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Wobbly lingo

Wobbly lingo is a collection of technical language, jargon, and historic slang used by the Industrial Workers of the World, known as the Wobblies, for more than a century.

Origin and usage

Words and phrases in Wobbly lingo may have different meanings in different contexts or in different geographic areas. The "lingo" developed from the specific needs of the organization as well as the experiences of working class people. For several decades, many hobos in the United States were members of, or were sympathetic to, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Because of this, some of the terms describe the life of a hobo such as "riding the rails", living in "jungles", dodging the "bulls". The IWW's efforts to organize all trades allowed the lingo to expand to include terms relating to mining camps, timber work, and farming. Other derivations of Wobbly lingo come from a confluence of Native American languages, immigrant languages, and jargon. Often these meanings may vary over time.

The word muckamuck in Wobbly lingo refers to someone important and possibly arrogant. Hyas muckamuck from Chinook jargon means the chief or the big boss. In modern blue collar usage, this word is one of many mildly sarcastic slang terms used to refer to bosses and upper management. A variation is the phrase high mucketymuck.

Some words and phrases believed to have originated within Wobbly lingo have gained cultural signifigance outside of the IWW. For example, in Joe Hill's song "The Preacher and the Slave", the expression pie in the sky has passed into common usage, referring to a "preposterously optimistic goal.

Selected examples

A

  • Accommodation : Local freight train
  • AFL : American Federation of Labor, frequently referred to by Wobblies as the American Separation of Labor
  • Anchor : A pick
  • Angel food : Mission preaching about the Bread of Life
  • Assessment : In the IWW, a voluntary or mandatory contribution (depending on the situation) in addition to union dues allocated for specific purposes, such as a General Defense Committee action, a strike fund, or to help out a particular group of workers.
  • AWO (Agricultural Workers Organization) : The Agricultural Workers Industrial Union 400 (now IU 110) of the IWW which organized itinerant harvest workers between 1914-30. The AWO developed the roving delegate system, still used today by the IWW.
  • Axle swinging : Riding under a railroad car

B

  • Balloon : Bedroll, bindle
  • Banjo : Short-handled shovel
  • Barnacle : A fellow who sticks to one job a year or more; probably named for the stubborn tenacity of barnacles which must be scraped from the exterior surface of ocean-going vessels
  • Battleship : A high-sided steel coal car usually with a hopper or dump bottom
  • Battleship, building the : Raising the noise level to intolerable levels, by all means necessary including singing, pounding on bars, or slamming beds, by a group of Wobblies who have been imprisoned during a free speech fight
  • Beanmaster : Cook
  • Big O : A train conductor
  • Big Ole : A worker who tries to impress the boss with his ability or strength
  • Big Smoke, the : Pittsburgh
  • Bindle : Bedroll in which a hobo wrapped his possessions
  • Black cat : See Sab cat
  • Blind pig : Illegal bar during prohibition. Blind pigs differed from speakeasys (below) in that only liquor was offered - no music or dancing.
  • Bloke : A guy
  • Blue streak : Very fast
  • 'Bo : Hobo
  • Boil up : To cook one's clothes, to eliminate "crums" (lice and their eggs).
  • Boomer : Construction worker who travels to the job, a transient railroad worker, or a seasonal or migratory worker
  • Booming : Going from one job to another
  • Branch : A chartered group of IWW members in the same job site, city, or region organized around a common workplace, industry, or regional grouping.
  • Bridal chamber : A mining term meaning the miner's workplace. May also mean a flop house where the guests lie on the floor
  • Braky : A brakeman
  • Bread and Milk Route : Boston & Maine RR
  • Broken & Maimed : Boston & Maine RR
  • Bucko mate : Bully
  • Bull : Policeman, or a railroad enforcer
  • Bullpen : A makeshift pen designed to hold class war prisoners.
  • Bummery : A pejorative term used by Daniel De León that referred to the Direct Action faction of the IWW that led to the 1908 split; also used to refer to IWW members with itinerant employment, such as lumber workers and agricultural workers. Also called "110 Cats".
  • Bum on the plush : The idle rich. See Plush, on the
  • Bundle tosser : Harvest hand who pitches bundles
  • Burg : Town

