splinter belly - A man who works on bridges and trestles.
Stable dog - A man who looks after the camp stables. He is often called
chambermaid to the mules.
Stack of bones - Cheap hash-house dish
Stake - Money in the pocket after leaving the job. The pile.
Stall - Any excuse that meets the difficulty. It also refers to the yegg
assisting the high diver or pickpocket.
Stemming - Panhandling or mooching along the streets.
Sterno - Dangerous alcoholic drink made by heating sterno can.
Stew builder - A hobo camp cook
Stew bum - Booze fighting bums that never leave the stem.
Stiff - A hobo worker. There are harvest stiffs
Stir - State prison. The big house or big school.
Stool pigeon - An informer
Straight and narrow - The way to eternal life and salvation.
Sugan - Bed comforter. Usually the old style quilts.
Swamper - Fellow who cleans out the bar-room.
Sweat board - Concrete mixing by hand.
Sweet back - Hobo sheik who is only sampling hobo life.
Tallow pot - The fireman on the train.
Tally - Meaning
Tear baby - Fellow who bums women or men with women. Often puts up a pitiful
Thin ones - Small coins; dimes
Three Star Hennessy - Good old brand of liquor.
Throw your feet - Same as stemming or panhandling.
Throw your guts - To squeal. To give information to the bulls.
Tie pass - Fictitious permit from the railroad president to walk over the ties.
Timber wolf - A worker in the woods
Tin horn - A petty sport hanging around the main stem. He is sometimes called a
Tin roof - A free drink. So-called because it is "on the house."
Tip the office - To warn a fellow hobo by giving some signal.
Toot the ringer - To ring backdoor bells.
Toppings - Dessert. Something toothsome to touch off a meal.
Town clown - The village constable.
Tramps - Migrating non-working vagrants. A grade higher than scenery bums
Trapeze artist - A hobo who rides the gunnells or rods.
Trombenick - A Jewish hobo. They are scarce as hen's teeth.
Trombo - Refers to a hobo pugilist
Turkey - A bundle
Twist a dream - To roll a cigarette.
Underslung - To get underslung means to ride under a train and have the shacks
throw things at you
Vag or vag 'em - To be jailed or fanned out of town for being a vag.
Wagon tramps - Families who travel in covered wagons or schooners.
Wallies - Town bums who never lose sight of the city walls.
White mule - Old-fashioned white corn whiskey.
Willies - The Good Will Industries of the Methodists.
Wingey - Hobo with one arm or crippled arm. Also army.
Winoes - Those who drink the dago red wine of California.
Wobblies - Hobos who belong to the I. W. W.
Wolf - Older hobo exploiting the road kid. The pair is known as the wolf and the
Wood butcher - A carpenter. A hobo who can do odd repair j obs.
Wood tick - Same as timber wolf.
Woolies - Sbeep. Going with the woolies means to take a job as sheep herder.
Working for Jesus - The job of being a mission stiff. To be actively engaged
around the fisheries or missions.
Y. M. C. A. - You Must Come Across. The hobo expects nothing from the Y. M. C.
A. that is not paid for.
Yahoo - A hoosier who has no apologies for his ignorance.
Yard dick - Private policeman of the railroads who makes it his business to keep
hobos off the trains.
Yeggs - The crooks of Hobohemia; too mean to be bums and too lazy to be good