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A carny and his coconut shy, 2005

Carny or carnie is a slang term used in North America for a carnival (funfair) employee, and the language they use, particularly when the employee runs a "joint" (booth), "grab joint" (food stand), game, or ride at a carnival, boardwalk or amusement park. The term "showie" is used synonymously in Australia.


Carny is thought to have become popularized around 1931 in North America, when it was first colloquially used to describe one who works at a carnival.[1] The word carnival, originally meaning a "time of merrymaking before Lent," came into use circa 1549.

Carny language[edit]

The carny vocabulary is traditionally part of carnival cant, a secret language. It is an ever-changing form of communication, in large part designed to be impossible to understand by an outsider.[2] As words are assimilated into the culture at large, they lose their function and are replaced by more obscure or insular terms.[citation needed] Most carnies no longer use cant, but many owners/operators and "old-timers" still use some of the classic terms.

The British form of fairground cant is called "Parlyaree".

Usage in popular culture[edit]

The 1964 Elvis Presley Movie Roustabouts took place in a carnival.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Definition of carny". Merriam-Webster Online. Retrieved November 6, 2007. 
  2. ^ Carny
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ US. "CARNY | Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Retrieved January 6, 2013. 
  6. ^ US. "Butthole Surfers | Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Retrieved January 6, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]