King-Show-Dictionary-1The language used on the early carnivals and circuses was unique; both were similar but somewhat different. Many of the carnie words were used so that the “townies” could not follow their conversations.

As an example – King Shows Dictionary – is typical of the 1940s. The King Shows was a small rag bag graft carnival featuring a few rides and many controlled games. It played small still dates and country fairs in Ontario.

 

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Abreast

“one- , two-, three- and four-abreast” refer to the
arrangement, side-by-side, of horses, cockerels, bicycles, or other vehicles in a Roundabout.

Advance

Everything pertaining to the show on its route before it arrives in a town.

Advance Agents

The Contracting Agent is the person who gets all contracts signed for a show’s exhibition date.

The General Agent is the person who lays out the route of a show and negotiates for the exhibit date. (On carnivals the general agent also acts as contractor.)

The Special Agent is the person who goes into town ahead of the show and makes final arrangements for the exhibition. (On carnivals this person usually sold advertising banners to the local merchants. )

Agent

The concession clerk.

Ahead

Someone or something sent in advance of the show.

Alderman

An office “gofer”.

Alibi Agent

A carnie who stands behind his counter and explains why you missed or, if you hit, why he won’t payoff. Alibi agents were used on such games as Flukey Ball, Bushel Baskets, Six Cats and Darts.

Alvin

A rustic ; an unsophisticated or inexperienced person, who can be hoaxed easily.

Apes

1. TOWNIES. 2. Freaks.

Arch

The front gate of a carnival.

Ark

Primarily the collective name for modern switchbacks; specifically the term “Noah’s Ark” referred to a circular ride having an undulating track.

A&S Man

Age and Scale Operator.

At Show

A carnival midway show featuring athletic contests between boxers and wrestlers carried by the show and local champions or contenders.

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Backend

The rides and shows of a fair.

Bally

As a verb: to attract a crowd to a sideshow by describing the show loudly and sensationally, usually by a barker on a platform in front of it.

As a noun: small gifts of merchandise placed in boxes of candy, Cracker-Jack, etc.

Bally Cloth

The material covering the front of a bally or concession counter.

Ballyhoo

A short, free exhibition or sample of a sideshow accompanied by a barker’s spiel, given on a platform or BALLY STAND in front of the side- show tent in order to attract spectators and lure them inside as paying customers.

Ballyhooers

Specifically, girls who ballyhoo in front of shows to draw tips.

Bally Show

A carnival sideshow; particularly one having continuous or regularly scheduled performances.

Bally Stand

The platform in front of a sideshow tent on which a free exhibition or a sample of the show may be performed in order to lure spectators inside.

Banner

An informative notice, hung from rafters, sometimes stating the price of the ride, sometimes giving warnings about the ride. Advertising on a FERRIS WHEEL.

Banner Line

A line of banners in front of an attraction .

Barker

(Not used by outdoor show people.) A writer’s word for talker, lecturer, spieler, etc. Some “FIRST OF MAY” showman might use the word because they know no better.

Beef

To bellow over a real or an imaginary wrong. COOKHOUSE beef isn’ t meat.

Belly Irons

On a Roundabout, part of an alternative suspension on galloping horses. Instead of the horse iron passing through the body of the horse and into a groove in the platform or into a platform slide, the underside of the horse is held by these hinge irons fixed to the belly and to the platform itself.

Belly Stick

A person who works outside a game of chance to entice players for the game. He “bellys up” to the counter and pretends to play the game.

Billboard

The original carnival trade paper. Today it is called Amusement Business.

Billboard Wedding

A midway rite wherein carnival couples are united in holy matrimony by both placing their hands on the Showmen’s Bible and saying “I do.”

Bimbo

A woman or girl employed in the carnival .

Bioscope

Literally a motion-picture projector- in the fairground it’s a generic term for travelling booths for the display of motion pictures.

Bit

A percentage of monies due or expected. (Mostly expected.)

Black One

The opposite of a RED ONE, therefore a loser.

Blowdown

A storm that levels tents and portable equipment.

Blow

To lose, as in gambling “to blow one’s money.”

Blow Off

1. A show where a second admission is charged.

2. Closing hour.

Blower

A telephone or a concession featuring celluloid balls which must be picked out of an air stream.

BlowUps

The large photographs used on the fronts of tent theatre shows.

Blow Your Pipes

To lose your voice.

Blow Your Top

To go crazy or get mad.

Booze Can

Usually a tent or trailer set up by management to entertain the staff after closing.

B.R.

Can be used as a noun or a verb meaning a bankroll or to bankroll.

Brass

Coin-sized pieces of brass on which the show’s name was stamped, used by old-time carnivals in lieu of WHITE MONEY. The brass could be spent only at the carnival.

Break the Ice

To make the first sale of the day.

Broad

The large, loose and cool species of female that either joins or tails the show. Generally a woman of doubtful character.

Broad Mob

Three-Card Monte dealers.

Bucket Joint

Hidden person who operates the gaff on a bucket joint.

Bum Steer

1. To send on a wild goose chase.

2. The COOKHOUSE meat.

Burly Show

A burlesque attraction.

