parli carnival-iano?


1961 wikipedia broadway

15 excellent bits of carnival slang to add to your vocabulary

even if you’ve never worked on a midway, you can still pepper your speech with delightfully authentic carnival jargon. start slipping these terms into conversation and watch as your friends bally about how great talking to you is.

1. Annie Oakley (noun): A meal ticket.
2. Bally (verb): To attract a crowd by making a great commotion about how terrific a show is.
3. Brodie (noun): A clumsy and spectacular fall. Named for Steve Brodie, a man who claimed to have survived a fall from the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886.
4. Charivari (noun): A cacophonous and chaotic entrance of clowns.
5. Charley (verb): To toss a stack of posters or playbills in the trash rather than giving them away as ordered.
6. Cherry pie (noun): Outside work performed by carnival employees for extra cash.
7. Clem (noun): A fight between carnival employees.
8. Duke (noun): A box lunch distributed to carnival staff.
9. Kinker (noun): Any performer, but originally intended for acrobats.
10. G-top (noun): Private employee tent for gambling.
11. Larry (adjective): Poorly made, worthless, bad (of items or souvenirs).
12. Lead joint (noun): Shooting gallery.
13. Reuben (noun): A rube or a gullible sap.
14. Scram-bag (noun): A bag packed for immediate use in case a quick departure is required.
15. Waxie (noun): A repairman

“carnies built this country, the carnival part of it anyway.”

– homer simpson

 credits: carnival – broadway 1961,

49 responses »

  1. I always loved that musical…jerry ohrbach and anna maria alberghetti…based on the leslie caron movie which it is too early for me to recall the name of right now and which roy bought me about 5 years ago? wow?
    and I do not think I spelled jerry’s name correctly….and I am now embarrassed to live? this is my area of expertise?


  2. A Ruben is a sandwich. Everyone knows that. Cherry pie is…well, never mind. This is a family venue.

    We have go-bags at our desks at work. They’re like scram-bags. They were distributed after 9/11. Flashlight, food, water. Other stuff. Just in case a building falls on your head.


  3. It’s the best when insiders can talk without outsiders knowing what the hell they’re talking about! Of course, it’s really great when audiences catch on quick, or else they’ll pick up they’re scram-bag and hit the exits. I do believe I hear Carney ingo every year around this time a the New York State Fair midway, Beth.


  4. When I went to the Vegas strip years ago, I had to charley all of the adult entertainment fliers into the trash. People just stood there, handing them out like free porn. These terms are fun. I have to incorporate this into my CB jargon, as well as my cop jargon. That’s a big 10-4 on the 5150. BTW, half of these are first names! Poor Larry…


  5. weirder than cockney–I don’t get ANY instant associations–though I just coined the term “my Rushmore” for face, and who knows who will even get that?

    say–did you ever read: Water for Elephants? It was a fabulous read–haven’t seen the movie–all about trian hoppers and carne peeps. Maybe you an’ the Large Print Book club…I said: MAYBE YOU AND THE….o hello ell!! 😉


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