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“Glossary of Jazz Slang” — from Mezz Mezzrow’s 1946 biography, Really the Blues

mezz

Milton “Mezz” Mezzrow, c. 1946

 

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Really the Blues, the little-known but highly influential autobiographical work by jazz musician Mezz Mezzrow (co-written by Bernard Wolfe), is one man’s account of decades of jazz and American cultural history.  The clarinetist’s colorful life – which he described in the 1946 counter-culture classic as having strayed “off the music” which led to his doing “my share of evil” – was adventurous, earthy, and jubilant, and was told not so much as a biography but as a novel that made “the Mezz” a hero with the era’s key counter-culture figures, including Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. 

Much has been made of Mezzrow’s relationship with Louis Armstrong  — he managed Armstrong for a time and dealt much of the “gauge” he craved, and Mezzrow’s reputation for dealing pot was so well known that “Mezz” became slang for marijuana.  He is also remembered for his strong interest in connecting white and black musicians, having organized several groups of integrated bands in the 30’s and 40’s.   But it was his contributions to creating and cataloging the language of jazz music that endures, a language that H.L. Mencken defined as “an amalgam of Negro-slang from Harlem and the argots of drug addicts and the pettier sort of criminals, with occasional additions from the Broadway gossip columns and the high school campus”.

 In a brief example of the “jazz slang” found throughout Mezzrow’s book, here are the people he dedicates his book to:

 

To all hipsters, hustlers and fly cats tipping along The Stroll.  (Keep scuffling)

To all the cons in all the houses of many slammers, wrestling with clinches.  (Short time, boys.)

To all the junkies and lushheads in two-bit scratch-pads, and the flophouse grads in morgue iceboxes. (R.I.P.)

To the sweettalkers, the gumbeaters, the high-jivers, out of the gallion for good and never going to take low again.  (You got to make it, daddy.)

To Bessie Smith, Jimmy Noone, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong, Zutty Singleton, Johnny Dodds, Sidney Bechet and Tommy Ladnier.

(Grab a taste of millennium, gate.)

 

And…here is a brief excerpt from a conversation in the book involving participants in a drug deal:

 

FIRST CAT:  Lay a trey on me, ole man.

MEZZ:  Got to do it slot.  (Pointing to a man standing in front of Big John’s ginmill.)  Gun the snatcher on your left raise — the head mixer laid a bundle of his ways, he’s posin’ back like crime sure pays.

FIRST CAT:  Father grab him, I ain’t payin’ him no rabbit.  Jim, I’m goin’ up to my dommy and dig that new mess Pops laid down for Okeh.  I hear he riffed back on Zackly.  Pick you up at The Track when the kitchen mechanics romp. 

SECOND CAT:  Hey, Mezzie, I’m short a deuce of blips but I’ll straighten you later.

MEZZ:  Righteous, gizz, you’re a poor boy but a good boy — now don’t come up crummy.

SECOND CAT:  Never no crummy, chummy. I’m gonna lay a drape under the trey of knockers for Tenth Street and I’ll be on the scene, wearin’ the green.

THIRD CAT:  (Coming up with his chick):  Mezz, this is my new dinner and she’s solid.

GIRL:  All the chicks is always talkin’ ’bout you and Pops.  Sure it ain’t somethin’ freakish goin’ down ‘tween you two?  You sure got the ups on us pigeons, we been on a frantic kick tryin’ to divide who’s who.  But everybody loves Pops and we know just how your bloodstream’s runnin’.

 

The conclusion of the book features a lengthy glossary defining all of the slang used in Mezzrow’s world.  This is an important and entertaining history, and since it isn’t found anywhere online, I have published the glossary in its entirety. 

 

Please note that this is a historic document that was published in 1946.  Readers must keep the context of that era in mind when reading this glossary.  For a variety of reasons, much of the glossary is likely to be offensive to today’s reader.

