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The Skinny on the Jive: A Dictionary of Vernacular Through the Mid 1900's

Updated on February 27, 2012

Slang, n.-- an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrarily changed words, and extravagant, forced, or facetious figures of speech.

Every generation has it-- a language, a code of words unique to itself. Slang changes from age to age, with new words coming into usage as others go out. For instance, if you had walked up to somebody fifty years ago and expressed your opinion on something as being "cool," chances are they would have thought you were commenting on the state of the thermometer. But they would have just said "swell" instead, so it all evens out-- you would have looked blankly at them the next minute.

Some of them are still in use though-- you've probably been told that someone is a "pistol," a throwback to the '40's, Or perhaps you know they came from the '70's if they make a "pit stop."

Following is a list of a few words that you may have heard and never understood, or you may be surprised to find that there are more you recognize than you thought. Love it, dig it, or whichever generation's word of choice you pick. Try using it sometime and see what happens!

The Nouns

The things to call your friends and stuff.

Teeny-Bopper, n. A teenager, usually referring to one of the female variety, as in The teeny-bopper whizzed by in her jalopy.

Jalopy, n. A car of the hot-rod variety, generally driven by the teeny-bopper or her boyfriend, as in The jalopy rattled down the road, it's red paint job flashing in the sun.

Peepers: Eyes, generally used as compliment of sorts, as in, Jeepers Creepers! Where'd you get them peepers?

The Fall Guy: A framed false perpetrator, as in, John became the fall guy for the prank when he walked into the dark room.

Cheaters: Eyeglasses, generally for reading, as in, As soon as he turned forty, he had to buy a pair of cheaters to read the paper every morning.

Dough: Money, as in, Buying that will cost you a load of dough.

Patsy: A scapegoat or fall guy, as in, He was the patsy for the crime committed, even though he didn't know a thing about it.

You remind me of a man...


Words to use when you can't say what you really think in modern vocabulary.

Knock-out:An label for an extremely beautiful, attractive woman, as in That dame is a knock-out!

Swell: Great, wonderful, etc., the vintage equivalent of 'cool' and 'awesome', as in, "That's swell!"

Chintzy: Cheap, as in, That rattle-trap is a chintzy car.

Cock-eyed: Crazy and ridiculous, as in, Telling that cock-eyed story will get you in trouble!

Fat head: A stupid or dull person, as in, That fat head just ruined my dress!


Take a powder: To leave suddenly, and in short order, as in, If this doesn't suit you, then just take a powder.

Canoodle: To hug and kiss, as in, The bride and groom were canoodling for the photographer.

Crack up: To make someone laugh very hard, as in, Your jokes crack me up!

Ease up: Calm down or slow up, as in, You better ease up or you'll work yourself to death.

Cut out: To leave with haste, as in, I'm going to cut out from the party as soon as midnight strikes.


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    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 5 years ago

      Thanks Jane! It was a fun one to write and research-- some of the terms are absolutely hilarious and make you wish they had never gone out of style. I used the knock-out phrase on some unknowing people once and was left to laugh alone until they I initiated them too. It can be fun to have a different vocabulary to shake things up occasionally.

    • collegatariat profile image

      collegatariat 5 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by qeyler! I'm pretty sure that the teeny-bopper phrase comes from a few decades before, but I'm sure I could be proven wrong. :)

    • Jane Grey profile image

      Ann Leavitt 5 years ago from Oregon

      This hub was a knock-out! I was cracking up about your example of a fat-head. :)