It was on this date in 1935 that a man born Arthur Flegenheimer met an untimely and bullet-riddled end at the hands of two gunmen. But don't waste too many tears on Flegenheimer's behalf: he lived his brief life as Dutch Schultz, a gangster who ran various bootlegging and other rackets in New York City and who was killed by fellow mobsters objecting to his plan to assassinate Thomas Dewey.
Today we remember the late Dutch Schultz with a look at lingo from the underworld. Plenty of gangster terms from that era made their way into print thanks to writer Damon Runyon. Runyon introduced fans to the graphic meat-house (meaning "the morgue") and the evocative blouwzola (meaning "a common woman"). He also coined such playful terms as Francesca, meaning "fanny, or buttocks," and rooty-toot-toot, meaning "machine gun."
But don't think gangster language originated in twentieth-century America. Back in the late 1500s, banditti (plural of "bandit") named the marauding gangs found in the mountainous districts of Mediterranean lands. And thug migrated into English in the early 1800s, courtesy of Hindi. The Hindi ancestor of thug literally meant "thief" and referred to one of a group of professional robbers and murderers in India known for strangling their victims. But we can thank our own homegrown criminal element for racketeer, the tag applied to the thuggish bandit Dutch Schultz and which first appeared in print in 1928.
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