BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

24 September 2014

BBC Homepage

Contact Us

Con Jargon

Con Jargon

Do you know what 'a mark' is? What would you do with a 'cackle-bladder'? Get the low-down on the world of the con and the jargon used in Hustle.

Classic Cons

  • 'The Grift' con has a gentle touch, using a skilled hand or a sharp wit rather than force or violence to separate the victim from his money.

  • 'The Pay-Off' is a famous con invented in 1906 and is the most lucrative. Lured in by wins on a racing syndicate scam, he comes back with more cash that the conmen relieve him of.

  • 'The Rag' is a famous con used in the film The Grifters. 'The mark' is lured in on wins of a dodgy stocks and shares scam. But he gets greedy, and the conmen relieve him of the money he collects 'on the send' .

  • 'The Wire' con was used in the film The Sting (starring Paul Newman). The 'insideman' convinces 'the mark' he can delay the horse racing results going to the bookmakers long enough for the mark to place a bet after the race has run.

  • 'The Flop' con is a classic. Take a hustler who already has an old injury. Re-enact an accident (a bit risky but may well be worth it....), claim the old injury is in fact new - and take the insurance company to the cleaners! Did you know? Mickey Stone - the team's 'Insideman'

  • A Conman prospers only because of the fundamental dishonesty of his victim. The main principle of conning being that you can't cheat an honest man.

  • All cons have one thing in common - they employ the victim's greed as a lever to success.

  • In the most sophisticated cons, the victim never realises he's been conned. He thinks he was just involved in a failed gambit.

  • The big, classic cons reached their peak of use and infamy between 1914 and 1923.

  • The Conman can't be classed in the same group as 'thieves', since he doesn't actually do any stealing - the victims give him the money.

  • Very few Conmen are ever brought to trial. The victim must admit his own criminal intentions (usually the reason they got involved) if he wishes to prosecute.

  • Famous con films include The Grifters (starring John Cusack), The Sting (starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford), The Heist (starring Goldie Hawn), The Getaway (the original with Steve McQueen and a more recent re-make with Kim Basinger), The Spanish Prisoner and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (starring Steve Martin), and 2003's Confidence (with Edward Burns).

  • More on Hustle:

    Watch an interview with Ashley Walters, who plays new recruit Billy Bond Test your speed, reaction and nerve with our Hustle games

    Episode Guide

    Series 4 - get the latest and watch video clips
    Series 3 - find out what happened and watch video clips
    Series 2 - find out what happened and watch video clips
    Series 1 - find out what happened and watch video clips

    Related Links

    Best of Drama

    Best of BBC

                    Find advice and expert tips to go from seed to plate.

    About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy