Glossary of "Harlemisms" from a 1950's Mystery Novel


Today I present a "Glossary of Harlemisms" from This Isn't Happiness. Before we get to the bottom of this, have a read through.


If you get the sense that someone's having a laugh with the definitions of "black and tan" and "moo juice," you're not alone. They seem to have come straight from the addled brain of Tom Haverford (courtesy of

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Published along with a series of Mapbooks (1950's mystery novels that always had a map on the back detailing the scene of the crime), this "Harlemisms" guide appeared in New York Confidential, a Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer's guide book to the seedier side of the city (you can read more about Mapbooks at Dull Tool Dim Bulb).

I couldn't find a whole lot of information about New York Confidential, but Lait and Mortimer produced a controversial followup, Washington Confidential. This one got in trouble for highlighting some of the more scandalous haunts of politicians and public officials visiting D.C.

Here's my favorite of the Mapbooks at Dull Tool Dim Bulb - Alfred Hitchock's Rope:












Tell me: what's your favorite Harlemism on the list?


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One Response to “ Glossary of "Harlemisms" from a 1950's Mystery Novel ”

  1. Thanks for repost, Full text of original article and slang on Dull Tool Dim Bulb the Daily Art Blog.


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