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This sample of the unique argot of early 20th-century Chicago youth gangs is from sociologist Frederick Thrasher’s landmark study The Gang: A Study of 1,313 Gangs in Chicago, published by the University of Chicago in 1927. I haven’t heard the term “loogin” since I left my hometown of Winnipeg, where I think the preferred spelling was “loogan.” There it signified a loud, loutish, potentially dangerous hoser. I wonder if Thrasher wasn’t missing the mark in overlooking the sexual connotations of both fruit and punk, usage of which as a synonym for catamite dates back to the 16th century.


  1. I’m confused by the definition of “tipper-tapper”, “to spar back and forth with hands open”. Does that mean it’s like an awesome bad-ass kung fu beatdown, or is it more like Guy Maddin’s “Sissy-Boy Slap Party”?

    Also, how come this list doesn’t include the rules for Fizzbin?

  2. And if you want even more outmoded criminal slang, there’s a 1736 (or 1737, depending on whom you ask) dictionary that’s a treasure trove of wacky words:

    My favorites are “kill-devil” (rum), “clapperdodgeon” (beggar), “free-booters” (unpaid soldiers who collect plunder), and “cramp-word” (death sentence).

  3. “or is it more like Guy Maddin’s ‘Sissy-Boy Slap Party’?”

    I’m thinking the latter: Thrasher gets all bent out of shape about what a morally degraded world these kids live in, but in the photos they look like lil Jackie Coogan.

    • Hey, don’t knock Jackie Coogan. He’s the only Pope we have these days. At last we have a Pope who can put a light bulb in his mouth to do that trick.

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