 

 

Glossary

 

Advocate:  help to build and perfect

Anywhere: state of possession (is you anywhere? =do you have any?)

Back:  adverb used for emphasis (scoffed back = ate very heartily)

Ball: n., a good time; v., enjoy yourself

Barrellhouse: n., low, boisterous dive;  adj., the original style of playing jazz, once associated with such low dives

Beat:  exhausted, broke

Beat the boards:  tapdance

Beat up your chops:  talk a lot

Before-Abe:  job (the implication being that a Negro’s employment is slavery, of the type that existed before Abe Lincoln)

Beginner brown:  Negro with light brown skin-tone

Bellychord:  a pleasing, abrupt musical chord that hits the listener hard

Belly habit:  an opium habit that, unlike the head type, affects the addict in the stomach

The Big Apple:  New York City

Big Bean:  sun

Biggity:  swaggering, putting on airs

Bing:  jail cell for solitary confinement

Bit:  jail sentence

Biters:  teeth

Blinds:   spaces between tender and baggage car in any train

Blip:  nickel

Bloodhound tip:  snooping behavior of a policeman (see tip)

Blowtop:  a crazy or violent person

Blow your fuse:  go crazy

Blow your lid:  go crazy

Blow your lump:  find a full outlet for your emotions

Blow your top:  go crazy

Blue Broadway:  the sky

Boogie-woogie:  a happier style of music which grew out of the blues; also, a style of dancing

Boogity-boogity:  pell-mell

Bottle babies:  drunks

Breadbasket:  stomach

Break:  a brief ensemble pause by a jazz band so that one player can extemporize a solo for a few measures

Break it up:  bring the house down

Break time:  get out of tempo

Breeze:  go

Bright:   morning

Bring down:  depress

Bringdown:  a depressing thing, a disappointment

Bring time:  punch a time-clock, work

Briny:  unpleasant, hostile

Broom off:  go away

Brown:  Negro with brown skin-tone

Buddy ghee:  pal

Bug:  put in the insane asylum

Bundle:  bankroll

Bunk habit:  practice of lounging around while others smoke opium, and inhaling the fumes

Bust:  arrest

Bust your conk:  become extremely happy and carefree

Bust your vest:  be big, magnanimous

Buster:  something extremely good

Buzz:  tell, whisper

Buzz tone:  a trumpet or trombone tone similar to that of a kazoo

 

Café sunburn:  pallor

Call some hogs:  snore

Canhouse:  whorehouse

Can’t see for looking:  to stare so intently, usually with hostility, that your vision is blurred; to have your perspective distorted due to anger or jealousy

Cap:  have the last word, go one better, outdo

Carry:  escort

Case:  study carefully

Cat:  regular fellow, guy

Cathouse:  whorehouse

Chances go around:  everybody gets his turn, the wheel of chance keeps spinning

Change:  money

Chesty:  conceited

Chick:  young girl

Chicken dinner:  pretty young girl

Chimes:  hours

Chinch:  bedbug

Chippy’s playground:  stomach

Chips:  money

Chops:  lips

Claws:  fingers

Clinker:  bad musical note

C-notes:  hundred-dollar bills

Coin gold:  make a lot of money

Collar:  understand, get hold of

Collar all jive:  understand all the subtleties

Collar a nod:  get some sleep

Come on:  give a terrific performance, be superb

Comp:  accompaniment

Complexy:  neurotic

Con:  convict; also:  consumption

Conk:  n., head; v., hit on the head

Conkhouse:  head

Connection:  contact-man who supplies you with drugs,etc.