Busk

To give a performance on a street corner or vacant lot, later passing the hat for a collection of coins.

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Cake

To short-con or shortchange a customer, usually at the ticket booth. The money made on ticket boxes.

Cakewalk

Originally this was a dance performed by American Negroes-a prize of a cake was awarded to the most accomplished performer. In the fairground, it is an amusement device comprising oscillating bridges.

Carnie

A carnival or a carnival worker.

Carnie Chicken

Bologna.

Carnie’s Christmas

Labour Day at a big fair.

Carnival

A collective amusement organization consisting of shows, riding devices, catering, and gaming concessions. A circus may be just one of the shows of a carnival midway.

Carnival Divorce

The clothing of the female half of a couple is thrown from the Pullman car. But this is not “legal” unless it is seen by the car porter.

Carousel/Carrousel

Originally an equestrian sport practised in Arabia and Turkey during the twelfth century, this later became an elaborate spectacle involving tournaments, finally a Merry-Go-Round or Roundabout.

Carry the Banner

A carnie with no money who has to sleep in a park or to stay up all night because of not having a bed is carrying the banner. A game where balls are thrown into buckets or baskets. Care must be taken to avoid flying balls.

Cars

In a show that travels by railroad, these are the show’s sleeping cars.

Cat

A caterpillar or any other track type of tractor.

Cats

Rebel-yelling, troublesome southern hillbillies.

C.B.I.

A Comic Book Idiot, a generally stupid person.

Centre Joint

A game with space for people to play on all four sides.

Characters

All people not connected with the shows.

Chart

A group of numbers printed or painted on a board, used in FLAT SWRES to show the prize for each 202 colour or number. Red numbers are always won by the operator.

Chase

To be on the make.

Cheaters or Googs

Eyeglasses, spectacles.

Check the Lines, To

To count the cash.

Cheese Wheel

A mouse game in which cheese is sometimes used to lure the mice into winning or non-winning holes; also known as Cradle Wheel.

Chill Him

When STICKS surround the MARK, keeping him away from his friends and family.

Chive Rack

The Knife Game – hoops are thrown over knives.

Chump Educator

A slang term for Billhoard, the weekly publication now called Amusement Business.

Chump Heister

The Ferris Wheel.

Chump or Sucker

Any person who isn’ t shifting, drifting and lifting for a living.

Cigar

A compliment. Carnival barkers would say “give the man a big cigar,” meaning a prize for winning at a game.

Circus Sideshow

Carnival freak-show owners called their attractions circus sideshows.

Cirkey

A circus man or circus worker.

Clem

A small-town resident or a rustic; one who can be hoaxed easily; especially to carnival people, the members of the local community in which the carnival is playing temporarily. Also, a fight between carnival or circus employees and local townspeople.

Clip, To

Trimming a sucker, or taking advantage of someone.

Clothes Pin

The peek joint or strip show.

Coat-tail Puller

Someone who tries to pull a prospect away from a game.

Committeeman

Someone who says he can get a show anything it needs, but never does any getting.

Con

Short for confidence, as in “He had my con.”

Concession Agent

Operator of a sales or gaming concession.

Concessions

Merchandise, food, or gaming booths.

Confab

A talk, conversation, or conference.

Cooch

Any lascivious dance such as the hootchy-kootchy.

Cooch Dancing

Boudoir calisthenics performed by female dancers.

CoochShow

A “dancing girl” show where the girls do the COOCH.

Cookhouse

A show’s dining facilities, usually an enclosure where show people eat their meals on the show grounds. Most carnival cookhouses also serve the general public.

Cop a Feel, To

A quick grab at portions of passing female anatomy. This is a popular midway sport enjoyed mostly by concession agents.

Cop and Blow, To

To win and leave.

Cop a Royal, To

To make no sales.

Cops

Small prizes or BALLYS placed in boxes of candy or Cracker-Jack.

Corn Game

The Bingo concession.

Country Store

A concession displaying inexpensive merchandise usually designed on a rotating wheel.

Creeper

Old-time circus GAFF JOINT.

Crime Show

An exhibit where they display guns supposedly used in stick-ups or murders using pictures or wax figures of assorted criminals, posters of the ten most wanted men, handcuffs, etc.

Croaker

A doctor.

Crossing

A railroad crossing where the show train is loaded or unloaded .

Crumb

A circus bee; a derogatory term used by carnies to describe circus workers.

Cup of Mud

A cup of coffee.

Cut-‘em-up-big

The bigger the lies, the better.

Cuter

An American 25-cent piece, a quarter of a dollar.

Cut-ins

The fee the electrician collects for connecting electrical service.

Cut of Flats

A section of flat cars spotted in for loading or unloading.

Cut-up Jackpots

A discussion of past events (often distorted) by showmen.

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Damper

The cash register or till.

Dark Ride

Any ride in which the public ride through the dark.

Date

A show’s engagement in a town.

Date Book

A book in which the show’s route is listed.

Dead Heads

Non-spenders.

Deemer

A dime or 10-cent piece.

Diggers or Crane

A coin-operated, operator-guided (sometimes) grabber that goes after SLUM or sometimes coins or rolled bills, but often just air.

