Carny Lingo

What we've all been waiting for - definitions of carny lingo. Even divided into American and British, with some Gypsy thrown in.

24-hour Man — Employee who travels the route 24 hours before the rest of the circus, putting up roadside arrows to direct travel and making sure the lot is ready.

Aba-daba — Any dessert served in the cookhouse.

Advance — Teams of employees traveled ahead of the circus route to put up posters and arrange for advertising, usually arriving in each town four weeks, two weeks and one week before the show. They often traveled on dedicated "advance cars" or "bill cars," rail cars carried on freight trains, and had just one day to carry out their assignments. The team and its ad campaign were simply called "the advance." "Bill Posters" pasted multi-sheet posters on the outsides of buildings and fences with buckets of flour-and-water paste, long-handled paste brushes, and ladders. "Lithographers" bartered with local merchants, trading passes for the right to place one-sheets, half-sheets, and panels in store windows. Any of them might hire local youths to distribute heralds door-to-door.

Advise — The official schedule, posted on the outside of the backdoor and elsewhere, listing the current revision of the time and sequence of the acts.

AGVA — The American Guild of Variety Artists, a (currently) 5,000-member union representing performers in the variety entertainment field, including circuses, Las Vegas showrooms and cabarets, musical variety shows, comedy showcases, dance revues, magic shows and amusement park shows, arena and auditorium productions on tour. Referred to in the musical "A Chorus Line" as 'the nightclub union.' Organized by Sophie Tucker and others as The American Federation of Actors, absorbed into the AFL-CIO in 1939. Awards the "Georgie Award" (after George Jessel) for variety performer of the year. Opinions vary on the AGVA, generally concluding that it is at least as honest as the Teamsters and at least as useful to the performers as PATCO was to Reagan-era air-traffic controllers. Does not, at this writing (February 2006), even maintain a minimal web page.

Alfalfa — Paper money.

All Out and Over, All Out, All Over — The entire performance is concluded, the audience has vacated the top and workers can begin re-setting or tearing down.

Annie Oakley — A complimentary ticket or free pass, also 'ducat.' The hole customarily punched in such a free pass recalled the bullet holes that Oakley, a wild-west-show sharpshooter, fired into small cards in her performances.


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