Language of the 20's By Ash and Cat

The Roaring Twenties and Jazz Age

The twenties was the first modern era to emphasize youth culture over the tastes of older generations. Many new words and phrases came to be during this time period. This new “language” set the tone for the period of youth known as both the “Roaring Twenties” and the “Jazz Age.”

Youth Culture

Youth culture became popular during this time due to events such as post-war prosperity and rejection to Prohibition. With Prohibition, new slang needed to be developed in order to make illegal transactions possible: both secretive and without detection by the authorities. Speakeasy language was much more evocative and if you didn’t use the slang of the time, you were doing something wrong. Additionally with new flapper culture, liberated young women create many new words and phrases associated with their party lifestyles.

Why is Slang Used?

It was mainly used to keep secrets amongst certain groups. It conceals meaning from parents, identifies you as part of a specific group, defies authority (talking like a rebel), and excludes other peer groups that don’t know what the slang words translates too.

7 Topics That Every Generation Uses Slang For:

1. Girls/Guys

Then: Doll/Bo Now: Babe/Bro

2. Drinking/Drunkenness

Then: Bent Now: Hammered

3. Greetings

Then: Hey Doll Now: Yo

4. Sex (sex appeal)

Then: Ginchy Now: Fine

5. Popular Kids

Then: Help Cats Now: Cliques

6. Unpopular Kids

Then: Saps Now: Losers

7. Money

Then: Jack Now: Dough

Technological Advances Added New Words

As the car industry was on the rise and nearly every family owned a car, new car-specific slang was created. For example, in 1923, “step on it” as in “to go faster” was created. Later in 1924, “jalopy” as in “an old, run down car” was made, and following suit in 1927, “back seat driver” as in “a person who constantly nags, addresses or corrects the driver” was produced.

Likewise, with the rise of motion pictures and the film industry, new slang was introduced into everyday language. In the 1920’s you could see a “flick” on the “silver screen.”

Examples of 1920s Slang

Abe's Cabe: five-dollar bill

Ankle: to walk, i.e.. "Let's ankle!"

Bank's Closed: no kissing or making out i.e.. "Sorry, mac, bank's closed."

Cash or Check?: Do we kiss now or later?

Dewdropper: a young man who sleeps all day and doesn't have a job

Fire Extinguisher: a chaperone

Fivver: a Model T; after 1928, could mean any broken down car

Ish Kabibble: a retort meaning "I should care," from the name of a musician in the Kay Kayser Orchestra

Jalopy: a dumb old car

Know One's Onions: to know one's business or what one is talking about

Mazuma: money

Putting on the Ritz: after the Ritz Motel in Paris; doing something in high style; also, "ritzy"

Rag-A-Muffin: a dirty or disheveled individual

Razz: to make fun of

Screaming Meemies: the shakes

Sheib: one's girlfriend

Sheik: one's boyfriend

Sinker: doughnut

Sockdollager: an action having an impact

Teenager: not a common term until 1930; before then, the term was "young adult"

Tell It To Sweeny: tell it to someone who'll believe it

Trip for Biscuits: wild goose chase

Vamp: a seducer of men; an aggressive flirt

Zozzled: drunk

Follow Along!

Speakeasy: a bar selling illegal liquor

Swanky: elegant

Darb: a great person or thing

Hooch: booze

Egg: a man

Bimbo: a tough guy

Drugstore Cowboy: a well-dressed man who loiters in public areas trying to pick up women

Dry Up: shut up; get lost

Grungy: jealous

Phonus Balonus: nonsense

Sap: fool

Says You: reaction of disbelief

Baby Vamp: an attractive or popular female

Cake-Eater: a lady's man

Hooey: bullshit; nonsense

Mind Your Potatoes: mind your own business

Jeepers Creepers: "Jesus Christ!"

Handcuff: engagement ring

Insured: engaged

Petting: kissing; making out

Smarty: a cute flapper

Bent: drunk

Skirt: an attractive female

"You Slay Me!": "That's funny!"

Mooch: leave

Joint: establishment


Created with images by tpsdave - "washington blizzard winter" • foundin_a_attic - "1920s seaside brown album 88383737" • foundin_a_attic - "img811" • Melent - "male retro 1920" • janetmck - "Family cycling" • foundin_a_attic - "img724"

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