Dip

A pickpocket.

Dirty Legs

Ladies of questionable virtue that hang around the lot.

Dodg’em

A ride with an electrically charged ceiling and a running floor with dirigible cars.

Doniker

A toilet or restroom .

Doniker Location

A spot on the midway that isn’t as good for business as other locations might be.

Doniker Sam

Man who PUNGS tips in restrooms.

Dooker

A SHILL or one who, while appearing to be one of the audience, is employed by the management.

Dookie Wagon

The office wagon where money IS handled.

Double Crank Galloper

The double-rank action comprised a mechanism which made the horses gallop and their legs move independently.

Drag the Midway

An early-day practice of some independent showmen on carnival midways of going to the front gate and enticing people down the midway to their attraction.

Dr. Doniker

The name given to a carnival employee who is a know-it-all.

Drome

A Motordrome. A silo-like wooden structure where men and women ride motorcycles and small automobiles on the straight up and- down wall.

Drop Case

A GAFF JOINT.

Ducats

Show, ride, and gate tickets.

Duck Pond

A merchandise HANKY-PANK.

Dukey

A meal ticket. A sack- or box lunch given to the working men when the carnival train had to make an extra long “jump” or DUKEY RUN between towns.

DukeyRun

A long move between towns.

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Eke-okey

Said when everything is O.K.

Eli Wheel

The Ferris Wheel. See THE WHEEL.

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FagShow

Show with men who impersonate women.

Fan, To

To locate the potential victim’s pocket holding money or valuables.

Feeler

An investigator.

Fifth Wheel

The section that connects the front wheels to a show wagon, enabling the wheels to turn.

Finger, To

To accuse someone of violating the law, causing him to be arrested.

Fink

A showman who is no good.

First of May

An expression used for one just commencing in show business.

Fixer

This can either be a person who makes arrangements for the show or one who can handle and take care of small legal and insurance problems that may crop up.

Flash

The prize merchandise, particularly the fabulous prize.

Flasher

An illuminated wheel.

Flashing Their Joints

Getting the games ready for the marks.

Flat

Pertaining to or associated with any carnival gambling game, especially one in which money, rather than merchandise, is the prize.

Flat Joint

1. A carnival gambling or game concession or booth in which one plays for money, not prizes.

2. A gambling or game concession.

3. A crooked gambling or game concession, implying that “flat” means a wheel of chance that is weighted or not perfectly circular.

Flat Stores

GYP joints set up solely for the purpose of taking the marks as quickly as possible.

Flatty

The operator of a FLAT STORE.

Flea Circus

An exhibition of (apparently) performing fleas.

Flop

1. A virtuous KIP in a carnival sleeper.

2. To beg on city streets by sitting on sidewalks.

Flukem

In pre-bottled-drink days, this was midway-mixed soft drinks. It was said that what wasn’t sold was used to disinfect show sleepers (bunkhouses), or for developing fluid for mug joints.

Forty-miler

One who remains in a certain vicinity. A short jump by road.

Forty-nine Camp

A fairground type of dance hall where girls dance with the customers at so-much-a-dance and steer men to the bar to buy drinks.

Frame a Joint

To construct a concession.

Freak Show

An exhibition of human or animal freaks, now declining in popularity.

Front

1. The front of a midway show or attraction.

2. An individual’s personal appearance and clothing.

Front End

The concessions.

Front Gate

The entrance to the midway.

Fuzz

Law-enforcement officers.

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GTop,The

The tent specifically set up for the private and exclusive use of show employees to BLOW their money gambling after closing.

Gaff

1. A cheap place of amusement, specifically the stance or showground where fairs are held.

2. The control on a concession operation.

Gaffed

Something fixed or crooked.

Gaff Joint

A rigged or crooked joint.

Gandy Dancer

A seller of novelties at a carnival.

Garbage Stand

A novelty booth.

Gazoonie

A ROUGHIE or staff person, usually temporary, who erects and dismantles the rides and games and is hired solely because of availability – sometimes called “Boy.”

Geek

A snake-eating wild man. The snake is pushed into the geek’s face who bites its head off and spits it out. He doesn’t actually eat the snake; for that see GLOOMING GEEK.

General Agent

A person whose nerve lies in his boss’s name. The booking agent.

Getting Well

Making money.

Ghost Train

A ride and show combined. At discreet intervals, dummy trains carrying no more than two passengers and running on an energized rail- penetrate the darkened booth. A labyrinth of hair-raising spectacles, optical tricks, and surprises tactfully await them.

Gillies

A show that moves by rail. All equipment is moved to and from the train by wagon.

Gilly

To handle by manpower alone, or to move in a vehicle not built for the equipment being moved.

Gilly Show

A carnival that is transported by train and offloaded into wagons before being set up. Such carnivals might carry Ali Baba and his forty sticks, two cooch dancers, and a big contempt for rubes.

Gimmick

Any trick, secret device, or gadget by which a pitchman, gambler, or the like cheats the public or stimulates business.

Glass House

The crystal maze and house of mirrors.

Glim Worker

One who sells plain glass (as opposed to prescription) eyeglasses.

