*stool pigeon* (Slang)

*stool pigeon*

Definition: An informant; one who discloses secret or vital information.

Example: 1) The police would never have found him if a stool pigeon hadn’t revealed his hiding place.

Etymology: Gangsters in New York started using this phrase in the 1920s. Earlier, in the 1800s, hunters would attach a pigeon (a kind of bird) to a stool (or stand) to act as a decoy, so that other birds would come close and could then be killed. The ‘stool pigeon’ was used to deceive other birds. Among criminals, the ‘stool pigeon’ is the one who is actually working for the police, deceiving the other criminals.

Synonyms: snitch

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*big house* (Slang)

*big house*

Definition: Prison, particularly a maximum security federal prison (or jail).

Example: 1) After he got caught robbing a bank, Ted was sent to the big house for 20 years.

Etymology: A ‘house’ is where people live, and a prison is quite large (or ‘big’), home to hundreds of criminals. This phrase became popular in the early 1900’s, when organized crime and large scale prisons developed in the United States.

Synonyms: up the river, under glass, behind bars