Balling the jack

Posted by ESC on November 10, 1999

In Reply to: What is the meaning of this phrase? posted by Bruce Kahl on November 09, 1999

: : Balling the Jack

: In the NYC area, balling the jack is heavy duty
: hand-clapping dancing to very loud music.
: I also know the term as the act of risking everything on one bet or throw of the dice or on a long shot horse.

BALLING THE JACK First the PG-version from the Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins by William and Mary Morris: "balling the jack is a phrase from the jargon of railroadsmen and simply means going at top speed. It also has acquired the meaning in gambling circles of risking everything on a single throw of the dice or turn of a card."

Now the R-rated version from Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner: "balling, mid 1930s, to mean 'having a ball,' having a wild good time drinking, dancing, having sex, etc. (this term was also influenced by the 1925 'balling the jack', to move quickly, have a good time, and the railroaders' use of 'highballing,' to go full speed). 'To ball,' to have coitus, mid 1950s."

There was also, before my time, a song about a dance (I think) called "balling the jack."