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What words might a thief (of any variety) use to describe the victims of his theft?

Con artists in film often use "mark", for example. Is there other jargon specific to the con branch* of crime? How about burglars? Muggers? Bank robbers? Politicians? Oh, sorry... Highwaymen? Pickpockets?


*We might call these words "con-specific". :p

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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

There are many terms for victim of a thief or swindler besides mark. Among them are

  • dupe
  • stooge
  • sucker
  • fall guy
  • chump
  • patsy

In games like chess, witless victims of chess sharps are called "fish" or "patzers".

In poker, victims of the poker sharks are called, variously

  • fish
  • donkeys (or "donks")
  • dead money
  • whales (fools with a lot of money; you generally see sharks circling around these players in a feeding frenzy)
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"Whales" was also the term used by the brokers in "Boiler Room" for their clients. –  jhocking May 1 '11 at 11:40
1  
@jhocking: Yes, and it's been a gambling term for a long time. Casinos having been using it for decades to describe their high-roller clientele (rich people who want to impress people by dropping tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars at the tables). –  Robusto May 1 '11 at 11:58
    
Yeah I saw that in your answer, interesting tidbit. –  jhocking May 1 '11 at 12:39
    
BTW, I am tempted to suppose that "whale" derives from "fish" — a whale (to those unaware that a whale is a mammal) seeming like a big "fish". –  Robusto May 1 '11 at 13:28

From the thematic Oxford Dictionary of Slang by Lexicographer John Ayto (including the word mark you already mention).

For a simple swindle:

fly-flat (1864) British, dated; applied to someone taken in by confidence tricksters; from fly (knowing, alert) + obsolete flat (gullible person)
• Joyce Cary: 'I don't see why we should consider the speculators.' 'A lot of fly-flats who thought they could beat us at the game.'(1938)

mark (1883) Orig US; applied to the intended victim of confidence tricksters; often in the phrase a soft (or easy) mark
• Edmund McGirr: In the twenties it was the Yanks who was the suckers, but now... it's us who are the marks. (1973)

For kidnap victims:

package (1933) Mainly US; applied to a kidnap victim
• Sun (Baltimore): The 'package', as the kidnapped victim is called, is rushed across the State line and delivered to the'keepers'. (1933)

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Kidnappers! Nice, I didn't even think of them. –  Josh Caswell May 1 '11 at 8:16
  • Nigerian scammers: Mugu
  • Politicians: voters
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+1 for mentioning voters. –  Jim Thio Jun 1 '12 at 8:16

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