Coonshout:  corny imitation of oldtime Negro style of singing

Cop a deuceways:  buy two dollars’ worth

Cop a slave:  get a job

Cop a squat:  sit down

Corn:  anything hackneyed, cliché

Cover all spots:  cope with all situations

Crack your jaw:  talk

Craunch:  grind

Creep pad:  a whorehouse where the girls are pickpockets

Crib:  type of one-room whorehouse in old New Orleans

Croaker:  doctor

Cruise:  entice

Crummy:  obnoxious

Cruncher:  sidewalk

Crunchers:  feet

Cubby:  home, apartment, room

Cuckaburr:  acorn; cocklebur

Cut:  outdo, out-perform

Cut out:  leave

Cut some rug:  dance

Cut some steps:  dance

Cutting contest:  competitive get-together of performers

 

Dance on all setting:  crash the gates everywhere

Daniel:  buttocks

Deuce:  a couple

Deuceways:  two dollars’ worth

Dicty:  snooty, high-class

Dig:  understand, appreciate, listen to, follow, grasp, get

Dim:  night

Dime note:  ten-dollar bill

Dinner:  pretty young girl

Dirty dozens:  elaborate game in which participants insult each other’s ancestors

Do a Houdini:  disappear

Dog around:  follow

Dommy:  home, domicile

Don’t lose it:  sarcastic expression which really means it’s no good, get rid of it

Doodlely-squat:  nothing, no more than the product of a child who squats to do his duty

Dotey:  old, senile

Doublebank:  gang up on

Double-o:  studious look

Downbeat:  conductor’s signal for the band to begin playing

Down under:  below the Mason-Dixon line

Down with it:  top-notch, superlative

Drape:  suit of clothes

Dreambox:  head

Dreamers:  blankets

Driftsmoke:  clouds

Drink:  ocean

Drink den:  saloon

Drip:  rain

Drugg:  brought down, depressed

Dry goods:  clothes

Dummy up:  shut up, refuse to talk

Duster:  buttocks

 

Early black:  early evening

Eat up a breeze:  eat a lot

Enamel:  skin

Evil:  unpleasant, obnoxious, hostile, neurotic

Excusing:  except for

Eyeball:  look, stare

 

Face:  a form of greeting

Fall in:  arrive on the scene

Fall out:  be tickled to death

Father grab somebody:  May the Lord take him away, to hell with him

Fault:  blame

Faust:  ugly (as the devil)

Fay:  n., white person; adj., white

Feds:  Federal agents

Fer it:  in favor of it

Fillmill:  saloon

Final:  go

Fish:  new inmates in jail, fresh caught

Fishblack:  Friday night

Fishtail:  weaving motion of the buttocks during a dance

Fix to:  intend to

Flickers:  movies

Fly:  smart, sophisticated, in the know, alert

Fly right:  behave

Foam:  beer

For kicks:  for pleasure’s sake

Foxy:  sly, clever, good

Fracture your toupee:  go crazy

Fracture your wig:  go crazy with joy

Frame:  body

Framer:  bed

Frantic:  wild, nervous, unusually good

Fraughty issue:  unhappy state of affairs

Freakish:  homosexual, perverted, weird

Freebie:  handout, something gratis

Frolic-pad:  place where you have a good time

Frompy:  unattractive

Fruit:  romance playfully

Funk:  stench

Funky:  smelly, obnoxious

Fusebox:  head

 

Gallion:  slave quarters, Jim-Crow section

Gangbuster:  anything especially powerful

Gas-meter:  a quarter

Gasser:  something terrific that takes your breath away

Gate:  form of greeting

Gauge:  marihuana

Gaycat:  have a good time

Geechee:  Southerner from Georgia

Get in your mouth:  disturb you, repel you

Get off:  express yourself, render a good performance

Get-off chorus:  improvised solo for one chorus

Get straight:  reach an understanding, pay a debt

Gig:  single engagement, club date

Gimpy:  lame

Git-box:  guitar

Give the office to somebody:  to signal surreptitiously

Gizz:  short for gizzard

Gizzard:  form of greeting

Glim:  look at

Glimmer:  electric light

Go down:  happen

God sure don’t like ugly:  you get what’s coming to you

Going to Slice City:  going to cut somebody up

Golden-leaf:  the best marihuana

Gone:  out of this world, superlative

Gone with it:  really inspired, completely in control of the situation

Grabbers:  hands

Grass:  marihuana

Grease:  eat

Grease your chops:  eat

Grefa:  marihuana

Grimy:  sour, unpleasant

Groovy:  really good, in the groove, enjoyable

Gully-low:  lowdown, unhappy

Gumbeat:  talk

Gun:  look, stare

Gunboats:  large shoes

Gutbucket:  earthy style of music

 

