Have another Deadwood quote I can't place. The urban dictionary alludes lamp to various womanly and sexual things, but I can't find the whole phrase anywhere.

In Episode 16, Requiem for the gleet, there is dialog between Cy Tolliver and Mr. Wolcott (George Hearsts man in camp) and Mr. Lee, Mr. Wolcott's answer to Mr. Wu, Swearengen's Celestial opium source.

(Wolcott and Cy are seated in the Bella Union, Mr. Lee is standing next to Wolcott.)

Wolcott: Mr. Lee will provide opium to you exclusively for sale to whites in the camp. You will receive 50% of the gaming proceeds from Celestial's Alley.

Cy: (looks at Wolcott) My men will lamp the take. It will spare Mr. Lee here explaining how slow business was 'cause of Buddha's wedding anniversary. (chuckles)

Wolcott: Your men lamp the take; also on proceeds from Celestial prostitutes. How many do you want?

Cy: How many can you bring? (Wolcott looks to Mr. Lee)

MrLee: How many?

Cy: That- that sounds like a man with an inexhaustible supply. How much English do you have, my friend? (Mr. Lee just looks at Cy.) Maybe when we get to know each other better. (pauses) I'll take a dozen, and I don't want 'em fucked out. I set the rates. The upkeep's on him.

Wolcott: And my understanding is the upkeep is quite minimal.

Cy: Good! Gives him more to spend on Mah-Jongg. (chuckles) I won't question the apparent one-sidedness of our arrangement.

Wolcott: Uh, the arrangement is not yours and Mr. Lee's alone.

Cy: Yes, and in ways that I don't understand, it must benefit you and the man whose name I must never say, to have Mr. Lee in camp; and perhaps Mr. Wu out of it, maybe among the spirits of his ancestors. But what a blessing for me, finally to reach a point in life where I don't feel I have to know. (He chuckles, puff on his cigar.)

So, what can "my men lamp the take" mean when referring to Celestial (Asian) whores?

  • I submitted this at 14:34, I'm betting Walt has an answer in under 20 minutes... :D
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 18:35
  • 1
    Maybe he meant his men will supervise the transactions? Lamp as a verb meant "to beat or hit", but also "to eye".
    – Walt
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 19:21
  • hmm, could be. I like this series a lot. If you take out all of the expletives, there are some decent nuggets (pun intended) of historical accuracies in it. Sure there's a lot of pure exploitative drama, but still, the writer(s) took pains to get a lot of phrasing right.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 19:26
  • Sorry for being late BTW. ;) Won't post this as an answer as I'm unsure of it. It's been a while since I saw Deadwood, but I liked it a great deal. And yes, the dialogue was great. Here's an interesting online overview.
    – Walt
    Commented Sep 25, 2014 at 19:48

4 Answers 4


The Corpus of Historical American English doesn't contain this phrase anywhere in its collection, so it may be a David Milch neologism. However, one thing that may help is to look at how it appears in other languages; for example, in the French DVD the subtitles say "Mes hommes ramasseront les gains," which translates roughly as "my men will collect the winnings"; likewise, in the Portuguese Blu-Ray, the subtitles read: "Os meus homens recebem os lucros," Which means "my men will receive the profits."

  • 1
    This does assume that the translators accurately interpreted the dialogue. For most shows I'd think this was likely, but given Deadwood's highly stylized dialogue, I wouldn't be so sure here. Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 14:37

lamp verb (used with object) 8. Slang. to look at; eye. –dictionary.com

"My men will (keep an) eye (on) the take."


i googled the phrase as soon as I heard it, and stumbled on this post. I'm not sure, but I think it means his men will "watch/monitor the gambling proceeds". The clue is in the next line' "It will spare Mr. Lee here explaining how slow business was 'cause of Buddha's wedding anniversary". He is saying that some nights in a Chinese casino may be slower than other nights for cultural reasons. So Mr. Lee won't have to explain every time that happens, he'll have his men "lamp the take". Take is commonly used to meean the revenue generated by a casino. And a "lamp" would shine light, which would help you see. Again, this is a guess, but I think think it holds water.


I know this has been awhile but I also Googled the phrase and came across this post. Upon reading the answers and rewatching the scene, I came to the conclusion that they also mean collect the money. Before Toliver says "my men will lamp the take", Wolcott is stating how Tolliver will receive 50% of gaming proceeds. This raises concern for Tolliver because of the possible profit. He doesn't trust Lee and his next comment shows just that (It will spare Mr. Lee here explaining how slow business was 'cause of Buddha's wedding anniversary). Wolcott's next statement (Your men lamp the take; also on proceeds from Celestial prostitutes) confirms the word "take" means "proceeds". The word "Lamp" got me thinking about how in the series we see a man lighting the street lamps at dark. This seems to be his responsibility so he would need to "watch over" the lamps at certain times of day. This could be where the phrase came from. "lamp the take" turns into "watch over the proceeds". I don't know if it's right but it makes the most sense to me...

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