THE GREATEST SHOW SLANG

  • 86'd – to be ejected and banned from the funfair.

  • Ace Note: dollar bill.

  • Advance: before the show.

  • Advance Man: person who handles licenses, etc. before the funfair gets to town. This person would handle all of the bribes for police, city, etc. when applicable and needed.

  • After Catch: souvenirs sold after the customers see the main show.

  • Agent: the game’s worker.

  • Al-A-Ga-Zam: carnie’s greeting to one another.

  • Back End: the back of the funfair, where the large rides are. They are put in the back to encourage customers to walk the length of the hair. Concessions are typically at the front end of the fair.

  • Back Yard:  the private trailers for the staff to live and store things for the funfair.

  • Back Yard Boy: a rookie, inexperienced worker of the funfair.

  • Bally: to bring in customers for the show – make a big deal of how good the show will be.

  • Baggage Wagons: wagons that hold most of the funfair’s property. Sometimes, parade wagons double for transport between locations.

  • Bally Broads, Bally Girls: ladies who perform in the circus shows and side attractions.

  • B.C: acronym for ‘be cool,’ which means to stop doing or saying something.

  • Bally or Ballyhoo: the presentation of the Bally outside of the funfair (or attraction/show) that draws customers inside.

  • Blow Your Pipes: typically, from boisterous bally – a carnie’s throat gets hoarse from shouting.  

  • Butcher: the worker who sells food/drinks by walking around the funfair.  

  • Cake Cutting: not giving enough change or prizes to a mark.

  • Carny Roll: a bank roll with a big bill rolled around a bunch of one dollar bills.

  • Charivari: chaotic entrance of clowns to a show.

  • Cherry pie: work outside of the funfair performed by employees for extra income.

  • Clem: skirmish between carnies.

  • Clown Alley: area outside of the Big Top’s back entrance reserved for heavy props.

  • Cool Out: convincing a mark you didn’t steal his/her money or short change them.

  • Cowboy: troublemaker.

  • Crack: effective saying used to encourage marks to play a game.

  • Crank (Cradle/Strom/Gaff/Gimick): a mechanism, such as a hidden handle/lever, that influences and controls a rigged game.

  • Dog House: booth where the ride jock sits.

  • Donniker: restroom

  • Downtown Wagon: a portable wagon that is moved locations outside of the funfair, such as a ticket wagon placed downtown to sell admission tickets.

  • Ducat/ducket: free pass, admission ticket.

  • Duke: meal for carnies, typically distributed by the management of the funfair to all staff.

  • Dukkering: fortune-telling.

  • Fair Date: a special attraction that gains an audience, such as local celebs, stunts, musicians.

  • Fairbank: when an agent makes the mark believe the agent cheated him/herself. It gives an illusion of an advantage for the mark – just to keep the mark spending more money at their game.

  • Fast Count: a carny tallies the score so quickly; the mark is unable to confirm the result.

  • Feature: an agent operates a certain game exceptionally well.

  • Fireball Outfit: a funfair that is ran so poorly, the townsfolk often burned it down to the ground. Terrible shows, shoddy rides, games that cheat, etc.

  • Flea Bag: dishonest, unkempt funfair. Midway between the Fireball Outfit and Sunday School Show.

  • Fold/Folded: closing of a show early – before the license or permits expire.

  • Floss joint: a food booth

  • Gaff: mechanism which controls a rigged game

  • Garbage: inexpensive souvenirs sold on the midway.

  • G-top: secret staff tent that is used for gambling.

  • Gimick: mechanism which controls a rigged game

  • Grandstand: the seats nearest the rings on the sides of the Big Top. They are more expensive and can be wider seats with more room. Sometimes referred to as star bucks due to the star stenciled on the front side of the seat backs.

  • Grinder: this person will stand in the front of a show/attraction and say a specific phrase drawing the crowd into the show/attraction. If an attraction has a Bally, the presentation given between the ballyhoos is called the grind.

  • Grifters: criminals/con artists who manage the rigged games. They also can be pick pockets, shoplifters.

  • Grind: moves a crowd into the show.

  • Hanky-Pank: a game where every mark wins a prize every time. Obviously, the prizes are far less than the cost of playing the game (2 cent prize for a 1$ game). These add up to huge profits over time.