Hack:  keeper in a jail

Half-hipped:  not very enlightened or sophisticated

Half past the unlucky:  midnight on Friday

Hankachief-Head:  old Southern mammy

Hamfat:  ham performer, a nobody

Hard-cutting:  powerful, very good

Hard-cutting mezz:  the best brand of marihuana; anything that’s tops

Have a ball:   have a good time

Have your hair fried:  have your hair treated with hot irons

Hay:  marihuana

Head arrangement:  a musical arrangement by ear, without written music

Head Knock:  God

Heeb:  Jewish person

Heebies:  jitters

Hemp:  marihuana

High:  intoxicated, or strongly affected by marihuana or other drugs

High-jive:  intellectual patter, the smoothest and most elaborate line

Highjiver:  smooth character with a very fancy and intellectual line of talk

Hincty:  snobbish, stuck-up, full of airs; also:  suspicious

Hip:  in the know, worldly-wise, clever, enlightened, sophisticated

Hipster:  man who’s in the know, grasps everything, is alert

Hit the jug:  drink heavily, often from the bottle; have a drink

Homey:  form of greeting between people from the same place

Honeymoon kick:  a situation of great intimacy, close friendship (see kick)

Honky:  factory hand

Hooked:  addicted

Hop:  opium

Hopdog:  insatiable opium addict

Hophead:  opium addict

Hot:  angry

Hot for:  enthusiastic about, in favor of

Hot minute:  brief moment (implying great hurry)

House of many slammers:  jail

Hustler:  prostitute; also:  anybody who makes a living by hook or crook

Hype:  v., to deliver a phony but convincing line, to build up  a sucker for the kill, to lay the groundwork for a scheme; n., a build-up, a phony story

Hype up:  build up (with ulterior motive)

 

Ice:  diamonds

If push comes to shove:  if a showdown comes, if things come to a head

Igg:  ignore

In front:  in advance, ahead of time

In there:  very good, sincere, masterful, likable

Intro:  introduction to a musical piece

Issue:  a questionable or serious case or situation

 

Jag:  a state of extreme stimulation, produced by marihuana or some other stimulant

Jam:  to play collectively improvised music

Jam session:  a musical get-together in which all the playing is collectively improvised

Jam-up:  very good, most pleasing

Jawblock:  to engage in small talk

J.B.:  jet black, a very dark Negro

Jeff Davis:  an unenlightened person, a hick from down South (sometimes shortened to jeff)

Jim Crow:  the symbol of anti-Negro discrimination and segregation

Jim-jam-jumping:  extremely lively, vivacious

Jive:  v., to kid, to talk insincerely or without meaning, to use an elaborate and misleading line; n., confusing doubletalk, pretentious conversation, anything false or phony

Jive that makes it drip:  clouds that produce rain

John:  customer in a whorehouse

Joint:  set of instruments used in smoking opium

Joybox:  piano

Juice:  n., liquor; v., to drink a lot

Juiced:  drunk

Jump:  turn, become (ex.: jump salty = turn sour or hostile)

Jump:  modern corruption of jazz in which short cliché riffs are repeated over and over mechanically and the loud, ringing sock cymbal sets the pace

Jump stink:  turn sour and hostile

Jungle bum:  a hobo who cooks out in the open

Jungles:  San Juan Hill section of Manhattan, around Tenth Ave. in the Sixties

Junkie:  dope fiend

 