Glitter Gals

Performers in girl shows.

Glom or Glim, To

To look.

Gloomer

A GEEK.

Glooming Geek

A GEEK who uses his hands TO GLOM the thing he is going to eat instead of having it pushed in his face. He appears to like it and chews it up well, not spitting it out like an ordinary GEEK.

Goes to the Barn

When the show goes into winter quarters it “goes to the barn.”

Gonif

A thief.

Goofus

A rustic; a person easily duped; an easy mark.

Grab Joint or Grease Joint

A centrally located snack stand that sells PALE-MEAT sandwiches, and orange- and lemon-flavoured “Sani-Flush” drinks, known as internal douches.

Green Man

An inexperienced worker.

Grifters

Concessionnaires who operate controlled concessions.

Grinder

A person who has a certain “set spiel” or sequence of words that he delivers from the front of a midway attraction as long as the show is open. If a show has BALLYS, the spiel is a “grind”. Ticket sellers “grind” as they sell tickets.

Grind House

A BARKER who talks, often continuously, in front of a sideshow about the show inside.

Grind Show

One that keeps going from the minute it opens until it closes.

Gripe, To

To complain.

Grog

Alcoholic beverages.

Group Game

A game where more than one person participates.

Gummy

1. Inferior, uninteresting; boring; disliked; disagreeable.

2. A pitchman who sells miracle glue that is reputed to join any broken item or materials.

Gump

Chickens (of the fowl variety) .

Gunner

One who operates the device which controls the game, for example, a BUCKET GUNNER.

Gunsel

A young boy.

G Wheel

The “G” stands for gaff.

Gyp

One who uses shrewd, unethical business methods; a swindler, a cheater.

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Half-and-half

A sideshow performer who claims to be half-woman, half-man.

Hanky-pank

A game of skill that caters to young and old alike; small prizes.

Hard

Silver money; coins.

Hardnose

One who is stubborn or prone to anger.

Have the X, To

A concessionaire who has contracted for the exclusive privilege to operate a game or for the exclusive use of a prize item.

Head of the Store

The joint operator who thinks he is boss and hopes to get the first count of his game.

Healthy

The health inspector.

Heat

Trouble with people who are not carnies. Can be with the law or with people incensed over their losses on the games. Most of the “heat” in the “good ol’ days” was generated by the games, the AT SHOWS or the “strong” dancing girls.

Heavy Blacksmithing

The act of taking care of an old and buxom widow with money.

Heel

A low-grade PITCHMAN; a SHILL.

Heel, To; or Heel the Joint, To

To walk out without paying. This expression applies to people who take advantage of situations to walk out of restaurants or hotels without paying their bills.

Heist, To

1. To raise or lift something while using actions that make it seem much heavier than it actually is.

2. To stage a stick-up.

Hep

ROAD SMART.

Herald

A piece of outdoor-show advertising paper printed on coloured newsprint. The herald was designed to be given to a person directly, placed in automobiles or front doors, or mailed to box numbers.

Hey, Rube

1. CLEM’s little brother.

2. A fight between carnival workers and townspeople when the townspeople believe they have been cheated or because they dislike the attitudes and actions of the carnival outsiders. Never actually used by carnies, this is a term for the media.

High-school Animals

Trained animals.

High Striker

A long vertical timber with a bell on the top of it. A weight which travels on a track fastened to the face side of the timber may be propelled upward by the player striking a hinged lever device with a wooden maul.

Hip Kick

The rear trouser pocket.

H.O.

Holdout, often referred to as Harry Oliver, a term used when operating a game of questionable merit, in which legitimately won prizes might not be handed over.

Hod

Silver.

Hokum

Cheap, sugary candy, cheap souvenirs, any cheap useless items such as is sold at carnival booths.

Hoop

A ring.

Hoop-La

Generally any round stall, but specifically a game in which the player has to ring his prize with a hoop.

Hootchie Cootchie

A mildly lascivious form of dance exhibition in which a woman sways or rotates her hips and body.

Hop Scotcher

One who jumps from one show to another.

Horse Irons

The rods on which roundabout horses are suspended.

Horse Opera

A show using horses.

Hose, To

To trim.

Hot

Something that has been stolen is “hot”.

Hotter ‘n a Pistol

Used mostly in reference to concessions that have caused complaints.

Hot Wagon

The transformer wagon.

Hymn Hustler

A sky pilot or minister.

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Idiot BOX

A portable radio.

Ikey Heyman Axle

A wheel game with a brake on it so the agent can stop the wheel wherever he wants to. The GAFF.

Illusion Show

A magic show that features illusions such as the headless girl.

In the Doniker

To be in a bad location.

Irons, The

Griddles in the cookhouse.

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Jacketing

When a law officer scrutinizes one closely he is “jacketing”. This can also refer to a bawling out.

Jag

A out-of-line carnie employee.

Jagger

A tattoo artist.

Jail Bait

A beautiful, generally well-built, teenage girl.

Jam

The act of allowing everyone into a show on a reduced price ticket for a period of time after a BALLY has ended.