C

  • Cacklers : White collar workers
  • Calaboose : Jail
  • California blankets : Newspapers used while sleeping
  • Can : Jail
  • Candy job : A pleasant or "sweet" job
  • Canned Meat & Stale Punk : Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul RR
  • Cannon ball : A fast train
  • Captain : Hobo salutation of the head man or big shot
  • Card man : A union man or a hobo with a red I. W. W. card
  • Car knocker : A railroad yard man who works assembling trains
  • The Carry All : Chicago & Alton RR
  • Carry the banner : To walk the street all night for want of shelter
  • Cat : Worker with a particular occupation; a worker well fitted in with some occupational subculture, such as "hep cat"; a worker who follows a specific occupation, such as "straw cat" for harvest hand. Or, sabotage cat.
  • Cat wagon : Brothel on wheels that might follow the harvest crews
  • Cattle stiff : A cowboy
  • Centralists : During the 1920s split, one of the factions headed by Tom Doyle and Joe Fisher. They wanted a strong central organization with control over the IWW's industrial unions. Also referred to as the "Four Treyers".
  • Charter : A document issued by the GEB or a GOC that officially recognizes a subordinate body of the IWW, such as a branch or district council.
  • Checkerboard crew : Mixed crew of white and black workers
  • Chinwhisker : A farmer
  • Christ killing : To speak from the soap box giving the economic argument
  • Class War : The struggle between the employing class (always looking to lower the costs of labor at workers' expense) and the working class (seeking to retain all that it produces).
  • Class War Prisoner : Anyone jailed for their class conscious views or acts.
  • Clover kicker : Farmer
  • Coal passer : Fireman
  • Coffee an' : Coffee and a doughnut
  • Coldcock : To knock someone down
  • Cold, Hungry & Damp : Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton RR
  • Come to Jesus : A "come-to-Jesus manner" means to feign piety
  • Cooperative Commonwealth : The ideal of a new social order which recognizes no national, occupational, or racial distinctions and represents the united economic force and social will of all workers in the world. Similar concepts include the Workers Commonwealth, and the Industrial Commonwealth
  • Cousin Jack : Generally refers to a Cornish miner, but, like the term Cockney, may be applied to any Englishman
  • Crooked arm : Signal from the boss that he wants more speed
  • Crums : Lice
  • Crummy : To be lousy, to have lice. Also refers to the caboose on a train
  • Crum up : Same as boil up
  • CST (Central Secretary-Treasurer) : The chief administrative officer of the IWW's General Defense Committee. The CST is elected annually to a one year term by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership.
  • Cushions, Riding the : Riding de luxe in a passenger train. Also see on the plush

D

  • Dehorn : Denatured alcohol or bootleg whiskey of inferior quality; anything that makes a worker depart from proper class-conscious activity.
  • Dehorn squad : Wobbly committee that would close up bars, speakeasies, and brothels during an IWW strike (usually during the Prohibition Era).
  • Delegate : An IWW member empowered to collect dues from other members, sign up new IWW members, and represent the group of IWW members they represent at district councils and other assemblies of the IWW. Delegates are democratically elected by shops and branches; they serve one years terms.
  • Department : An international coordinating body of closely related Industrial Unions, such as the Department of General Construction 300, which includes the General Construction Workers Industrial Union 310, the Ship Builders Industrial Union 320, and the Building Construction Workers Industrial Union 330. There are six such departments outlined by the IWW Constitution.
  • Dingoes : Hoboes who refuse to work even though they claim to be looking for a job. "Tramp" is similar - a hobo who would not work.
  • Doughhead : A baker
  • Doughnut philosopher : A fellow who is satisfied with the price of a coffee and feed. He does not object to the doughnut hole getting larger because it will take more dough to go around it. He is the original breadline optimist
  • Dual carder : Having a union card in two different unions. See dual unionism
  • Duds : Clothes
  • Dyno or dino : A rock man who handles dynamite, sometimes called a "powder monkey".

