Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Write Away: Y is for Yegg


I couldn’t resist, for this penultimate post, a fun term I learned in crossword puzzles years ago.

Yegg (or yeg) is a burglar or safecracker. It’s a slang term, and often refers to an itinerant, or hobo, burglar. The origin of yegg is obscure but seems to date to the early 1900s in America. Yegg-men, made popular by the Pinkerton agency, is another term one might encounter.

Some think the term yegg originated with a letter signed by “a tramp named John Yeager”. However, that story is suspect. Maybe the term is a perversion of “eggs” since safecrackers break into safes to get the good stuff inside. Maybe. Or maybe it represents when a clever thief among gypsies is chosen as “yegg” or chief thief. Maybe.

I found this description in a footnote for a book, Banking in Oklahoma, 1907-2000:
The etymology of “yegg” takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century when a Californian by the name of John Yegg spawned a new breed of criminal. Yegg, a drifter with a distaste for honest work, came across a report about burglar-proof safes circulated by the Treasury Department. Yegg was particularly interested in nitroglycerine , and he had plenty of time on his hands to become an expert in its properties. Under his tutelage, hoboes across the land known as “yeggmen” relied on explosives to commit brazen bank robberies. “Yegg” eventually entered the common vernacular as a catchall term for desperadoes who had little regard for human life. Their pillaging became the bane of law enforcement and, predictably, fodder for legend.
See  “A Bank Burglars’ Union”, New York Times, September 15, 1901

An interesting word. If you use it in your book, you will probably be referring to a low-level crook. No high-level burglar would allow himself to be called a yegg.

Frieda is under stress and hard at work on her book, trying to meet the deadline.

“Your Top Ten Ways to Stay Happily Married
10.            Men are genetically incapable of reading minds. Tell him what’s on yours.
9.            Be the first to say you’re sorry. And mean it. But if he never interrupts to be the first to
            say, “Sorry”, have a chat about that.
8.            Decide early on who will do which jobs around the house and flip for the ones no one
            wants or, better still, do them together.
7.            Be a lady in public and a slut in the bedroom.
6.            Occasionally tuck tiny surprises and notes into his briefcase or lunch bag.
5.             Never say good-night or leave one another without a hug and telling him how much you
            love him.
4.             Kidnap him for an adventure you planned, and be up for doing things he likes not just
            what you like to do.
3.            Never, ever criticize him in public, and don’t let him do it to you, either.
2.            Keep yourself mentally and physically fit so you are at your very best for him and for


  1. Hi there - It's an interesting term. I'd never heard of it. :)
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

  2. Such fun! Wait until you see my z word. Another kind of xenogamy! lol