Carny Lingo

Chico:CA: Hello world! Circus Imagination is at the Silver Dollar Fair, in Chico, California this week!
I’ll post our show times soon and some new pictures of our new signs and new ringmaster costume.
In the in between I’d like to share this with you all:

See if you can understand the following paragraph:

If you’re a First of May clown under the big top, it’s unlikely you’ll be performing with the Iron Jaw or working the haul. With any luck, you’ll hang with the other joeys in clown alley where you’ll cut up jackpots and ask around about cherry pie.

Not really, huh? Check out the glossary below and then read again!

CIRCUS LINGO GLOSSARY

ANNIE OAKLEY
A complimentary ticket or free pass. Oakley performed as a sharpshooter in a 19th century wild west-themed show, and she would shoot a hole through a playing card that had been tossed up in the air. Tickets that were punched with holes resembled Oakley’s playing cards and earned her name.
BALLY
A platform at the entrance to a circus or sideshow where a circus “talker” stands to deliver a prepared spiel, or ballyhoo, advertising the show, hoping to attract a crowd.
BALLYHOO
Literally, the prepared speech delivered from the bally. Also any form of hype used to advertise the show.
BANNER
An advertisement painted on canvas that highlights a particular circus attraction or act.
BIG TOP
The main tent in a circus where the performances take place.
BULLS
Male or female elephants.
CALLIOPE
An old-fashioned musical instrument similar to an organ and constructed of steam whistles. Years ago, the Calliope was used to signal the end of a circus street parade.
CANDY BUTCHERS
A vendor who sells candy, soda, popcorn and other food items.
CLOWN ALLEY
The area just outside of the big top where the clowns wait to perform or relax after working the ring.
CHARIVARI
A humorous, energetic acrobatic exhibition performed by clowns or acrobats.
CHERRY PIE
Work performed for extra money.
DOG AND PONY SHOW
literally, an old-timey circus act featuring dogs and horses. Today, the term is used for any event, often political, that has lots of hype but little substance.
DONIKERS
Bathroom facilities for circus patrons.
FIREBALL
A traveling circus that earns a reputation for swindling patrons or having overall dishonest policies. These shows often ruin venues for other, more reputable circus shows and can be referred to as a “fireball outfit.”
FLEA BAG
A ragged, downtrodden traveling show in need of physical repair.
FIRST OF MAY
A rookie circus performer who is trying to learn the ropes during his first season under the big top. The term originated years ago when many circuses began their traveling schedule in early May.
FUNAMBULIST
High wire-walker.
GRINDER
A showman who entices the crowd before the show or during intermissions with a verbal pitch. Often ticketsellers have a “grind” or pitch that they deliver as they interact with the public.
GUYS
Hefty ropes and cables that help support the big top rigging.
HAUL
The move the crew makes from the circus train or trailer to a new empty lot to set up the big top and rigging.
HIGH SCHOOL HORSE
A horse who has learned fancy steps as part of a performance.
IRON JAW
An aerial act in which an acrobat swings and does tricks while hanging from a suspended mouth piece.
ITCHY FEET
A performer or crew member’s desire to return to circus life and the road after they’ve been away from the big top for a while.
JACKPOTS
Tall tales about life under the big top. To “cut up jackpots” is to tell these stories.
JOEY
A nickname for a clown. The term “Joey” originally referenced the famous English clown, Joseph Grimaldi, who lived and worked during the 18th century.
JUMBO
The name of P.T. Barnum’s famous elephant, which the showman billed as the largest elephant on earth. Today, Jumbo’s name is used as an adjective to reference something luxuriously large.
LIBERTY ACT
Horses who perform circus acts without human riders.
LOT LICE
The children of circus performers and workers who grow up under the big top.
MIDWAY
An amusement area located mid-way between the entrance to the lot on one end and the big top on the other. It’s an area filled with concessions, games and extra shows.
MUD CIRCUSES
Traveling shows that move from one to town to another every few days.
RINGMASTER
The person in charge of welcoming the audience, introducing the acts, and holding the show together.
ROSINBACK
A Horse used for bareback riding. Traditionally, rosin is sprinkled on the backs of the horses to prevent riders from slipping.
ROUSTABOUT
A circus laborer.
SCREAMERS
the up-tempo marches adapted as circus music and used to rouse the crowds.
WEB
Canvas-covered ropes that are suspended from the top of the tent and used by aerial performers to ascend and descend the performance rigging. Occasionally, the ropes are also used a props in other acts.
WINDJAMMER
A musician in the circus band.

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