E

  • Eagle eye : Locomotive engineer
  • Economic argument : Soap-box talk about economics. Generally opposed to the religious argument called angel food
  • E-P (Emergency Program) : A split from the IWW in 1924, led by James Rowan of the Lumber Workers Industrial Union. The E-Pers believed that the administration of the IWW was too strongly emphasizing "Political Action" as opposed to Organizing on the Job. The E-P claimed to oppose "centralism" in favor of "decentralism", but the E-P sought to centralize power within individual Industrial Unions.
  • EP'er : Someone from the decentralist EP faction during the 1920s
  • Extra gang : A crew that works on the railroad track

F

  • Fellow Worker (FW) : How IWW members traditionally address each other (e.g. FW Lucy Parsons, or FW Ben Fletcher). Although the term is actually gender neutral, recently some members have adopted the unofficial term "Sister Worker" to refer to women members of the IWW. Some women prefer the term, but others do not.
  • Fielder : A brakeman
  • Fink : A strike breaker; an informer; possibly derived from "Pinkertons", a private detective agency frequently used by employers to break strikes.
  • Fix the Job : Direct Action on the job; quickie strikes, passive resistance, deliberate bungling aimed to win better working conditions.
  • Flipping a rattler : Boarding a moving box-car
  • Flop : A place to sleep.
  • Fly-away : A deserter from the army or navy
  • Footloose : A worker who is not tied down by a job is said to be footloose
  • Foul Water & Dirty Cars : Fort Worth & Denver City RR
  • 4-3 (Four-Trey) : The loyalist faction from the 1924 split; so named because its office was located at 3333 West Belmont in Chicago, IL.
  • Free speech fights : When the cops won't let you speak, call all footloose rebels to town.
  • Frogskin : Dollar bill

G

  • Galoot : A fellow who doesn't fit in
  • Gandy dancer : Someone who lays, or maintains, railroad track
  • GDC (General Defense Committee) : An organization composed of IWW members and supporters whose function is to organize for the defense of workers indicted in the process of union organizing or other revolutionary activity. The GDC can be organized into locals and regional federations. The GDC is the only official committee that sympathetic employers may join (as non-IWW members).
  • GDC Local : A Local branch of the General Defense Committee.
  • GEB (General Executive Board) : The chief coordinating body of the Industrial Workers of the World, consisting of seven members elected to one year terms annually by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership. The GEB's duties are outlined by Article III, Section 5A of the IWW Constitution.
  • General Assembly (GA) : An annual assembly, held (US) Labor Day Weekend, where members, delegates and officers of the union meet to discuss union business, prepare for the annual election and referendum, and set union policy. The decisions of the General Assembly are subject to review by the entire IWW membership.
  • Glom the guts of a rattler : Hop a freight
  • GMB (General Membership Branch) : A chartered body of IWW members located in a local geographic area (usually a city or metropolitan area) composed of workers from many different industries. A GMB is a temporary structure designed to aid in the formation of Industrial Union Branches.
  • GOB (General Organization Bulletin) : A (mostly) monthly, printed discussion bulletin issued to all members in good standing (except those who specifically ask not to receive it). The GOB includes the GST's report, the GEB report, Delegates reports, and branch reports. Sometimes the GOB includes correspondence from individual members as well.
  • GOC (General Organizing Committee) : The chief coordinating body of an Industrial Union consisting of five members elected annually to a one-year term by a democratic vote of the membership of that Industrial Union.
  • Goon : A thug
  • Graveyard shift : Night work
  • Greasy spoon : A cheap cafe, restaurant, or truck stop
  • GRU (General Recruiting Union) : A chartered body consisting of members in multiple industries with fewer members in each industry than the number needed to form an IUB for each industry. Also called a Mixed Local.
  • GST (General Secretary-Treasurer) : The chief administrative officer of the IWW. The GST is elected annually to a one year term by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership. The GST is the only paid officer of the IWW.
  • Gunnells or guts : The rods or trucks of the train where hobos ride (see rods)
  • Gunsel : A thug with a gun; the same term is used in the gangland world.
  • Gyppo : Any piece-work system; a job where the worker is paid by the volume they produce, rather than by their time. A sub-contractor with poor equipment

