Origins of Slang

See You Later, Alligator

During WWII good help was hard to find with most able bodied men off to war. This extended to the criminal underworld as well. Chicago crime boss Johnny Stabberino was having a hard time collecting debts from his loan sharking and protection endeavors. So he employed the use of wild animals to help collect. Stabberino started with hyenas and wolverines but wasn’t happy with the results, in a six month period there was no money collected and sixteen maulings, including three of his own men. On the advice of his associate Teddy “Manhattan Project” Theodore he tried alligators. Hentchmen were trained in alligator handling and the new system proved a boon to debt collecting. Soon thuggish men with alligators were a common sight in Chicago and it usually meant trouble. “See you later, alligator” became shorthand for “I’m getting the hell out of here, there’s a psycho with an alligator nearby”. Years later rock ‘n roll originator and inveterate gambler Bill Haley wrote a hit song using that phrase.

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