Alibi — A technique used where the player has apparently won the game, but is denied a prize when the jointee invents a further, unforeseeable, condition of the game. For example, a player may be disqualified on the grounds of having leaned over a previously undisclosed "foul line."
Bally — A free performance intended to attract both tips and visitors to the nearby sideshow.
BlowOff — Rush of customers out of an exhibition.
BoneYard — Place at which employees stay when not working.
BurntheLot — To cheat players with little or no attempt to conceal the subterfuge, in the carny's expectation that the same town will not be visited again.
Butcher — A carnie that will take every penny from a mark by confusing him and then forcing him to pay
Call — The act of yelling out slogans and interacting with passers— by to attract business.
Donniker (Honeypot) — Bathroom
Flat — A game that is rigged to prevent wins.
Flash — To stock a "joint" with prizes to make it look "flashy" or ready for business.
FortyMiler — A greenie who is willing to travel, but only short distances from their home base. Also used to describe anyone or anything that is perceived to be fake or phony.
Gaff — To rig a game so as to make it unwinnable.
Genny (pronounced "jenny") — A huge generator that powers some or all of the midway.
GreenHelp — Employees hired at a new location that are only temporary (a.k.a. greenies).
Hammer-Squash — Used to describe an individual as dumb or stupid (used interchangeably with Larry when used to describe a person).
IkeyHeyman — A wheel of fortune that can be secretly braked by the carny.
— iz or — erza — Inserted between the syllables of words to serve as a cipher or cryptolect.
Jump — Term used to describe the period of time when the carnies tear down, drive to another location, and set up again.
Key to the Midway — An object a carnival worker will ask a younger customer (or new initiate) for when asked for a free game or prize. The idea is that the 'mooch' will go onto the next game and ask for a "Key To The Midway", only to find out that this new carny has one, but can only give it up for some other far fetched item. This is a form of a fool's errand. Examples of such items include: A cordless extension cord, a solar— powered flashlight, a bacon stretcher, an underwater lighter, tack glue, a left— handed screwdriver, light bulb grease, purple fuzzy tape, glass hammer, etc. The idea is to have fun at the customer's naïveté.
The Kitty — Budgeted amount of finance, regulated by the management of a carnival for purchasing food and supplies for its workers. ("We wanted a new tent, but there's no more scratch in the kitty.")
Larry — Defective.
Loc(ation) — Location of a joint or ride as determined by the carnival manager. Usually laid out before set— up.
Lot — The Lot is the carnival midway area where the rides & "joints" are set up
Lot Lizard — Describes a carny (usually female) who has multiple sexual partners (also carnys), or one who tends to "sleep— around" or cheat with other carnies on the lot.
Mark — A customer that spends a lot of money trying to win a game. This term was coined because carnies would alert each other to the big spender by marking him some way (usually by patting them on the shoulder with powdered chalk in hand).
Midway — Usually refers to the area of the carnival where the rides are located. Can also be used as a more general term to encompass the entire carnival.
half— yard ($50)
yard or c— note ($100)
rod or d— note ($500)
large or K ($1000)
Mooch — Same as a Mark.
New — An insult used by carnies, against carnies (newbie). Used in instances where a carnival worker should know better, with the insulter asking "What are you, new?"
The Nut — The sum total (in cash) of a performance, or group of performances. The nut (or kernel) is also sometimes used to refer to the basic operating expense of the joint (including the "patch"). To "make your nut" is to break even, anything beyond that is profit (or tip).
Oats — Stolen money from a concession.
Patch Money — Money used to induce police officers to turn a blind eye. Also known as juice or ice.
Plush — Stuffed animals to be given away as prizes.
Poke — The Mark's wallet is known as their Poke. When a carnie tries to see how much is in a mark's wallet he will "Peek his poke"
Possum Belly (sometimes possum gut) — Compartment under a truck or trailer.
Possum Belly Queen or PBQ — Same as Lot Lizard.
Ride Jock (or jockey) — Someone who operates the carnival rides (vs. jointee).
Rousty or Roustabout — A temporary or full— time laborer who helps pitch concessions and assemble rides. In the 1930s, American roustabouts would work for a meal and perhaps a tent to share with other workers.
Scratch — The revenue from a concession, or money in general.
Score — Any scratch won by any means, fair or foul.
Sharpie — The opposite of a mark: an experienced player who is wise to traditional carny scams and is skilled at the games themselves.
Shill (or outside man) — An employee who pretends to be a casual player sometimes pretending to win big prizes in order to make the game seem easily winnable. Shills may also stroll the fairground holding a large plush (stuffed animal) bragging about how easy it was to win it. Shills may also rush into ticket lines for sideshows or be the first to buy products for sale so that onlookers will feel less reluctant to do the same.
Slough — To tear down a entire carnival to get ready for the jump to new town.
Slum — Stuff that makes someone want to kill the person selling it to them; small cheap stock
Speak the Language — Used as a test to see if someone is really "with it". Many carnies "qualify" outsiders by using the jargon. A string of jargon or carny— talk is spoken to determine if the other person understands. A person who fails the test is said to "not speak the language" indicating "newness". A newbie who is good or looks promising might be said to not speak the language yet, which is more complimentary.
Spinning/flying Jenny or Jinny—Carnie slang for merry— go— round.
Splinter Head — Agent that works in any "game" joint, usually all "joints" are made of wood.
Spring — Open the carnival.
Stick Joint — Homemade wooden or metal booth.
Stock— Game prizes.
Straight — A game that is played by the rules.
SugarShack — A concession or food— stand that sells cotton candy and other sugary treats.
Store — Can mean any joint, but is usually used to refer to a "straight store" where there's a winner every time. The store is basically selling stock, usually slum, for a handsome profit.
TearDown — Dismantling the rides and games so they can be transported to another location.
Tip — Generally has two meanings, depending on context. Old— timers usually mean the crowd that gathers around a caller or mike— man to hear the spiel before the start of the next show, or the crowd that hangs around a joint, watching others play. A more general meaning is any scratch the agent wins from his game as in "I just won a real nice tip from that last mark".
Two-Way Joint — A game that can be quickly converted from a fixed, unwinnable game into a temporarily honest one when police officers come by.
With it — A carny, to identify one another, as in "I'm with it", or "Are you with it"? (With the show).