Language Carnival Worker Slang To Learn If You Don't Want To Be A Mark  

Jacob Shelton
1.6k votes 497 voters 111.3k views 18 items

List Rules Carnival folk only: vote up the terms and phrases you actually use and hear on the job.

You’ve probably been to a carnival or two and encountered more than your fair share of carnival workers. Even the most wet-behind-the-ears rube knows that carnival games can be rigged to separate a mark from their green. If you want to hold onto your grip, then you need to memorize these carnival code words to learn who’s on the up and up, and who’s just working a grift. 

Carnival slang was created so carnies and roustabouts could talk about marks in the open without the chumps realizing it. Commit these state fair worker codes to memory to avoid getting skinned the next time you walk the midway. 

1 268 VOTES


Meaning: Is this a name? Are carnies who use this term discussing a visible impression left on one of their wagons? Not at all. In the carnival world, you're the mark - a gullible, local rube who's happy to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for some quality carnie entertainment. 

Use It In A Sentence: That mark just paid 20 clams to play the ring toss, and he still doesn't know it's fixed.

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Is this real slang behind the scenes?
2 187 VOTES


Meaning: In the weird world of carnies, a fin could refer to anything. It could be a prop to attach to a shark boy, or it could be something served at the concession stand. But a fin typically refers to a $5 bill. If there's any piece of carnie slang to introduce to your lexicon, it's this one.

Use It In Sentence: You gotta couple of fins to spare? I need to get a roll of quarters.

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Is this real slang behind the scenes?
Reading The Midway is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Carnival Worker Slang To Learn If You Don't Want To Be A Mark
Photo: George C. Campbell/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 3.0
3 134 VOTES

Reading The Midway

Meaning: With so many signs on the midway, how can you not walk up and down taking in the sites? Unfortunately, that's not the kind of reading to which this phrase refers. If a carnie is reading the midway, they're stalking the midway with their head down, looking for cash or valuables dropped by customers.  

Use It In A Sentence: Clem needs some extra cake, so he's been out reading the midway all night. 

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Is this real slang behind the scenes?
Ballyhoo is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Carnival Worker Slang To Learn If You Don't Want To Be A Mark
Photo:  Alexas_Fotos/Pixabay/Public Domain
4 109 VOTES


Meaning: It's likely you've heard ballyhoo at some point in your life, especially if you're an avid carnival-goer. In case you have no idea what the term actually means, though, ballyhoo is what a talker throws out in order to stir up interest in a show, ride, or game. 

Use It In A Sentence: Brandon is the best talker in the game, his ballyhoo always gets marks in the door.

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Is this real slang behind the scenes?