H

  • Hall Cat : An IWW Member who frequents IWW union halls, sometimes refers to a branch secretary-treasurer.
  • Hasher : Cook
  • Hayrick : A hay stack
  • Haywire : When everything is balled up
  • Highball : Very fast, as in a fast train. See "Cannonball"
  • Highjack : To rob, or hold up
  • Hit the ball : To speed up on the job
  • Hit the grit : To be forced off a fast moving train
  • Hobo : A term of unknown origin that refers to an itinerant worker who "rides the rails" (stowing away on freight trains unknown to the railroads) in search of work. Not to be confused with "bums" or "yeggs" who simply ride the rails looking for an easy mark. Many Hoboes were IWW members between 1905-1920s.
  • Hobo Jungle : A well organized hobo encampment, maintained collectively by those that live there. Hobo Jungles frequently offered a place for the hobo to lay his or her bindle, meals (cobbled together from food contributed by residents of the encampment), information about work, and music & song (provided by the hoboes themselves). Jungles were commonly frequented by IWW members between 1905 - 1920s.
  • Hog, on the : Broken down, broke, out of money. Contrast with eating high on the hog, an American phrase suggesting affluent, perhaps eating the better cuts
  • Home Guard : IWW members with relatively stable employment and places of residence (as opposed to the bummery), such as the Lawrence textile workers.
  • Honey dipping : Working as a shovel stiff in a sewer
  • Hoosegow : Jail
  • Hoosier : A farmer, someone from the country, someone who is incompetent
  • Hoosier up : To play dumb, or pretend innocence
  • House dog : A fellow who hunts jobs from the housewife, such as beating carpets, etc.
  • Hot : A square meal. Also, a fugitive hobo.

I

  • IDC (Industrial District Council) : A chartered regional coordinating body consisting of a council of delegates elected from the IUBs, Job Branches, IOCs, and GRUs in the same city or region.
  • Industrial Union (IU) : All the workers in the same industry shall belong to the same Industrial Union within the IWW. A chartered Industrial Union will consist of all Industrial Union Branches, shops within that IU, and individual members within that IU. That IU shall elect a GOC according to the principles they charter. The term also refers to the name and number assigned to each individual member. The numbers have no particular meaning other than to distinguish each separate IU.
  • Industrial unionism : A union organizing philosophy in which all workers in an industry join the same union. The IWW takes this concept to its logical conclusion, such that all workers join One Big Union and support each other's struggles.
  • Industrial Worker (IW) : The official newspaper of the IWW, it is published monthly and available to all members in good standing. It is also available to non-members by subscription. Its editor is elected biannually to a two-year term by a democratic vote of the entire IWW membership.
  • International Workers of the World : The IWW has also often been mistakenly called "International Workers of the World". The conservative media pundit Rush Limbaugh blamed the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle in 1999 on the "International Workers of the World". In the indexes of the books Timber Wars by Judi Bari and Been and Done by Gipsy Moon, the IWW was incorrectly listed under this name, although they were correctly named in the text. Fred Chase once joked that the Industrial Workers of the World should ask the International Workers of the World to join up, since they're such a large and influential organization. This mistake happens commonly, although the word International would obviously be redundant because of the words of the World.
  • IOC (Industrial Organizing Committee) : A standing committee of members of a GMB grouped by Industrial Union working to build Job Branches and IUBs.
  • IUB (Industrial Union Branch) : A chartered body of IWW members located in a local geographic area (usually a city or metropolitan area) composed of workers from the same industry.
  • IWW : Stands for Industrial Workers of the World of course, but has led to numerous other interpretations of the name, such as "I Won't Work", "I Want Whiskey", "International Wonder Workers", and "Irresponsible Wholesale Wreckers". On August 17, 1917, the Arizonan Senator Henry F. Ashurst even declared that "I.W.W. means simply, solely and only, Imperial Wilhelm's Warriors", falsely alleging a link between the IWW and German emperor Wilhelm II.

