Blind Tiger

Listen, rummy, I’m gonna say it plain and simple: Where’d you pinch the hooch? Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side? — Rex Banner, “Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment”

The Internet is as yet letting me down on providing an authoritative reasoning behind the “blind tiger” nickname. All I can tell you right now is that it appears to be some kind of animal.

Wikipedia sayeth:

The term “blind pig” (or “blind tiger”) originated in the United States in the 19th century; it was applied to lower-class establishments that sold alcoholic beverages illegally. The operator of an establishment (such as a saloon or bar) would charge customers to see an attraction (such as an animal) and then serve a “complimentary” alcoholic beverage, thus circumventing the law.

But then these guys were like:

The most popular definition had it that small toy animals, often tigers, were placed on the tables of restaurants to indicate there were back rooms where a man could get a drink or gamble. The tiger, of course, turned a blind eye on such moralizing behavior!

And this is straight from the NYT (in 1885):

The “blind tiger” is a house where the people can get whisky but do not know from whom they buy it. There is a hole in the side of the house with printed instructions above it. You place your bottle and money in the hole and both disappear, but in a few minutes your bottle returns full of whisky.

That last one sounds pretty cool, actually. So, to summarize, a “blind tiger” is some kind of alcohol shop by which weeds are removed from a garden. And with prohibition set to expire any day now, local merchants are sure to cash in.

For sale: one pirated copy of Photoshop. Never worn.

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2 Responses to Blind Tiger

  1. I can’t guarantee this or anything, but it rings a bell about English gin for me (thanks history degree):

    “In 1736 Bradstreet acquired a property in London and a stock of gin. He set up a painted sign of a cat in the window and spread the word that gin could be purchased ‘by the cat’. Under the cat’s paw sign was a slot and a lead pipe, which was attached to a funnel inside the house. Customers placed their money in the slot and duly received their gin. Bradstreet’s idea was soon copied all over London. People would stand outside houses, call ‘puss’ and when the voice within said ‘mew’ know that they could buy bootleg gin inside. Very soon Old Tom became an affectionate nickname for gin.”

    It doesn’t seem too far off from a painted cat to a blind tiger!

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