West decoded: 3

Or not, as the case may be. The Day of the Locust, Nathanael West’s maggotty mash note to California, has several instances of slang that may be obscure, undocumented, or simply his own coinages. I got nowhere with the following:

He sat near Harry’s bed and listened to his stories by the hour. Forty years in vaudeville and burlesque had provided him with an infinite number of them. As he put it, his life had consisted of a lightning series of “nip-ups,” “high-gruesomes,” “flying-W’s” and “hundred-and-eights” done to escape a barrage of “exploding stoves.” An “exploding stove” was any catastrophe, natural or human, from a flood in Medicine Hat, Wyoming, to an angry policeman in Moose Factory, Ontario. (ch. 6)

How is it that Medicine Hat was transported from Alberta to the Equality State? I wonder whether hundred-and-eight is a misprint for hundred-and-eighty—unlikely, since it would be plural in this context.

Most of the online hits that this next one turns up want to sell me an Acura.

Faye was coming back. Homer saw that Tod was going to speak to her about Earle and the Mexican and signaled desperately for him not to do it. She, however, caught him at it and was curious.

“What have you guys been chinning about?”

“You, darling,” Tod said. “Homer has a t.l. for you.” (ch. 20)

This last one has such a rhythm that I have to believe West made it up.

… all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of miracles and then only to violence. A super “Dr. Know-All Pierce-All” had made the necessary promise and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screwboxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames (ch. 27)