Jam Auction

A form of direct sale in which merchandise is sold at unbelievable prices in order to give the public an opportunity to spend money on completely unwanted or unneeded goods.

J.C.L.

A Johnny-come-lately.

Jenny

A Merry-Go-Round or Roundabout.

Jerk

A no-good person.

Jiggs

Blacks or black carnival workers.

Jigg Show

A minstrel show.

Jockey

A good-looking man who can attract the ladies.

Joe Goss

The boss.

Joint

In North America this refers to any kind of carnival stand. In other parts of the world, it is a slang term for a gathering place. On the fairground it is used as a generic term for any form of portable sideshow of the ground booth variety. Walkup shows, which have raised platforms for the performers, are not so described.

Jug

The bank.

Juice

Electrical current.

Juice Joint

A soft-drink tent, stand, booth, or concession.

Jump

Going to the next spot. The move between towns.

Jungle Buggy

House trailer.

Jungle Up, To

To dine with fellow carnies in their living quarters.

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Kelsey

A prostitute.

Keyster or Keister

A satchel, hand baggage.

Key to the Midway

The old prank of sending a GREEN MAN somewhere to ask for a mythical key, as in the key to the city.

Kibitz

To talk things over in idle conversation.

Kibitzer

A joker.

Kick

1. A sideshow.

2. The pants pocket where large and small amounts of money are inventoried.

King Pole

The centre mast or masts, of a circus “Big Top.”

Kip

Bed. This might also be a verb.

Kip and Dip

A room with a bath.

Kosher

Anything satisfactory is “kosher.”

Kutch

A HOOTCHIE COOTCHIE attraction .

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Lag

A leak

Larry

Something is “larry” when it is no good, a bad date or bad merchandise.

Latin, Carny

A form of “Pig Latin” used by some young carnies to impress the town MARKS.

Lay

This might be a noun or a verb. Euphemisms abound, as in a ” one-night stand” or “to score”. Basically, it’s either the act of sexual congress or it can be said of one of the partners, as “she’s a good lay.”

Laying the Note

A type of swindle done by petty larceny thieves.

Lay of the Land

The main feature in a girlie dance show.

Lay down

The covering for a concession counter painted with the game on which customers lay the money they’re gambling.

Leak, To

To give out news or plans before the official announcement.

Lecturer

The inside talker in a show.

Left-hand Side

Most North Americans move to the right, so carnival midways are laid out to take advantage of this habit. Shows catering to children are always spotted on the right hand side, if possible. Shows for the sports are in the backend.

Line

See SCRATCH.

Line-up

A store or JOINT in the line, as opposed to one in a central position.

Location

A set-up JOINT.

Log

A bar in a bar-room.

Lot

The ground where carnivals are held .

Lot Call

The opening of the show.

Lot Lice

Locals who arrive early and stay late without spending, or ladies that hang out on the show for better or for worse.

Lug

A constant borrower.

Lug Him Out, To

To take a mark away.

Lush

Liquor and beer.

Lush Wagon

The trailer where the fair’s management and directors are plied with booze.

Lusher

An habitual drinker.

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Madball

The glass ball used by a crystal-gazer.

Magic Carpet

Hyla F. Maynes’ Fun House was the original Magic Carpet. Later the name came to mean something else. Old-time showmen always went to the Sherman Hotel when in Chicago, usually at convention time. There they met other showmen in the lobby. The carpet there became known by all showmen as the magic carpet because it was where many deals were made. The name carries on to this day, but at other hotels and in other cities.

Mark

Designated by smart carnies and circeys as a man to be trimmed.

Marker

A cheque.

Michigan Bank Roll

Phoney bank roll with a few dollar bills on the outside, wrapped around a lot of paper.

Midway Bonus

An artificial promise; usually a chance on last year’s sweepstakes.

Midway Snitch

A press agent who reports the news. Most of them write bad weeks into RED ONES.

Milky Way

The custard machine’s location.

Mirror Maze

As the name implies, a labyrinth of mirrors, plain and distorting, with clear glass thrown in to add to the confusion.

Mitt Camp

The fortune telling JOINT.

Mitt Reader

A fortune teller of either sex. “Mitt readers” were mostly aged females too old for other work.

Modoc

One of several small dummies set up to be knocked over by baseballs at a carnival tent; hence a stupid person.

Monday Man

One who steals clothes from clotheslines.

Money

Ace: $1

Deuce: $2

Trey: $3

Four Singles: $4

Fin: $5

Sawbuck: $10

Sauskee: $15

Double Sawbuck: $20

Half A Yard: $50

Yard Note: $100

Half A Gee: $500

A Grand or A Gee Note: $1000

Jit: 5¢

Deemer: 10¢

Kuter or Two Bits: 25¢

Half or Four Bits: 50¢

Smesh: Small coins like nickels, dimes, and quarters.

Folding Stuff: Paper money.

Monk

A average man; one who is not a hobo, with a carnival, or on the GRIFT.

Mooch

A carnival-goer; a MARK.

Mouthpiece

An attorney.

Move

The JUMP between towns on the show’s route.

Mud Outfit

A cheap, dirty, rundown carnival.