Keep a lot of rumpus:  act boisterously, make a lot of noise

Kick:  good feeling, something that gives a lot of pleasure

Killer:  anything very powerful, fine

King Kong:  cheap moonshine, corn whisky

Kip:  sleep (from camp)

Kisser:  mouth or face

Kitchen:  back of the head, the hair just above the nape of the neck

Kitchen mechanics:  domestic servants

Kitten:  very young girl

Knock:  give

Knock a fade:  go away, leave

Knock out some vittles:  eat

Knock somebody some skin:  shake hands with somebody

Knowledge-box:  head

Kyaw-kyaw:  sarcastic laughter

 

Laine:  hick, innocent, sucker

Lamp:  look at, see

Latch on:  get hold of

Late watch:  early hours of the morning

Lay:  to give, do

Lay down:  to recline and smoke opium

Lay it:  do something masterfully, do a good job

Lay it on somebody:  do something good for somebody

Lay some iron:  tapdance

Lay your racket:  perform, talk, give a good and convincing account of yourself

Layout:  set of instruments used to smoke opium

Lead: melody, instrument that plays the melody in a band, solo chair of a section in a band

Lean your affection on somebody:  to romance, to give a line to a girl

Light up:  smoke marihuana

Like Jack the Bear:  worthless, no-account, broke, insignificant

Lily-whites:  sheets

Lindy hop:  a Negro dance

Line two:  one of anything (numbers are doubled to confuse outsiders)

Line your flue:  eat

Lip:  embouchure, muscular strength and control in the lips needed to blow wind instruments

Liquor-head:  drunkard

Loaded:  drunk or full of drugs

Loot:  money

Lowrate:  ridicule, show up

Luck up on:  get by luck, come into possession of unexpectedly

Lush:  to drink

Lushhound:  drunkard

Lushy:  drunkard

 

Mac:  pimp

Main saw on the hitch:  wife

Main stash:  home

Main stroll:  Seventh Avenue in Harlem

Make:  rob, visit

Make time:  beat a rhythm

Make your love come down:  Arouse your passion, put you in a romantic mood

Mammy jamming:  incestuous obscenity

Mash:  give

Mellow:  feeling good, especially after smoking marihuana

Meserole:  corruption of mezzroll

Mess-around:  dance in which hips are swung around in a circle

The mezz:  the best brand of marihuana; anything unusually good

Mezzroll:  fat sticks of marihuana, handrolled, with the ends tucked in

The mighty mezz:  see the mezz

Mooch:  beg, look for handouts

Moo-juice:  milk

Mop-mop:  modern corruption of jazz built up around mechanical riffs

Moss:  hair

Most anxious:  very fast or excited

Motherferyer:  incestuous obscenity

Much:  like, be in favor of

Mudkicker:  streetwalker

Mug:  making faces or subtly clowning during a performance

Mugg:  associate with

Muggles:  cigarettes of marihuana

Murder belt:  the South

Murder State:  Mississippi, or any lynch state down South

Mush:  kiss

Muta:  marihuana

 

Nappy:  kinky

Nature:  potency, virility

Nayo hoss:  no, buddy; that’s wrong

Never no crummy:  never in bad taste, never offensive

Nix out: eliminate

No stuff:  no kidding

Note:  notoriety, publicity

Nowhere:  insignificant, broke

Nympho kick:  nymphomaniac form of behavior, erotic exhibitionism

 

Ofaginzy:  white person

Ofay:  a white person (from the pig Latin for foe)

Offtime:  out of harmony, old-fashioned, corny offensive

Old Fireball:  sun

One-nighters:  one-night engagements

Oscar:  guy, especially a biased and narrow-minded one

Out:  oust, get rid of, destroy

 

