Found-Again Friday: The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook Glossaries

Helpful Reference Volumes
Helpful Reference Volumes

Why Found-Again? Mostly because of stuff like the 3:25 point in this:

Who hasn’t taken a bit of delight in TV or movie crimespeak?

The Premise: We’re covering two glossaries in this short peek at the end of the book: the first section is general criminal argot, and the second deals with various illegal drugs and what they might be called if you want to buy them…while under cover, presumably.

“Dictionary for a Detective” is interesting on several fronts, one of which is whether some terms are slang at all: I doubt “decoy” was ever seen as “one of those weird words the young hoodlums are using these days,” for instance. (This shows up in the drug glossary as well. Was there really a time when “locked up” wasn’t seen as physically descriptive of incarceration?)

A few of the entries are still current…

Only one of those seems really outré...and a little less so than the word "outré," really.
Only one of those seems really outré…and a little less so than the word “outré,” really.

But I realized as I continued reading that what this list is really handy for circa 2016 is parsing the lingo in old Bugs Bunny cartoons and old-time radio detective shows.

In honor of the video clip.
Here are a few in honor of the video clip above.

And then there are the ones I don’t believe at all: if anyone reading this can cite even anecdotal evidence of someone saying “knowledge box” and meaning “school”—or indeed meaning anything normal at all—I will eat a hat of my choice.

See also "croaker joint."
See also “croaker joint.”

By contrast, the “High Danger” Chapter about drugs is quite informative and not as, well, goofy: it discusses the classes of drugs, street names of drugs (many of which are still used today) and terms you might hear around the buying and selling of drugs (also with much overlap with the present day). Its most dated aspects include a warning about “drug culture” that sounds lifted from you-know-what and the contents of the list itself: this was written before Ecstasy, for example, and a lot of the tranquilizers mentioned appear to have gone out of use/abuse entirely.

The Verdict: This week’s reading surprised me. I’ve spent so much time watching now-silly ’70s and ’80s crime shows that I expected the drug-slang section to be hilarious, but the terminology has been surprisingly stable between handbook-publication time and today…which I suppose could raise the question of whether “drug culture” has lost (or should lose) its scare quotes. We’ve got two more appendices to go, and then we’ll be done learning the art of detection for young people.


Next time: We go with the Quests on a field trip to a nerve-gas factory.

J. A.

It reads. It writes. It watches. It researches. It overdoes many of those things!

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