Mug Joint

A tent, booth, or gallery in which one’s photograph is taken and printed in a short time.

Mule

A rubber-tired tractor used to spot empty wagons and load the show train.

Mush

An umbrella .

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Nut

An expense or a privilege of the show. Money paid for the privilege of operating a concession.

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Office

To warn with a noise similar to that made by hacking or clearing one’s throat; the show’s business headquarters.

Office Show or Office Ride

One owned by the midway owner, therefore not an independent attraction.

On the Erie

To eavesdrop. Also known as “South of Pen” as South of Pennsylvania which is where the Erie Railroad may be found.

On the Lam

To depart without saying goodbye or giving notice.

Operating from Fence to Fence

The entire fairground, from one fence to another is under control of the carnival.

Ordinary Geek

A GEEK who doesn’t actually eat snakes, he maybe just bites the heads off chickens and rats. They usually have to be drunk or hopped up, and they usually spit the heads out afterwards.

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Pale Meat

An anemic hamburger.

Palper

This can be either advertising for the show or passes. You never say you have “papered the town” when you have put up advertising paper. You say you have “billed the town.” A “papered town” has a disproportionate number of passes given out. A “papered house” means almost all of the patrons are there on free passes.

Paper Hanger

One who passes counterfeit money.

Patch

A legal adjuster or fixer. One who settles complaints.

Patsy

A fall guy or one who is set up to take blame or to have something put over on him.

Peep Show

A supposedly private or surreptitious view, usually through a hole in the wall or tent, of nude women or lewd scenes. Once this was a traditional part of small carnivals.

P.C.

A percentage game, that is, a gambling or gaming wheel where the game keeps an average percentage of the take.

P.C. Dealer

Wheel operators.

Peek the Poke, To

To see what kind of bills some MARK is carrying.

Phoneyman

A peddler, street vendor, or auctioneer of cheap or imitation jewellery.

Physic Man

A medicine pitchman.

Pickled Punks

Babies, usually deformed, in bottles, also referred to as “cough-up skeletons,” which are exhibited in embryo shows.

Pie Car

The snack bar on a show train . The dining car where all meet en route.

Pig Iron

The riding devices . More particularly the heavy flat type of ride.

Pipe

A business or social type of conversation.

Pit

A small canvas enclosure in which acts are performed or where animals, human oddities, snakes and other reptiles are exhibited. The spectators stand around the four sides of the pit and look down into it. A pit show with one pit is a SINGLE-O, one with ten pits is a TEN-IN-ONE.

Pitch

A sales concession where merchandise is sold outright after a sales man has given a demonstration.

Pitchman

A person who operates a PITCH concession. The candy salesmen in “gal” shows are “candy pitchmen.” A pitchman who works on an elevated platform is a “high pitchman.” Pitchmen use the word KEYSTER for the small case many of them worked from.

Pitch Till You Win

Eating places where you eat all you want.

Plant Show

A coloured minstrel show or plantation show.

Plaster

A lien , writ, or legal attachment.

Platform Show

A small “single-a” attraction presented on an elevated platform under a small canvas top.

Play, To

To show an engagement in town or at a fair.

Playa Bloomer, To

To do no business on a date. This might also be to “playa blank.”

Play the Streets, To

To set up on the streets and sidewalks for an engagement.

Pling, To

To ask for donations; to mooch.

Plum

A good date.

Plunder

Cheap merchandise.

Plush

Stuffed toys.

Poke

A pocketbook.

Poke a Tip

To give a free show or free gifts to attract a crowd.

Poler

A labouring man who steers wagons being loaded or unloaded from railway flat cars.

Power Wagons

Electrical generators or transformers.

Pratt Cooler

The blower in a funhouse that lifts skirts .

Pratt Out

To push someone out of a TIP or play by shoving him with one’s buttock; to beat someone by short-changing them.

Privilege

The permission to operate; a set fee, usually based on the front footage of the concession.

Privilege Car

A dining car on a show train which has slot machines and games for the show people only, often the PIECAR.

Pudding Wagon

The frozen custard truck.

Puffs

Publicity stories that glorify a performer’s ability or experiences.

Puker

Swing-ride seats on chains that rotate on the ends of sweeps.

Pumpkin

A small town or rural community; a rustic place; a town in the sticks. PunIc A boy or girl associated with the show.

Punk Day

A day during which children are admitted to a carnival or circus free; children’s day.

Punk Mark

A town boy or girl. Punk.

Rouster

A worker who chases under-age kids from in front of a gaming concession while the play is on.

Put Him on the Send

To get more money from someone.

Put on the B

“B” meaning BITE. To ask for money in summer this will be considered a loan, in winter, when times are tougher, it’s a donation.

Put on the Hype

To increase prices over and above normal, as was often done by hotels during fair week.

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Queer

Counterfeit money.

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Racket

Any kind of concession at a carnival of questionable character.

Ragbags

Cheap, dirty, rundown, and/or crooked carnivals.

Railroad Show

A show which travels by railroad on its own train consisting of flatcars and sleeping cars.

Rangs

Troublemakers.

Rattler

A train.

Razorback

A train hand.