Pad:  joint, place to enjoy yourself, bed

Paddy:  cop

Pay no rabbit:  ignore

Peck:  see peckerwood

Peckerville:  any Southern town

Peckerwood:  any white Southerner

Peepers:  eyes

Pen:  penitentiary

Penny one:  a single penny

Pick up on:  get, take, learn; also:  smoke marihuana

Pick up on some vittles:  get some food, eat

Pick up on what’s going down:  understand what’s happening

Pick up the tempo:  play faster

Pigeon:  young girl

Pill:  pellet of opium (also called yen pox)

Pink:  white

Piss-ant:  a nobody, small fry

Pitch a boogie-woogie:  get excited, get worked up

Plant you now and dig you later:  got to go now, I’ll see you later

Play:  a thing to do, program of action, the order of the day

Play hip:  pretend to understand

Playground:  see chippy’s playground

Poke:  pocket, wallet

Politician:  trusty in a jail

Poppa De-Da-Da:  New Orleans character who originated a strutting kind of dance

Pounder:  cop on the beat

Prayerbones:  knees

Press roll:  a type of roll on the snare drums

Psycho kick:  psychopathic form of behavior

Pull a creep:  leave

Pull a fade-out:  go away

Pull somebody’s coat:  enlighten, tip somebody off

Pump:  heart

Punk:  young man who plays the feminine role in a homosexual relationship

Push:  sell, handle, purvey

Put down:  do, be active in some way

 

Queen:  woman, girl

Quiet ones off the main drag:  sidestreets

Quit it:  leave

 

Raise:  arm (on your left raise = on your left)

Raise sand:  make a fuss, create a stir

Rap:  a criminal charge

Razzmatazz:  anything old-fashioned, corny

Ready:  competent, dauntless

Recite:  play a good solo on your instrument

Reefer:  cigarette of marihuana

Rhyming:  verbal game in which an idiomatic conversation is conducted in rhythmic, rhyming phrases

Riff:  n., musical phrase or passage; v., to play such distinctive phrases

Righteous:  good, right, satisfying

Righteous bush:  marihuana

Righteous spiel:  correct, convincing and honest talk

Rinky-dink:  antiquated, broken down

Rip-bop:  corruption of jazz now in vogue, very fast, frenzied, and mechanical type of music (also known as re-bop and be-bop)

Roach:  small butt from a cigarette of marihuana

Rock:  dollar

Rods:  long bars under a freight car

Roost:  home

Rooster:  buttocks

Rubber:  automobile

Rumble:  fight

Run in:  arrest

Run somebody away:  chase away

Run with:  associate with

Run your mouth:  talk a lot

 

Salty:  sour, hostile, unpleasant

Sand:  an oldtime Negro dance

Sawbuck:  ten-dollar bill

Scat:  sing nonsense syllables

School:  teach

Scoff back:  eat a lot

Scraggy:  dilapidated

Scratchpad:  verminous room or flophouse

Screw:  prison keeper

Scuffle:  struggle to get along

Scuffle up:  raise, collect, get together

Scumpteen:  a lot of

Send:  give you a good feeling

Sell out:  run away

Shakes:  d.t.’s

Shake-up:  mixture of corn whisky and wine

Shark:  man with a good line that women fall for

Sharp:  alert, dressed well, keen-witted

Short-histe:  masturbatory, perverted

Show:  to make an appearance

Shroud-tailor:  undertaker

Shying:  the technique of cooking opium pills

Signify:  hint, put on an act, boast make a gesture

Skin-beater:  drummer

Skullbuster:  brain-twister, a tough problem; also:  something very good

Sky-pilot:  preacher

Slammer:  door

Slave tip:  work

Slot:  form of greeting

Slow drag:  dance music in slow tempo

Smeller:  nose

Snagging:  verbal game in which person who has to say “What?” gets a mark against him

