RARA-AVIS: Shell Scott, Prather, Con Man Lingo

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 06 Aug 2002

Bill Denton writes:

<< Here's one of my favourite bits, where Shell is quizzing a con man for
 dope on a grifter named Press:
 | "Press was a tear-off rat, and he should have been selling shoes.
 | I worked with him myself once; that's how I know. That time we worked
 | together was one too many. This mark we stung was a bald-headed pappy
 | from Tucson. We gave him the point-out, then I told him the tale and
 | gave him the convincer. Press had to hole up with the guy for nearly a
 | week while he waited for his cush, and it must have been murder. The
 | only reason the mark doesn't chill is he's such a lop-eared savage.
 | Press was roper on the deal and how he ever steered even that winchell
 | in I'll never understand. The mark acted like he wanted to blow his
 | chunk. Press cracked out of turn and did everything wrong, but I kept
 | patting the mark on the back and he blew twenty thousand. So it worked
 | out O.K., but why Press didn't rumble him, I'll never know."
 | I nodded my head, just as if I had more than a vague idea of what
 | he'd just told me.

The excessiveness of con man vocabulary, followed by the admission of confusion by Shell Scott, makes me think that Prather might have cribbed from linguist David Maurer's great book, "The Big Con" (1940). From the paragraph above, here are some of the words singled out in the lingo section by Maurer: tear-off, mark, tell the tale, convincer, cush, chill, lop-eared, savage, roper, steered, winchell, blow, crack out of turn, rumble.


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