Read

A licence to do business, especially for holding a road show or selling pitchman’s merchandise.

Reading a Shirt

Hunting for “seam squirrels” or fleas.

Real Estate

Concession space. The buyer “owns” only the silt on top of the ground; by another year that will wash or blow away and he’ll have to buy more “real estate.”

Red Light, To

To push a person off or out of a moving railroad train; to kill someone by so doing.

Red One

A winner; so named from red numbers, winners on FLAT-STORE CHARTS.

Rehashing Tickets

To become a partner in a show or a ride without an investment by not handing out a ticket when money is received, pocketing that money, then selling that ticket again.

Re-rides

Selling tickets for another turn to persons already on rides.

Reuben

A rustic, a rube, or hick.

Rib, To

To taunt.

Ride the White Horse, To

To be glorified in a publicity story.

Riding Master

One who controls or owns a ride.

Right-hand Side

The preferred location for early opening shows that cater to children and the family trade.

Ring the Bell, To

To succeed, to meet with approval, or to make a hit with someone.

Road Smart

Street wise or able to look after oneself while on the road, travelling amongst strangers. Also known as having a smart-money education. Post-graduates often sleep in suckers’ barns, having been too smart for their own good.

Robbing Boxes

An office AGENT who gathers up money from ticket boxes and takes it to the office.

Rod

A pistol.

Roll Down

A concession in which numbered or coloured balls roll down a runway; often the operator controls the success of the player.

Roughie

A low-paid helper on a ride.

Roughneck

A working man.

Roughneck’s Delight

A girl who KIPS only with working men.

Rounding Board or Roundings

On a wheel game, a continuous label to the spinning frame; in architectural terms, a fascia which forms the rim of the wheel. The “roundings” refers to the complete assembly including rounding boards, dropper, and, in more elaborate machines, the upper component, the dome.

Round ‘Un

Any circular JOINT or stall.

Roust, To

To chase away.

Route

A noun meaning the list of towns and events played each season; a verb meaning the laying-out of a season’s play dates.

Route Cards

Cards listing the show’s play dates in advance.

Rubber Vags

Those who live in house trailers.

Rube

A term only used by the circus meaning a resident of any town or city in which the circus is showing; hence a member of the public, a townsman.

Run

The move between show dates or towns.

Running Boards

Wooden platforms in front of concessions or JOINTS.

Running a G off the Top

To be paid a percentage of the gross.

Runts

Dwarfs.

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Savage Bottom

Named after Frederick Savage, the originator of the design, this refers to the three-rail system for carousels.

Scoff, To; or Skoof, To

To eat. “Scoff” also can mean breakfast in bed.

Score, To

To get a large amount of money.

Scratch or Line

Money. May include both HARD and SOIT. Soft is preferred.

Scruff, To

To eke out a living; to earn just enough to buy necessary food and shelter; to live from hand-to-mouth.

Set-up, To

To erect the stands, rides, or shows.

Shake

If a raid is made after a fix or bribe has been paid, it is a “shake” or a double-cross by officers.

Shamus

A FUZZ.

Shaving Bandit

The lot man who collects payment for shavings.

Sheet

Another name for the Coconut Shy, ” to shy” meaning to throw sideways with a jerk.

Sheet Writers

Men or women who sell subscriptions to magazines.

Shelf

An upper berth.

Shill

One who pretends to play a game or to buy a ticket to an attraction in order to entice others to follow him.

Shlemiel

A stupid person; one with little brain-power.

Shmuck

A person not worth much consideration.

Short-Change Artist

The operator of a carnival booth, usually the ticket booth, who is skilled at cheating customers by returning to them less than their proper change.

Short Circuit

An electrician .

Shylock

The office secretary he’s advertised for when they want him to join, and because he’s often accompanied by the show’s profits, he may be advertised for after he leaves.

Side Stuff

A linear arrangement of sideshows.

Side Walls

The canvas walls around a tent show.

Simp Heister

The ferris wheel.

Simp Twister

The merry-go-round or carousel.

Single-a

Working to one customer at a time; a single show.

Skin Oddity

FREAKS with skins like alligators.

Slough, To

To close quickly because the law is coming or because the law is closing the show.

Slug

A dollar.

Slum

Cheap merchandise, on the smallish side, such as jewellery or gilded plaster bookends, sold at stands or given as prizes in games of chance or skill.

Smooch, To

To borrow.

Snipe

A built-up billboard belonging to a local plant.

Snipe Plant

A company that owns and services the billboards (“snipes”) in an area.

Soft

Paper money, bills.

Sore Dogs

Bad feet.

Soup Dealer

The knife show or CHIVE RACK operator.

Spot

1. An engagement, fair, or celebration.

2. To locate a ride on the lot. To guide the wagons to their designated spot.

Spring

To go to one’s KICK for more money. To make an offer to purchase something.

Springfield

A cry used by onlookers when one goes to his sock for more money.

Sprung

To be released from jail by the show’s PATCH.

Stand

The length of the show’s date is referred to as a stand; as in “one-day stand.”

Sticks

1. Outside support, VAGS with alibis.

2. A shill or an accomplice to the show who’s somewhere in the crowd. Sometimes sticks work in pairs.

Stick Joint

A concession stand constructed of timber or a stand which is not a trailer.