Snap your cap:  go crazy

Snatcher:  detective

Snatchpad:  bed

Sniffer:  nose

Snow:  cocaine

Sold:  good

Sometimey:  unstable, unpredictable, neurotic

Soundbox:  larynx, throat

Spade:  Negro

Spaginzy:  Negro

Spike:  add alcohol to beer

Splash:  rain

Splinter your toupee:  go crazy

Spring:  release from jail

Square:  unenlightened person, a working man, an orthodox follower of the rules

Square from Delaware:  unenlightened person

Squinch-eyed:  heavy-lidded, with the eyes half closed

Stash:  v., to hide or put away, to go to sleep; n., house, bed, hiding place

Stick of tea:  cigarette of marihuana

Sticking:  having some or a lot, not destitute or empty-handed

Stinchy:  stingy

Stir:  penitentiary

Stoolie:  stool pigeon, informer

Storyville:  the old tenderloin district of New Orleans

Straighten:  pay up, straighten out a debt

Stretch your chippy’s playground:  eat

Strides:  pants

Stringpost:  neck

The Stroll:  Seventh Avenue in Harlem; any main street

Struggle-buggy:  jalopy

Stud:  guy, man

Study about:  think about, contemplate

Stuff:  a lie, a line, something suspect or unacceptable

Stuff with the dead ones’ pictures:  paper money

Suds:  beer

Suspicion:  suspect

Suzie-Q:  a Negro dance

 

Tab:  project, line of activity, program

Tail:  somebody who follows you

Tailgate:  New Orleans style of trombone playing

‘Taint no crack but a solid fact:  it’s the truth

Take low:  cower, act humble

Take some weight off somebody:  relieve, cheer up

Talk behind somebody:  believe and support what he says because he’s honest

Tea:  marihuana

Tea-pad:  place where you smoke marihuana

Teen-inetsy:  teeny-weeny, tiny

Tell a green man something:  enlighten me, put me wise

Tenth Street:  ten dollars

Tick twenty:  ten o’clock (times of day are doubled to confuse outsiders)

Tighten:  sell a bill of goods, clinch a deal, win over

Tin:  small amount of opium

Tinklebox:  piano

Tip:   way of acting, pattern of behavior, environment, program

Tipple ukulele:  twelve-stringed ukulele

Tog:  dress up

Top:  head

Tops:  roofs of passenger trains

Torpedo:  gunman

The Track:  Savoy Ballroom in Harlem

Trail:  walk

Trey:  three

Trey of knockers:  the three balls over a pawnshop

Trickeration:  misleading words or acts

Trilly:  walk in a carefree way

Troubled with the shorts:  broke, poverty-stricken

Tubs:  drums

Turf:  street

Twinklers:  stars

Twister:  key, handle

Typewriter:  machine gun

 

Unbooted:  ignorant, naïve, unenlightened

Uncle Tom:  symbol of the bowing and scraping humility of the traditional Southern Negro

Unhip:  naïve, unenlightened, corny

The unlucky:  Friday

Uppity:  snooty, ritzy, conceited

Ups:  the upper hand

Vine:  suit of clothes

Viper:  marihuana smoker

 

Walking bass:  a bass part that moves up and down the chords

Waller:  wallow

Wash away:  kill

(Your) water’s on and it’s boiling:  there’s trouble brewing for you

Wear the green:  have some paper money

Weave the four F’s around somebody:  high-pressure romancing (find ‘em, fool ‘em, frig ‘em, and forget ‘em)

Weed:  marihuana

Weight:  blues, depression

Wet your tonsils:  drink

White stuff:  cocaine, morphine, and heroin

Widen:  leave

Wig:  head or hair

Wig-trig:  idea

Wooden kimono:  coffin

Woodshed:  practice or study alone

Wren:  young girl

 

Yarddog:  low or uncouth person

 

Zooty:  stylish, fashionable

 

 

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blues

 

Excerpted from Really the Blues, by Mezz Mezzrow and Bernard Wolfe

 

 

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mezz2

Mezz Mezzrow

 

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