J

  • Java : Coffee
  • Jawbone : Credit. To buy in the company store against one's pay
  • Jerries : Men who work on the section gang, or Jerry Gang. They do maintenance work while gandy dancers work on contract jobs
  • Jerusalem Slim : Jesus, a secular folk hero. The name was adopted by Wobblies who believed that Jesus would have been an IWW member had he lived in their time, based on interpretations of New Testament Scripture that indicates that Jesus was likely a radical in his time, much like the Wobblies of today.
  • Jim Hill : Railroad tycoon James J. Hill
  • Jim Hill's goat : In North America, the Great Northern Railroad which ran from St. Paul to Seattle. Also called the Big "G", or the High Line. The company logo was an anthromorphic goat.
  • Job Branch : A chartered body of five or more members in the same workplace (and by extension, the same IU) where union conditions do not prevail, working to build majority union representation.
  • Job Shop : A chartered body of IWW members in the same workplace (and by extension the same IU) where union conditions prevail and where majority union representation has been established.
  • John Family : A term sometimes applied to the farmers
  • Jungle : Hobo camp along a road or a railroad line

K

  • Kangaroo court : Mock court held in jail for the purpose of forcing new prisoners to divide their money
  • Kazoo : Someone's butt
  • Kicks : Shoes. Also called slides

L

  • Labor skate : A union official who sees union office as a means to privilege and power
  • Little Red Songbook (LRS) : A collection of labor songs written by IWW members "to fan the flames of discontent", published as a pocket size book with a red cover. There are at least 36 editions of the LRS.
  • Lizzie, tin : A Model T or a cheap auto

M

  • Main Drag : The primary street in a town; may or may not also be the "main stem", (below).
  • Main stem : The chief hobo street in town
  • Mick : An Irishman
  • Milk and Honey route : Railroads through Mormon territory
  • Mister Block : A scissorbill. The term refers to the cartoons penned by Ernest Riebe about a blockheaded worker who, in spite of all his misfortunes, blindly sides with the employing class. He believes that the police always mean well, and that sharks are good fellows. Joe Hill popularized the cartoon in his song "Mr Block".
  • MTW (Marine Transport Workers) : The Marine Transport Workers Industrial Union 510 of the IWW, active on the seas, especially on the west coast of North America. The MTW led to the formation of the Sailors Union of the Pacific (SUP) of the AFL, and participated in the 1934 General Strike of west coast Longshoremen. The MTW also controlled the Philadelphia waterfront in the 1920s and 1930s. MTW Local 8 of Philadelphia was led by Ben Fletcher. Also sometimes referred to as "510 Cats".
  • Muckamuck, muckymuck, or mucketymuck : Someone important, and probably arrogant
  • Mucker : A mine worker who shovels out the ore or the debris
  • Muck stick : A long-handled shovel
  • Mug : Someone's face

N

  • Never Come, Never Go : Nevada County Narrow Gauge RR (Calif.)
  • Nose bag : A lunch pail

O

  • OBU (One Big Union) : Another name for the IWW, based on the notion that one big union of all the workers can overthrow or abolish the employing class and the wage system. Also a name for a short-lived Canadian union that formed in the 1930s based on the IWW, but more sympathetic to the Communist Party and Stalinism.
  • Octopus : The Southern Pacific Railroad
  • Original Ham and Egg Route : Oberlin, Hampton and Eastern RR
  • Overalls Brigade : At the 1908 convention a group of twenty migrant workers styling themselves as the "overalls brigade" played a crucial role in the debate which established direct action as the guiding principle of the IWW.

P

  • Paul Bunyan : A chronic but interesting liar
  • Pay streak : A job that pays well
  • Pea soup : A French Canadian, often a lumberjack; the name comes from a traditional dish of this group.
  • Peckerwood : A poor white person from the country, often used disparagingly, especially in the South
  • Pendejo [Pen-DAY-hoe] : A fool or a coward
  • Pennsylvania feathers : Soft coal or coke
  • Piecard : A union official that identifies more with the boss than with the workers, or who is "on the take". From the hobo definition, one who hangs around and lives on a remittance man or some other person with money
  • Pie in the sky : A reward in heaven for working hard on earth while hungry. Used in the song The Preacher and the Slave by Joe Hill.
  • Plough jockey : A farmer
  • Plug-ugly : A thug or a goon
  • Plush, on the : The rich man rides on the plush in the train, possibly in a private car. Described in the Utah Phillips song/poem Bum on the Rods, included on the album/CD "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere." The poem is originally entitled The Two Bums, from George Milburn's book, The Hobo's Hornbook.
  • Plutes : Bosses or plutocrats
  • Poke : A leather wallet
  • Prole : A wage worker, a "proletarian."
  • Pusher : The straw boss. One in charge of the job