Stiff

A cheque.

Still Date

An engagement not backed by a fair or agricultural board. The show arranges to set up by itself in a shopping mall or park.

Still Horse

A form of carousel in which fixed horses, sometimes in a galloping stance, are mounted on the platform.

Stink Finger

Any ride which allows one to so move one’s hands under cover of darkness, the Caterpillar, for example.

Stir

Jail.

Stomach Robber

The COOKHOUSE operator.

Stomach Timer

See BELLY STICK. Members of the tribe may carry dimes in trouser cuffs.

Store

Another name for a JOINT.

Strawberries

Change forgotten at a ticket window by purchasers.

Striker

See HIGH STRIKER.

String

A long line of horses, animals, objects, or things.

String Show

An open-front show with a long line of canvas banners.

Stripping

The practice of removing and loading decorative portions of fronts, rides, and equipment before the engagement ends.

Strong

To work a game or games for excessive amounts of money.

Strong Performance

A dirty show, one with few holds barred, including audience participation, a strong performance is often called “serving lunch.”

Sunday School

A clean show or operation or a carnival midway that never allows crooked games or dirty GAL SHOWS to operate on its midway.

Sweep

In a ride that moves on a long arm, the arm is called the “sweep.”

Sweetened air

Cotton candy.

Swing

To steal. Also see PUKER.

Swing With Something, To

To take something without the owner’s consent.

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Take a Powder, To

To leave without giving notice.

Take it on the Arthur, To

To run away.

Talker

The man who does the outside talks and lectures in front of an attraction was the “talker,” never the BARKER in an outside show.

Tap City

Dead broke.

Taps

Money received from merchants in exchange for banner advertising.

Tear Down

Dismantling the midway at the end of an engagement.

Tenant

Any showman who rents ground for his amusements from a fairground lessee.

Ten-in-One

Ten shows under one roof

Three Sheets

Posters.

Till

Money Box.

Tilt

The canvas awning to any amusement device, presumably so called because of the angle of inclination designed to act as a water shed.

Tilt Rods

Those structural members that carry the tilt. Awning rods.

Timber

A STICK or SHILL on concessions.

Tinsel Molls

Painted ladies of the tenderloin; DIRTY LEGS.

Tip

A crowd of prospective customers.

Tipster

A pitchman or carnival barker.

Tish Note

Phoney money used to purchase the wares of ladies of the night.

Tober

The total fairground complex. Its planning, organization, and induced atmosphere. More specifically, the layout of rides, booths, and JOINTS.

T. & K. Man

T for tripod, K for KEYSTER; a talker who works the front of shows and whose sole purpose is to bring the public into the attraction.

Tokus

A person’s posterior.

Took the Fence

TO BLOW with the receipts of the show, ride, or concession.

Top

A tent used in a carnival.

Townie

A resident of a town in which the carnival is playing. A carnival spectator.

Trick

An outdoor show or performance.

Trouper

A person who has spent at least one full season with some type of travelling amusement organization.

True Pot

A story that is true, even if a bit on the long side.

Tubs

The seats of many of the riding devices.

Tunnel of Love

Almost any amusement device incorporating a ride through a darkened tunnel- the connotations are obvious. See also STINK FINGER.

Tunnel Trade

Customers that patronize hood covered rides, such as Rocky Road to Dublin and the Caterpillar.

Turkey

Bad or losing show.

Turning the Duke

Short changing someone.

Turning the Tip

Raking in money.

Twenty-four-hour Man

An agent who travels ahead of the show to arrange for the show’s arrival and appearance.

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Up

Outdoor showmen are prone to add the word “up” to other words without changing the meaning of the word added to, for example, an eight-horse team is referred to as an “eight-up.”

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Vag

A vagrant, hobo, or drifter.

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Walkaway

Money acquired by a ticket seller by shortchanging the public.

Walk Through

A show of sorts, or funhouse. The MARKS move in and out without sitting down.

Weed

To hand money to another.

Wheel, The

1. Big Eli was not a person, but a ride: the Ferris Wheel. Originally manufactured by the Eli Bridge Company, the first Ferris Wheel was a monster, more than a hundred feet high exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair.

2. This also can refer to the roulette or game wheels.

Whiz Mob

Pickpockets.

“Whoa Red”

A midway theme song.

Wing-ding Broad

A girl who faints in front of a GEEK to draw patrons into the tent.

Wire Walker

A telegraph delivery boy.

With It

The term is the ultimate compliment. If you are “with it,” you have the very best interest of the show at heart. An expression whereby carnies may know each other even though they have never seen each other before. Warning do not attempt to use this word unless you have been instructed in the proper delivery of it.

White Money

Regular coins of the United States and Canada with which the old time carnivals were apt to pay their employees only when they were doing good business.

Work

The question, ” Will we work tonight?” implies not labour, but larceny.

Write Show

To sell advertising space that is generally never published.

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The X

This expression means “exclusive” and conveys the knowledge that in the purchase of a concession privilege, there will be no competition from similar attractions or joints.