ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

1940s Slang: Hepcats and All That Jive

Updated on August 3, 2012

What is Jive?

Jive is black street vernacular that migrated its way into the youth culture along with swing music and jitterbugging during the late 1930s.

Swing musicians were the main bearers of this colorful way of speaking, and the mainstream youth ate it up. What's not to like about Cab Calloway's speech?

Although jive didn't last much past the 1950s, there's no doubt that it paved the way for the hipster and beat generations of the late 1950s, the hippie movement of the 1960s, and even hip-hop and rap in the the 1980s and 90's.

Man dressed in zoot suit style
Man dressed in zoot suit style | Source

Good Things in the 1940s

Every generation comes up with ways of describing good things, and the 1940s was no different. Who can forget smooth and hep to the jive? But there were many other slang words pertaining to good stuff. These adjectives were:

alreet, anxious, back, brutal, cagey, cheezle-peezle, darby, eager, elite, even, Fifth Avenue, frantic, geetchie, glassy, gone, groovy or grooby, hard, home-cooked, hot stuff, icy, in there, in the groove, killer-diller, kopasetic, luscious (my personal favorite!), lush, mad mellow, messy, murder, neat, on fire, out of the oven, out of this world, potent, rare, reet, righteous, rugged, sharp, shiny, shrewd, shanky, sock, spoony, super-duper, supersolid, supercolossal, the most, vanny, and wizard.

Zoot Suit Riot?

The "jive" speak of the 1940s was also greatly influenced by bodily associations or identification with one's clothing -- hence, eyes were blinkers, a tie or collar was a choker, and shoes were kicks.

Other slang for clothing and body parts were:

  • belt: squeezer
  • boots: treaders
  • hand: meat hook
  • hat: dicer, sky piece, chimney (top hat)
  • jewelry (ostentatious): headlights
  • pants: pegs, striders
  • pearl necklace: tears
  • pocket: coffee bag, hideaway, insider, kick, mouse
  • tie: choker
  • shoes: barkers, kicks, stomps, waders
  • suit: racket jacket, vine
  • sunglasses: cogs
  • suspenders: pulleys, straps
  • teeth: crumb crunchers
  • zoot suit: a wild-colored suit with full knees and pegged ankles, hat with a four-inch brim and feather, and a long gold watch chain lower than the jacket hem

World War II Slang

World War II gave birth to lots of slang brought home from the battlefield. Anti-authoritarianism is ever present in the following youthful military slang of the period:

Battlefield Slang

  • badgy: an underage enlistee
  • blotto: dead
  • check out: to die
  • go-away kiss: bullet
  • grease ape: mechanic
  • juice jerker:electrician
  • in the drink: downed at sea
  • lead pill: bullet
  • meat wagon: ambulance
  • popsickle: motorcycle
  • roller skate: a tank

Mess Hall Slang:

  • bags of mystery: sausages
  • black strap: coffee
  • chicken berry: egg
  • cook: hash burner
  • cow juice: milk
  • dishwasher: pearl diver
  • goldfish: canned salmon
  • grass: salad
  • looseners: prunes
  • red paint: ketchup
  • slop house: mess hall

Girls and Boys

Girls and boys had their own vernacular to describe the opposite sex... whether they were appealing, or the opposite.

Girls spoke of attractive boys as drooly, groovy, heaven sent, and swoony. A girl's true love could be her big moment, bunny boy, flutter, Romeo, or S.P. (Secret Passion) -- while less-than-attractive boys were known as dogfaces, void coupons, or a stupor man.

Boys called cute girls angel cake, bim, bree, butterfly, dilly, fly chicks, pigeons, or firm and round and fully packed. Not-too-cute girls were described as battle, crate, or scrag.


  • Dalzell, Tom. Flappers 2 Rappers:American Youth Slang. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1996.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey, Blue Sidewinder! Great to see you :^) and thanks for the compliment. I plan to do some more of these decade-specific slang hubs... I like them a lot, too!

    • Blue Sidewinder profile image

      Evan Eulie 

      7 years ago

      Excellent hub. I love history, especially when it pertains to language trends and slang. Very groovy.

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks, Docmo. I had a lot of fun writing this one, too. The 40's must have been one crazy time! Thanks so much for voting... it's always great to see you. :^)

    • Docmo profile image

      Mohan Kumar 

      7 years ago from UK

      As a student of language and its foibles I love this hub. You've taught me a lots of 40's slang with a period back history, Rachel. This is really informative, fun and a shade nostalgic too. voted up!

    • theclevercat profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Vega 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi, tillson! Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment... in my opinion, the lyrical quality of jive is what makes it so compelling. Great to hear that there are others out there with the same love for it. Thanks for the votes, they are appreciated. :-)

      I may add a section on hip vs hep as well... should make for a lively discussion!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      I voted this up and interesting because you've captured a piece of history for everyone to read. Jive did carry into the fifties and its definitely a part of who we were. You've given some background and added some words with their definitions so a new generation can read what was said.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)