Raw prawn; ripoff & Hoodwink

Posted by James Briggs on April 30, 2003

In Reply to: Raw prawn; ripoff posted by R. Berg on April 29, 2003

: : This is one of my all time favourites. I've only ever heard it used in my own country - Australia and by Australians. However, it wouldn't surprise me if it's originally Cockney or something.

: : For those who haven't heard it, it seems to mean 'don't try to hoodwink me' (hoodwink - there's another one), or don't try to rip me off (yet another one - rip me off).

: : So can anyone help with this one, or even 'hoodwink' & 'rip me off'.

: : Thanks,
: : Petalyn (yep, that's my real name, not Lotg)

: From Eric Partridge, Dictionary of Catch Phrases: American and British, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day:
: "don't come the raw prawn!" 'Don't try to put one over me!' --'Don't try to impose on me!' This catchphrase arose, during WW2, in the Australian Army; Wilkes's earliest printed date is 1942; in 1946 Rohan Rivett, 'Behind Bamboo' (a prisoner-of-war story) writes, '"Raw prawn" something far-fetched, difficult to swallow, absurd'. Apparently first dictionaried by the late Grahame Johnston, in 'The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary', 1976. A raw prawn is less edible than a cooked one. [Paul Beale, who edited and revised Partridge's book:] if in fact to do with cooking, then perhaps orig. a ref. to the Japanese delicacy. I have also heard the phrase used to mean 'Don't pretend to be the naive innocent!'

: End of Partridge quote; back to me (R.B.): I first heard "rip off" (verb) and "ripoff" (noun) in the US, 1960s. As far as I know, they started as hippie slang.

These following words, including 'Hoodwink', come from the ancient sport of falconry, which has left several marks on the English language:
Fed up - trained hawks are driven by appetite: one which has 'fed up' wants merely to sit still and digest its meal (ie it is totally unresponsive).
Gorged - a hawk's crop is in its throat (le gorge in French).
Chaperone and hoodwink - blindfolding a hawk with a hood (chaperone in French) calms it by making it think it is night. This reduces the risk of impetuous behaviour.
Booze - hawks were traditionally trapped in Holland and needed to drink (?boozen? in Dutch) on the sea crossing to England.
Haggard - an older hawk, caught in adult plumage. Although falconers used to prize such birds, haggard and hag are definitely derogatory when applied to humans.
Cadge - a mobile perch on which falcons are carried. The unpaid bearer would have to 'cadge' tips from onlookers.