R

  • Rattler : A freight train
  • Rebel : A class-conscious worker who wishes to end the capitalist system.
  • The Rebel Girl : Elizabeth Gurley Flynn; also the title of a song by Joe Hill.
  • Red : A revolutionary socialist, anarchist, or IWW member. Refers to the red flags and banners commonly used by radicals symbolizing workers control and revolution. After the 1930s, the term was specifically used to refer to leftists in General, but especially to members of the Communist Party and its supporters.
  • Red card : Membership card for IWW members
  • Red IWW : The IWW, based in Chicago (until the 1990s) as opposed to the short-lived rival IWW established by Daniel DeLeon in 1908. See Yellow IWW.
  • Red Socialists : Refers to the left wing of the US based Socialist Party. The Reds were sympathetic to the IWW, direct action, and syndicalism.
  • Riding the Rails; Riding the Rods : Hoboing.
  • Rigging : A Delegate's supplies, including membership cards, dues stamps, IWW Constitutions, and Newspapers. Used to collect dues and sign up new members on the job.
  • ROC (Regional Organizing Committee) : A body of IWW members in a specific region, especially a country dedicated to maintaining communication and administering union affairs, particularly where the local currency is worth significantly less (or more) than the US or Canadian dollar.
  • Rockpile : A jail
  • Rods : Drawrods beneath a freight train, one place where hobos used to ride. Riding the rods was extremely dangerous, and most modern train cars no longer have rods underneath.
  • Rotgut : Cheap liquor
  • Roustabout : An unskilled laborer. Also used as a carnival term
  • Rube : A country bumpkin

S

  • Sab cat : Symbol of the IWW, and sometimes a symbol for "sabotage" (i.e. inefficiency at the point of production by disgruntled workers), usually represented by a black cat with bared teeth. Also called "sab kitty", "sabo-tabby", or "the cat".
  • Sabotage : The withdrawal of efficiency. Calling a strike, engaging in a slowdown, or somehow gumming up the works. From a French phrase meaning to toss a wooden shoe (a sabot) into the machinery to slow things down.
  • The Saint : Refers to Vincent St. John
  • Sallies : Salvation Army hotels and industrial workshops
  • Scab : A strike breaker
  • Scissorbill : A worker who identifies with the boss, or who lacks class consciousness. Hobo who thinks he can be President
  • Scratch : Secretary; alternately, money or other assets
  • Sea stiff : A sailor
  • Secretary-Treasurer : The chief administrative officer of a branch or district council, elected by a democratic vote of the appropriate body's membership
  • Sewer hogs : Ditch diggers.
  • Shack : The brakeman on a train. Often the fellow that hobos had to avoid.
  • Shanty man : Same as gyppo contractor
  • Shark : An employment agent who "sells" jobs for a fee
  • Short Stake : Worker apt to quit when they have earned a small sum
  • Shuffler : A jobless worker
  • Shyster : A lawyer. Spoken in a non-pejorative fashion of labor attorneys
  • Side Car Pullman : A hobo term for a Box Car
  • Silent agitator : A sticker, or a mini-poster, used to propagandize. Sometimes called a silent organizer
  • Single O : Working alone by preference
  • Singlet : A man's jersey or undershirt
  • Sinker : A doughnut
  • Sizzler : A cook; alternately, a stove
  • Skid road : Area of town where migrants gather, from the log roads in timber country. Also called skid row
  • Skinner : One who drives mules, especially on construction jobs
  • Skipper : The conductor
  • Sky pilot : A highbrow preacher, one who expresses a boss point of view, that workers shouldn't complain-- just be patient and you'll get "pie in the sky when you die." The term carried over to the US Military as a name for the company chaplain
  • Slave market : An employment agency, particularly in which there are high fees assessed for workers to get a job
  • SLP (Socialist Labor Party) : Founded as the Socialistic Labor Party in 1878. Played a founding role in the IWW under its leader, Daniel DeLeon. The SLP was a political party that emphasized political action rather than direct action (organizing at the point of production.) The SLP separated from the IWW in 1908 and set up a short-lived, rival union called the Yellow IWW which folded in 1914.
  • Slum : Food
  • Smilo joint : A tavern that sold bootleg liquor
  • Snake : Hobo and railroad term for switchman. A snake is more friendly than a shack to the hobos
  • Snipe : (Noun) A section hand. (Verb) To get cigarette or cigar butts from easy sources. ("I sniped a nice butt from that ashtray")
  • Speakeasy : An illegal bar during Prohibition days, frequently offering music and dancing besides.
  • Spittoon philosopher : A hanger-on about the gin mill or along the curbstone
  • Split : At the 1924 convention, two factions appeared in the IWW. They each claimed to be the real IWW. In some cities there were two IWW halls, and Job Delegates for each union had their own cards to issue.
  • Stake : A sum of money intended to last until the next job.
  • Stamps : Dues stamps for the IWW, pasted into a Wobbly's red card, or dues book to show that the member is paid up
  • Stamp up : To pay dues, or to collect dues from an IWW member
  • Stew builder : A camp cook
  • Stiff : A worker. For example, harvest stiffs, bridge stiffs, hospital stiffs
  • Stoolie : An informer (stool pigeon)
  • Stump Rancher : Someone who settles on logged off land and who usually continues to work, at least part time, for wages.
  • Swamper : Fellow who cleans out the bar-room
  • Sweat board : Concrete mixing by hand

