11 Antiquated "P" Words From the American Slang Dictionary


As you might guess, we’ve got a lot of books here at the mental_floss New York office. One stands above the rest in terms of usefulness and pure entertainment value: the second supplemented edition of Harold Wentworth and Stuart Berg Flexner’s Dictionary of American Slang.

This 1975 update of the original 1960 tome is unrivaled as a resource when we Flossers need to get up to speed on hobo slang, lunch vernacular, or auctioneer lingo. We thought we’d share the authors’ definitions for our 11 favorite “P” words and phrases from the days of yore. See if you can work them into conversation today!

1. Pad the hoof: “To tramp about. Orig. hobo use.”

2. Pang-wangle: “To live or go along cheerfully in spite of minor misfortunes.”

3. Paper-belly: “A person unable to drink liquor straight, or one who grimaces after drinking.”

4. Peter Funk: “An auctioneer’s accomplice who poses as a buyer in order to stimulate bidding or to 'buy' items on which the final bid from a genuine customer has not been high enough. Auction use.”

5. Pie card: “A union membership card, specif., as shown to a stranger who is a union member in order to borrow money, obtain food and lodging, or the like. Hobo use c1925.”

6. Pig between two sheets: “A ham sandwich. Some lunch-counter use c1925”

7. Pine overcoat: “A coffin, esp. a cheap one.”

8. Possum Belly: “An extra storage compartment under a railroad car. Hobo lingo.”

9. Pretzel-bender: “1. A preculiar person; an eccentric; one who thinks in a round-about manner. 2. A player of the French horn. Musician use. Not common. 3. A wrestler. 4. A heavy drinker; one who frequents bars.”

10. Prushun or Prushon: “A boy tramp who begs for a mature tramp. Obscurely from “Prusssian.”

11. Puka: “1. Any small, private place, such as a pigeonhole in a desk, a safe, a purse, a small suitcase, or the like. 2. [taboo] The female genitals. Both meanings WWII USN use in Pacific. Prob. orig. Polynesian.”

…and Two More Should You Ever Need to Work for a Circus

Punk day: “A day during which children are admitted to a carnival or circus free; children’s day. C1930; carnival and circus use.”

Punk pusher: “The boss of boy workers in a circus. Circus use.”

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