  • Heat: problems at the funfair between customers.

  • House: the audience of the Big Top show.

  • Joing: rig a crooked game so there are no winners.

  • Joint: a concession stand.

  • Jointy: person who works a concession stand or game.

  • Jock or ride jock: a ride operator.

  • Juice: a bribe paid to police or city officials.

  • Juice Man: electrician and generator operator.

  • Jump: moving the funfair to the next town.

  • Keister: movable display case.

  • Kick: carny’s place to hide money.

  • Kinker: an acrobat, but can be any performer of the shows.

  • Larry: cheap, inexpensive item or souvenir – totally worthless.

  • Lead joint: shooting gallery.

  • Lecturer/Emcee: a person who speaks in the show.

  • Left Hand Side: the right side of a funfair will always be busier, as Americans move to the right (typically).  The favored attractions will be on the right side.  The noisy or featured attractions will be on the left, as it will pull people toward that side.

  • Lot: the funfair grounds.

  • Lot Lice: ‘customers’ who arrive early and leave late but never spend money.

  • Lugen: the most foolish type of mark, very dumb.

  • Mark: a local chosen as a victim, typically of games. The most naïve marks are referred to as: Chump, Mooch, Clem, Emby.

  • Motordrome: stunt show involving motorbikes that race up the wall of a circular structure – often referred to as the Wall of Death.  

  • Mug Joint: stand that sells souvenir photos to customers.

  • Nut: funfair’s expenses for operation.

  • Orders: rules set by the owner of the carnival owner. These rules will include whether or not games may cheat.

  • Outcount: in a game that requires math, the agent must count faster than the mark. This leads to inaccurate counts that benefit the game operator.

  • Plaster: inexpensive prizes/souvenirs that are made of plaster and seem more expensive than they are.

  • Paste: inexpensive prizes.

  • Poke: a carny’s money.

  • Popper: a popcorn wagon (it may have other items for sale).

  • Possum Belly: the tray underneath a wagon for storage.

  • Punk: child.

  • Racket: using dishonesty for profit.

  • Racket Show: funfair that makes profit (most of) from rigged games.

  • Rag: small stuffed prize. The rags are usually under the counter, giving the impression the large stuffed animals on display are the only prizes to win.

  • Rain Tip: the crowd that enters exhibits/booths/stands when it rains. They aren’t there to spend money; they are just avoiding the weather.  

  • Reading the Midway: searching for valuables lost on the midway – walking with one’s head down.

  • Reuben/Rube: gullible person.

  • Score: obtain a large amount of cash from a mark by cheating.

  • Scram-bag: duffle bag packed in case a quick escape is needed.

  • Sell Out: the Big Top Show is sold out.

  • Shakes: items lost on rides by riders. Cash, merchandise bags, baseball caps, cellphones, etc.

  • Shill: pretending to play a game/buy a ticket to entice other customers to do the same.  Without an effective shill, a tip may not spend cash after an opening.

  • Sideshow: show/exhibit on the midway.

  • Slum (Hooch): cheap prizes bought in bulk.

  • Slough night: tearing down the funfair to move to the next location.

  • Skill joint: games with big, nicer prizes. Typically, you’ll start with smaller prizes and after multiple wins, you can trade for the bigger prizes.  Shooting a ball through a hoop, etc.

  • Soft Lot: wet or muddy conditions.

  • Stock joint: game of chance – no skill involved. Ducks in the pond, ping pong ball toss, etc. The prizes are so cheap; the game makes money on every turn.  

  • Sunday-School Show: as opposed to a Fireball Outfit – this is a clean show, managed well.

  • Swing: steal money from a superior.

  • Take: money earned from a show, a concession stand, etc.

  • Tip: the crowd.

  • Under the Blue: to be in charge of a rigged game without a way to get out of trouble when caught.

  • Universal Ticket System: the customers purchase tickets at a central ticket booth rather than paying for each attraction separately.

  • Walks: people who walk away without change, merchandise, or tickets they have just purchased.

  • Waxie: handyman who repairs things at the funfair.

  • Yellow: the color that is superstitiously thought of as bad luck for an agent working a joint.

  • Zamps: kiddie rides.