T

  • Taking the whiskers off : Harvesting
  • Tallow pot : The fireman on the train
  • Tie pass : Bogus permit from the railroad president allowing one to walk the railroad ties
  • Timber Beast : Lumberjack. Sometimes also called a Timber Wolf
  • Tinhorn : A smalltime gambler
  • Tramps : Migrating non-working vagrants
  • Twist a dream : Roll a cigarette

V

  • Vittles : Food

W

  • Walking Delegate : A union organizer who moves from job to job.
  • WFM (Western Federation of Miners) : One of the original unions that founded the IWW. Founding Members William "Big Bill" Haywood and Vincent Saint John were also members of the WFM.
  • Wobbly (Sometimes shortened to "Wob") : A nickname of unknown origin for a member of the Industrial Workers of the World. Many believe "wobbly" refers to a tool known as a "wobble saw." One often repeated anecdote has it that a sympathetic Chinese restaurant owner in Vancouver would extend credit to IWW members and, unable to pronounce the "W", would ask if they were a member of the "I Wobble Wobble. Another explanation is that the term was first used pejoratively by San Francisco Socialists around 1913 and adopted by IWWs as a badge of honor. In any case, the nickname has existed since the union's early days and is still used today.
  • Wood butcher : A carpenter or a hobo who can do general repair jobs
  • Woolies : Take a job as sheep herder

Y

  • Yard master : Railroad employee who supervises the yard activity
  • Yeggs : Crooks
  • Yellow IWW : A rival version of the IWW established in 1908, based in Detroit by Daniel DeLeon, after he split from the IWW. The Yellow IWW emphasized political action as opposed to direct action at the point of production. The Yellow IWW was affiliated with the SLP. The Yellow IWW folded in 1914.
  • Yellow Socialists : Refers to the right wing and centrists of the US based Socialist Party. The Yellows were generally hostile to the IWW (favoring the craft unionism of the AFL, advocating reform instead of revolution among unionists), direct action, and syndicalism.

References

Additional references

See also

  • The use of slang is a means of recognizing members of the same group, and to differentiate that group from society at large, while the use of jargon relates to a specific activity, profession, or group.
  • Slang terms are frequently particular to a certain subculture.
  • Chinook jargon, especially for northwest timber country usage.

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