In the opening chapter of Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, the first-person narrator is telling a story to an "advertising exec type fruit" on the New York subway, and in the middle of the story he goes on a digression:

"Ever notice how many expressions carry over from the queers to con men? Like 'raise', letting someone know you are in the same line?

"'Get her!'

"'Get the Paregoric Kid giving that mark the build up!'

"'Eager Beaver wooing him much too fast.'

What does this passage mean?

  • 3
    It would help to provide more context (who the speaker is, what happened before, chapter, page number, edition, author). And also when you ask about meaning, are you asking for the meaning of particular words or phrases, a paraphrase of these particular lines, or an explanation of where they fit into the novel as a whole, and what they mean as part of the wider work of art?
    – Stuart F
    Oct 9, 2021 at 13:15

1 Answer 1


The speaker in this passage is calling attention to similarities in slang usage between “queers” (gay men) and “con men” (confidence tricksters). He gives four examples of phrases which have slang meanings to both groups.

  1. “‘raise’, letting someone know you are in the same line”

    “Line” here is “one’s vocation or calling” (OED) so that in context “to be in the same line” means “to be a queer/conman too”. I was unable to find any independent evidence for this sense of “raise”. It is in the New Partridge Dictionary:

    raise verb to identify yourself to a fellow traveller US

    Tom Dalzell & Terry Victor, eds. (2006). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, volume II, p. 1584. London: Routledge.

    but the only citation given there is to this very passage from Naked Lunch.

  2. “‘Get her!’”

    get her (exclaim, dated, ’40s) command to take a gander at someone who is trying his damnedest to be charming and witty but winding up a fiasco. Equivalent to “who does he think he is?”

    Bruce Rodgers (1979). Gay Talk: A (Sometimes Outrageous) Dictionary of Gay Slang, p. 95. New York: Paragon.

  3. “‘Get the Paregoric Kid giving that mark the build up!’”

    “The Paregoric Kid” is a nickname for the hypothetical queer/conman in the example.

    paregoric, n. A pain-relieving or soothing medicinal preparation, esp. an opiate.

    mark, n. 26.b. A person who is easily persuaded, deceived, or taken advantage of; a victim targeted by a swindler, cheat, etc.

    build-up, n. An accumulation of favourable publicity designed to popularize a person, product, etc. Also, simply, preparatory work, preparation.

    Oxford English Dictionary

    Putting all this together, the Paregoric Kid is using soothing words to prepare or persuade someone, either to engage in sexual activity, or to be the victim of a confidence trick.

  4. “‘Eager Beaver wooing him much too fast.’”

    Again, “Eager Beaver” is a nickname for the hypothetical person in the example.

    pushover one easily persuaded to join in sexual activity; an eager beaver

    Rodgers, p. 162.

    “Woo” means “to move or invite by alluring means; to entreat or solicit alluringly” (OED), the invitation being to engage in sexual activity, or to participate in a confidence trick.

  • thank you for this @gareth-rees, I was lost on the first line referencing "raise" because I couldn't find any reference/usage for this one so the rest of it didn't make sense to me. Oct 18, 2021 at 6:48

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