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College Slang From the 1900s That Still Sounds Fresh

Updated on June 30, 2012
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Language makes me smile, and sometimes laugh. Maybe you'll laugh, too!

These college kids look like they really know how to party! (Especially that guy on the right with the over-fluffed plaid bow tie.) Dead darb, amirite?
These college kids look like they really know how to party! (Especially that guy on the right with the over-fluffed plaid bow tie.) Dead darb, amirite? | Source

Where would we be without slang?

Awash in a vast, bromidic labyrinth of proper grammar, correct pronunciation, and appropriate sentence structure, that's where!

So in my never-ending quest to entertain your ear, I'm here to share with you a list of fresh-sounding words that have been in use by college kids since way before your grandmother was born. That's right... before your grandmother was born.

Aptly descriptive words have a habit of transcending generations, so the next time your nephew comes home for spring break and attempts to dazzle you with his tough-guy vernacular, try beating him to the punch.

  • babe: A pretty girl.
  • bitch: The queen in a card deck. (College kids do still play cards, although they wear sweatsuits these days instead of three-piece suits.)
  • cold: certain, definite
  • freak: Someone uncommonly accomplished in any given area, someone who really knows their stuff.
  • kill: To do very well. "How'd you do on that test?" "Oh, I killed it."
  • nail: To completely master something (not in a sexual manner).
  • rag: To tease or disparage something or someone (although "on" is added after "rag". I.e. rag on someone).
  • slam: Disparaging remarks (One of the best things to learn in college is how to hurl a good insult, and slang truly reflects this.)
  • to have something down: To completely master something. (Second best thing to learn in college? How to completely master something!)
  • tacky: Shoddy, cheap.

Dress him up in a bow tie and he could fit right in with a bunch of college students.
Dress him up in a bow tie and he could fit right in with a bunch of college students. | Source

Let's Bring These Back!

The next five words are fun and plenty picturesque. Plus, they pertain to alcohol and attractiveness. Can we bring them back?

  • aped: drunk
  • darb: something attractive
  • dead: 1) perfect, or 2) very
  • irrigate: to drink to excess
  • skate: also to drink to excess

According to college slang in the 1900's...

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Food Terms That Have Nothing to Do With Food

Apparently, food terms were all the rage with college kids back in the nutty 1900s. Here are some terms that likely wouldn't make it today:

  • beef: to make an error
  • bones: dice
  • crust: aggressiveness. (Although I do think this could re-enter the slang lexicon fairly easily.)
  • dough: money
  • gravy: simply the best (similar to "mint" from the 1990s)
  • lunch: something easy
  • pumpkin: one's girlfriend
  • roast: severe criticism
  • stew: anything easy

Early College Slang That Totally Misses the Mark

And now for the losers. 'Sup, losers?

  • belly wash: A soft drink
  • cush: This supposedly meant "money," but is much better suited to certain parts of anatomy. No wonder it fell by the wayside!
  • hell-sticks: Matches. Tsk tsk. There are so many ways this could have gone.
  • horse: Corned beef. Really?
  • waddy: Unattractive, unappealing. Also not fun to say.


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

This is a great book for anyone interested in youth slang and is beautifully organized. I recommend it to any budding lexicographer.


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