from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A police nightstick used originally in Baltimore, Maryland. An espantoon differs from a nightstick in its attached leather hand strap from the espantoon can be swung.


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  • Very likely, c_b.

    November 1, 2008

  • Maybe from espontoon?

    October 31, 2008

  • I think it's the same thing, though there may be some differences in the hand carving. I searched Google images, but couldn't find a picture. Another interesting word is truncheon.

    October 31, 2008

  • Sounds like a billy club.

    October 31, 2008

  • A policeman's nightstick, especially in Baltimore:

    "Baltimore PO-lice have at least two terms we can call our own. You can still be yoked -- an unarmed mugging from behind -- and sometimes you hear an old-time dispatcher send an officer to a "yoking in progress." I'll admit, it's rare, but I heard one just the other day.

    "And we own the word "espantoon" -- the wooden, hand-carved nightstick. It's defined in Webster's, Third Edition, as "Baltimore, a policeman's club" though I haven't seen it in print in years."

    – Peter Hermann, assistant city editor for crime coverage, The Sun (Baltimore), "Even more police jargon," 30 Oct. 2008, on his blog.

    In a comment on John McIntyre's Sun blog on language usage, Bruce Robinson describes this club more fully:

    "Espantoon (n) - intricately carved and decorated piece of equipment carried by police officers of a long gone era. It was reminiscent of a mace, an ancient symbol of authority now seen principally at graduation ceremonies. In addition to the decorative carving, the espantoon was fitted with a leather strap through which an officer could fit his fingers and improve his grip on the equipment. The strap also contained a small metal swivel that permitted the officer to swing the espantoon and twirl it to the amusement of small children. Like its symbolic predecessor, the mace could also be used to inflict authoritative pain. Because of its long history, it rarely took more than a display of the equipment to obtain grudging compliance from the people talking to an officer so equipped. In part, due to the threatening appearance of the espantoon, it has been replaced. modern police officers carry a telescoping steel rod that carries no symbolic authority. It is used only to inflict pain. Progress?"

    October 31, 2008