Talk like a hobo day

Ransom Riggs

Sadly, there is (to our knowledge) no such day. Talk Like a Pirate Day, on the other hand, is strictly observed in many quarters, and it's just a matter of time before swearing like an old prospector gets a day of its own too. But since no one's around to stand up for the long-defunct dialect of the hobo, it may as well be us -- so I hereby declare today, November 21, Talk Like a Hobo Day! To get you started, here's some of our favorite, most colorful hobo lingo. Study well!

Especially colorful hobo lingo
Barnacle: a person who sticks to one job for more than a year.
Bone-polisher: a dangerous dog. (This could also be mailman lingo.)
C, H and D: short for "cold, hungry and dry," ie, without alcoholic libations.
California blankets (AKA "Hoover blankets"): newspapers, intended to be used for bedding.
Catching the Westbound: to die.
Doggin' it: traveling by Greyhound bus.
Grease the track: to be run over by a train.
Sky pilot: a preacher.
Carrying the banner: to keep in constant motion so as to avoid being picked up for loitering or to keep from freezing.
Chuck a dummy: to pretend to faint.
Cover with the moon: to sleep out in the open.
Honey dipping: working with a shovel in the sewer. (Akin to modern slang word "honey wagon," otherwise known as a porta-potty.")

Angel: a person who gives you more than you'd expect them to.
Block scrapings: leftover meat begged from a butcher.
Bossy in a bowl: beef stew.
Bull horrors: a psychological condition marked by obsessive fear of the police.
Dead soldier: an empty whiskey bottle on the side of the road.
To decorate the mahogany: to buy a round of drinks.
Glomming the grapevine: to steal clothes hanging from a clothesline.
"How strong are you?": "How much money do you have?"
Library birds: hoboes who sleep in libraries.
Lighthouse: a hobo skilled at recognizing plainclothes detectives.
Robbing the mail: snatching food and milk delivered at doorsteps early in the morning.

Words that may have originated with hoboes which we still use today
Java: coffee
Junk: drugs
Kicks: Shoes
Main drag: the busiest road in town
Glad rags: a hobo's best clothes
Big house: prison
On the fly: to hop a train while it's in motion
Punk: any young kid
Easy mark: identified by written hobo code symbols as a place to get a free meal or bed.
Blowing smoke: boasting
Ding bat: a hobo who mooches off other hoboes
Fleabag: a sleeping bag or bedroll

Hobo place names
The Big Burg: New York City
Shy: Chicago
Mickeyville: Mechanicsville, New York
Slow town: Detroit
Studebaker Town: South Bend, Indiana
The Big Smoke: Pittsburgh
Casey (or kay-cee): Kansas City, Misourri
Land of Milk and Honey: the state of Utah
The Peg: Winnipeg, Canada

Illustration: Hobo #186 by Andertoons.