Slang City Mail

Click here to get this free weekly newsletter delivered to your e-mailbox! Want to see more? Go back to All the Words main page.

January 26, 2006
Slang of the Week: the cooler (noun)
prison or solitary confinement in the prison

Jason was thrown into the cooler after he threw a beer can in the window of a passing police cruiser.

Celebrity quote:
“Don't worry about the story's goofiness. A sensible one would have had us all in the cooler.”
-Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) in The Maltese Falcon

This week, I was thinking about the tough talk in old detective movies, where all the dames (women) are called “doll” and “angel” but are generally treated badly by crooks (criminals) and gumshoes (detectives) alike. In The Maltese Falcon (1941) Spade is a rough character, but it’s Peter Lorre—not a woman—that he tells, “When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it.”

In another great exchange from that movie, Wilmer Cook (played by Elisha Cook, Jr.) warns Spade, “Keep on riding me and they're gonna be picking iron out of your liver.” (Keep bothering me and the doctors will be removing my bullets from you at the autopsy.) But even in a movie full of over-the-top gangster slang, Spade criticizes Cook for his dramatic threat, retorting, “The cheaper the crook, the gaudier the patter, huh?” (The lower the criminal, the fancier the talk.)

As for our word of the week, it has another meaning in slang that is also related to crime and tough guys. In The Cooler (2003) the title character has a unique job. He is such a natural loser that a casino hires him to stand by winners and infect them with his bad luck.

What’s new at Slang City?
I was recently asked if I double click the mouse and I know it wasn’t referring to my computer. Can you please give me some info?” —SW in Kansas. Find out what that means in the new Ask AC (warning: adult themes).