In the 1920s, a distinctive youth culture emerged for the first time in the West. Youths of earlier may also have been rebellious, but within limits - the wild and roaring twenties, on the other hand, had few constraints and proved a shock to the older generation. The Flaming Youth alienated themselves from the older generation by their new clothes, hairstyles, music, dancing, and speech. A myriad of new words and phrases became popular among them, and a whole new language was born. From then on, every generation would have "their" words, which would identify them against other groups.
These youths were the first that were inspired by mass media. Radio, cinema and a growing number of magazines scattered new expressions much faster than they had been before, and so a dialect of age instead of geography was created. The morals of temperance being smashed as kids openly broke the law of Prohibition are reflected in this language, as are new partying styles, and an emerging hard-boiled gangster patois which gained a bit of fame and glamour along with the gangsters of the era.
The words included in this list were not all coined in the twenties, but were in common use then. The list is supposed to give a picture of how many young, hep people spoke back then. Some words coined or grown popular in the 1920s have spread into common use today, while others have faded into ridicule. The gentle noder is encouraged to peruse the following lists, arranged by category, and make use of them in their daily speech whenever they see feet.
Berries - attractive or pleasing, as in "It's the berries."
Big Cheese - the most important or influential person, boss.
Copacetic - wonderful, fine, all right
Darb - an excellent person or thing, for example someone that can be counted on to pay the bill.
Dog's bollocks - a somewhat daring superlative.
Hoot - something very amusing.
Hotsy-totsy - just right, perfect
Jake - OK, as in "Everything is Jake."
Lettuce - money, that is, green notes. Same as kale, cabbage, long green, folding green.
Oodles - a lot.
Ritzy - elegant (from the hotel).
Spiffy - an elegant appearance, fashionable. Same as Swanky.
Swell - wonderful. Also a rich man.
The bee's knees - wonderful, sweet, or extraordinary. Similarly the cat's meow,
the cat's pajamas and a host of other animal oddities.
The Real McCoy - genuine article
All Wet - an erroneous idea or individual.
Applesauce - an expletive, as in "Ah applesauce!"
Baloney - nonsense.
Bluenose - an excessively puritanical person, a prude, creator of the Blue Nozzle Curse.
Bronx Cheer - a loud noise, used to indicate disapproval. Either a boo or a raspberry.
Bunk - nonsense.
Dumb Dora - a stupid female.
Flat Tire - a dull witted, insipid, disappointing date. Same as pill, pickle, drag, rag, oilcan.
Gold Digger - a woman who associates with or marries a man for his wealth.
Gyp - cheat.
Heebie-jeebies - the jitters, fear, goosebumps.
Horsefeathers - term of derision for nonsense or lies.
Lounge Lizard - a guy that is sexually active.
Mrs. Grundy - priggish or extremely tight-laced person.
Quiff - Slut or a cheap prostitute.
Rag-a-muffin - dirty or disheveled person.
Reuben - simple country bumpkin.
Runaround - delaying action.
Scram - ask someone to leave immediately.
Tell it to Sweeney - tell it to someone who'll believe it.
Wet blanket - solemn person, someone who puts a dampener on someone else's fun.
- old, worn out car.
- a private cab.
- a troublesome car.
- old car.
- a T-Ford
, illegal spirits.
- one who traded in alcohol during Prohibition.
- to murder.
- victim of a frame.
- to give false evidence, to set up someone.
- a tough, strong guy.
- a gangster's girl.
- to arrest.
- a hired gun.
Take for a Ride
- to drive off with someone in order to bump them off.
Drinking & Partying
- going out with someone you do not know.
- male talkfest, gossip, stories of sexual exploits.
- being thrown out from an establishment.
- a dance, or to go to a dance.
Drag a Blind
- take a blind date to a dance.
- an uninvited guest.
- an intoxicating beverage such as alcohol
- establishment where hard liquor is sold, bar.
Hair of the Dog
- alcohol shot.
- possessing a hip flask of moonshine.
- a club, usually selling alcohol.
- movie theatre.
- someone who attends all of his or her school's social functions.
See a man about a dog
- go somewhere to drink.
- illicit bar selling bootleg liquor.
- drunk. The same as canned, corked, tanked, primed, scrooched, jazzed, zozzled
, lit, potted, ossified
or fried to the hat
- To vomit when one has drunk too much.
- To have a good time.
Feelings & Relationships
- no kissing or making out, sorry.
Carry a Torch
- hopelessly in love.
- an infatuation, falling in love.
- young woman's older lover.
Get a wiggle on
- get laid.
- insincere flattery.
- friendly form of address.
- to marry.
- kissing with passion
- sex or woman considered sexual partner.
- same as neck, but more so.
- the backseat of a car. A parent's worst nightmare.
- having a crush on.
- steady girlfriend or
Style & Appearance
- not-yet-adolescent girl. (German)
- shockingly short hairstyle for girls.
- An effete ladies' man, or someone who attends tea parties.
- human feet.
- well dressed, but in a self-conscious and conspicuous manner.
- a guy that hangs around on a street corner trying to pick up girls.
- a stylish, brash, hedonistic young woman with short skirts and shorter hair.
Also Jazz baby
- a woman's legs.
- to snub
- sex appeal
- a normal college student.
- a perfect dresser.
- the average student or below
- attractive or appealing.
- a person easily convinced or seduced.
- woman with sex appeal (from the movie Queen of Sheba
or Clara Bow
- man with sex appeal (from the Valentino
- well dressed without qualification.
- face that doesn't need any make-up.
- over-dressed or dressed oddly.