As I’ve spent hours surfing the headlines of yesterday’s newspapers, one of the first odd words I happened upon was the word “Yegg”. It didn’t take long to determine that it was the term our grandparents used to describe burglars or safe robbers or specifically those who blew up the safes in stores and banks to get at the stash of cash on hand. In the early part of the 20th century it was in common use, however its origin remains murky at best. Crime slang is nothing new, however, as police and criminals have used their own street vernacular for many decades. In Toledo, the police department and local criminal elements were also fluent in the jargon of the day. And much of that lexicon, like the word Yegg has passed into obscurity. In a 1927 Toledo News Bee article, I found an interesting glossary of these old terms from a hundred years ago. Colorful indeed and useful when reading and translating old police reports. Toledo Police Detective William Culver, who gained a national repuation for astute police work, shared one particular example using the underworld criminalese of the day with the News Bee readers.
“A front office man and a finger dick with a fanatic and filthy smoke got by the announcer and rushed a mob in the joint”.
So what does it mean?
Culver says it meant “a headquarters man and a detective were accompanied by a prohibition agent using gas bombs and managed to elude the “lookout” man and raid a gang of crooks at a “vice resort”, which was a gambling and drinking parlor.
Here are some other crime expressions of the day recorded by Toledo Police officers.
The eye ————- Detective agency
Track 13 and a Washout — A life sentence in a western prison.
The Third Rail —- a pickpocket caught on a railroad train
Toadskins ———- Papermoney
Undershine ——— A fur coat
Vog ——————- A chicken thief
Trolley —————–A wire or string used to pass paper from cell-to-cell.
Vermont Charity — Sympathy
Ludy——————-Someone who passes phony money for a counterfeiter
Lush Toucher —- A crook who robs drunk people
Beak —————A judge
Yad ——————A porch climber
Wingy ————–A person with one arm
Wisechuck ——–A uniformed back officer
Zenas ————–Man or woman who wears lots of jewelry
Lifeboat ————A pardon