"Listen," Sunset complained. "I don't know you from last Sunday's sports section. You may be all to the silk. I just don't know."
"Why'd you brace me?" I asked.
"You had the word, didn't you?"
This was where I took the dive. I grinned at him. "Yeah. Goldfish was the password. The Smoke Shop was the place."

The above is from Goldfish by Raymond Chandler. I can't figure out the bold letter part, so I am asking about its meaning.


3 Answers 3


Dictionary of American Underworld Lingo, ©1950 by Twayne Publishers, has this definition for "silk":

  1. (Especially among loan sharks) Money, especially paper currency. "That rabbit (usury victim) sure gets the silk up (manages to pay on time)." 2.(Scattered, South) A swindler.

And for "brace":

To solicit. "Step over and brace the tipster (tip-off man) for some work (criminal activity)."

And "take a dive":

(Hobo, far West) To accept "salvation" at revival meeting or mission, usually to secure food, lodging, etc.

Whether any of these definitions match Chandler's usage, I can't say.


I've never heard all to the silk, but it must mean "on the level", don't you think?

A silk, in BrE, is a high status lawyer, or Queen's Council, but I don't think that helps. Perhaps Chandler had in mind the expression 'pure as silk'. Or perhaps he just heard someone say 'all to the silk': I know he kept notebooks full of colloquialisms and things he'd overheard.

I searched for an hour or so online last night for a book that ought to exist. It would be called "Decoding Chandler" or something like that. It doesn't seem to exist yet but someone should write it before his language slips through our fingers along with the clothes, perfumes and gadgets he mentions that are no longer around.

I happened to be three-quarters of the way through The Big Sleep but when - looking for an answer to your question - I found Goldfish online, I downloaded it, poured a glass of whisky and read it. So thank you. Good story.


Just a thought on "all to the silk." Jockeys' outfits are known as "silks." Baseball and horse-racing would have been the main topics in Sports Sections back then. Might "You may be all to the silk" mean "you may be all that you say you are," from an equestian idiom now lost even to the internet, meaning "good enough to be a jockey?" More likely, it's an embedded misprint. But of what?

  • I'd love to know. Good idea about the jockey's kit. Jan 6, 2020 at 1:12

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