On the radar: “Nick”

Steal; verb, transitive. Slang.

Just a few months ago, the New York Times gave this word the full quotation marks/translation treatment: Now, every ”splash” — a tabloid’s Page 1 story — is assumed to have been ”nicked,” or stolen, by a hacked phone or other illicit means.

But in a September 25 Arts review by Steve Smith, the word was used without the bat of an eyelash: Sultry string figures embellished with sweeping harp recalled what Hollywood composers nicked from Duke Ellington; staggered section entries piled up with Gershwin-esque swagger.

Is nicked ready for the big time? Stay tuned. (Thanks to Devin Harner.)

11 thoughts on “On the radar: “Nick”

  1. Let’s not forget my favorite use of the word, which means that a villian has been caught! “You’re nicked!” not only appears in crime situatiuons, but if a kid nicks a cookie and mum catches him with his hand in the jar…

  2. While watching one of the aforesaid British cop shows the other night my English husband had to translate the following sentence for me (granted it WAS said in an unintelligible south London accent):

    “The last time he talked to Old Bill he ended up getting nicked”.

    I am told this means (for those of us who, despite 5 years living in Britain, are not in the know):

    “The last time he talked to the cops he got arrested”.

  3. The police are, in what I perceive to be obsolescent London slang outside telly drama, “THE Old Bill”, not plain “Old Bill”.

  4. “Nicked” was used in an early Law & Order:Criminal Intent (by the Goren character). Around about the same time, another episode had a character saying “Loo”. Both jarred with me (as a Brit).

    Oh, and you’re started using “bumper” for “fender”.

  5. How weird… I guess I’ve never seen this word spelled before. It’s always been in my head as “knick” … probably from “knickerbocker” or something

  6. Agreed, Keith, it’s “THE Old Bill”, not plain “Old Bill”. Now not so much obsolescent London slang as obsolete. Even the more common ‘the Bill’ may have been fading by the time the London-set TV series of that name started in 1983.

    As I lived in east London throughout the 1980s I can assure readers that more commonly heard were ‘cop’, ‘copper’, sometimes ‘woodentop’ for uniforms, and a few more. Hardly ever ‘the Old Bill’ but usually just ‘the police’, ‘the Met’, or ‘the cops’…’Thames Valley’ way out west, and so on around the Home Counties.

    Some whites who disliked the police still said ‘the filth’ and some black Londoners had adopted ‘the beast’, which felt recent, though it could go back to Jamaica or elsewhere in the Caribbean. Interestingly, I never heard a bespoke pejorative for plain-clothes detectives; I think the official ‘the CID’ or ‘CID man’ was considered damning enough; or else the more generic ‘filth’. The Flying Squad was indeed called ‘the Sweeney’ by some – the ‘Sweeney Todd’ rhyming slang having been sustained by the title of the 1970s TV series, I suppose.

    I heard ‘the fuzz’ a few times in the early-to-mid-1970s, I could easily have used it myself. But in 1980s London ‘the Old Bill’ was scarcely heard more often than ‘scarper it’s the rozzers’ – with tongue almost as firmly in cheek.

  7. Thanks for that, JLC; you’ve reminded me of an old joke about being pulled by the fuzz. Don’t think I can tell it here, it would lower the tone.

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