Speak Easy
1920s America...where the gin joints were underground, the liquor was fine, women enjoyed life, and organized crime was born.
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Danielle Thamasa

-ski, -avous: these are two suffixes (derived from Russian and French, respectively) used in flapper parlance to “dress up” normal words. The suffix could be added to any word. There was only one hard and fast rule: if you responded to a question containing a suffix, you had to use the same part of speech somehow. Example: “Would you like a drink-avous?” “No thanks, I’m on the wagon-avous.” “The sun-ski is so bright!” “Put on a hat-ski.”


ab-so-lute-ly: affirmative

all wet: incorrect

And how!: I strongly agree!

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

apple sauce: flattery, nonsense, i.e.. "Aw, applesauce!"

Attaboy!: well done!; also, Attagirl!


baby: sweetheart. Also denotes something of high value or respect.

baby grand: heavily built man

baby vamp: an attractive or popular female, student.

balled up: confused, messed up.

baloney: Nonsense!

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

bearcat: a hot-blooded or fiery girl

beat it: scram, get lost.

beat one's gums: idle chatter

bee's knee's: terrific; a fad expression. Dozens of "animal anatomy" variations existed: elephant's eyebrows, gnat's whistle, eel's hips, etc.

beef: a complaint or to complain.

beeswax: business, i.e. "None of your beeswax." Student.

bell bottom: a sailor

bent: drunk

berries: (1) perfect (2) money

big cheese: important person

big six: a strong man; from auto advertising, for the new and powerful six cylinder engines.

bimbo: a tough guy

bird: general term for a man or woman, sometimes meaning "odd," i.e. "What a funny old bird."

blotto (1930 at the latest): drunk, especially to an extreme

blow: (1) a crazy party (2) to leave

bohunk: a derogatory name for an Eastern European immigrant. Out of use by 1930, except in certain anti-immigrant circles, like the KKK.

bootleg: illeagal liquor

breezer (1925): a convertable car

bubs: breasts

bug-eyed Betty (1927): an unattractive girl, student.

bull: (1) a policeman or law-enforcement official, including FBI. (2) nonesense, bullshit (3) to chat idly, to exaggerate

bump off: to kill

bum's rush, the: ejection by force from an establishment

bunny (1925): a term of endearment applied to the lost, confused, etc. Often coupled with "poor little."

bus: any old or worn out car.

bushwa: a euphemism for "bullshit"

Butt me.: I'll take a cigarette.


cake-eater: a lady's man

caper: a criminal act or robbery.

cat's meow: great, also "cat's pajamas" and "cat's whiskers"

cash: a kiss

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

cast a kitten: to have a fit. Used in both humorous and serious situations. i.e. "Stop tickling me or I'll cast a kitten!" Also, "have kittens."

chassis (1930): the female body

cheaters: eye glasses

check: Kiss me later.

chewing gum: double-speak, or ambiguous talk.

choice bit of calico: attractive female, student.

chopper: a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun, due to the damage its heavy .45 caliber rounds did to the human body.

chunk of lead: an unnattractive female, student.

ciggy: cigarette

clam: a dollar

coffin varnish: bootleg liquor, often poisonous.

copacetic: excellent

crasher: a person who attends a party uninvited

crush: infatuation

cuddler: one who likes to make out


daddy: a young woman's boyfriend or lover, especially if he's rich.

daddy-o: a term of address; strictly an African-American term.

dame: a female. Did not gain widespread use until the 1930's.

dapper: a Flapper's dad

darb: a great person or thing. "That movie was darb."

dead soldier: an empty beer bottle.

deb: a debutant.

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

dick: a private investigator. Coined around 1900, the term finds major recognition in the 20's.

dinge: a derogatory term for an African-American. Out of use by 1930.

dogs: feet

doll: an attractive woman.

dolled up: dressed up

don't know from nothing: doesn't have any information

don't take any wooden nickels: don't do anything stupid.

dope: drugs, esp. cocaine or opium.

doublecross: to cheat, stab in the back.

dough: money

drugstore cowboy: A well-dressed man who loiters in public areas trying to pick up women.

dry up: shut up, get lost

ducky: very good

dumb Dora: an absolute idiot, a dumbbell, especially a woman; flapper.


earful: enough

edge: intoxication, a buzz. i.e. "I've got an edge."

egg: a person who lives the big life

Ethel: an effeminate male.


face stretcher: an old woman trying to look young

f a g: a cigarette. Also, starting around 1920, a homosexual.

fella: fellow. As common in its day as "man," "dude," or "guy" is today. "That John sure is a swell fella."

fire extinguisher: a chaperone

fish: (1) a college freshman (2) a first timer in prison

flat tire: a bore

flivver: a Model T; after 1928, also could mean any broken down car.

floorflusher: an insatiable dancer

flour lover: a girl with too much face powder

fly boy: a glamorous term for an aviator

For crying out loud!: same usage as today

four-flusher: a person who feigns wealth while mooching off others.

fried: drunk

futz: a euphemism for "fuck." i.e. "Don't futz around."


gams (1930): legs

gatecrasher: see "crasher"

gay: happy or lively; no connection to homosexuality. See "fag."

Get Hot! Get Hot!: encouragement for a hot dancer doing her thing

get-up (1930): an outfit.

get a wiggle on: get a move on, get going

get in a lather: get worked up, angry

giggle water: booze

gigolo: dancing partner

gimp: cripple; one who walks with a limp. Gangster Dion O’Bannion was called Gimpy due to his noticeable limp.

gin mill: a seller of hard liquor; a cheap speakeasy

glad rags: "going out on the town" clothes

go chase yourself: get lost, scram.

gold-digger (1925): a woman who pursues men for their money.

goods, the: (1) the right material, or a person who has it (2) the facts, the truth, i.e. "Make sure the cops don't get the goods on you."

goof: (1) a stupid or bumbling person, (2) a boyfriend, flapper.

goofy: in love

grummy: depressed

grungy: envious


hair of the dog (1925): a shot of alcohol.

half seas over: drunk, also "half under."

handcuff: engagement ring

hard-boiled: tough, as in, a tough guy, ie: "he sure is hard-boiled!"

harp: an Irishman

hayburner: (1) a gas guzzling car (2) a horse one loses money on

heavy sugar (1929): a lot of money

heebie-jeebies (1926): "the shakes," named after a hit song.

heeler: a poor dancer

high hat: a snob.

hip to the jive: cool, trendy

hit on all sixes: to perform 100 per cent; as "hitting on all six cylinders"; perhaps a more common variation in these days of four cylinder engines was "hit on all fours". See "big six".

hooch: booze

hood (late 20s): hoodlum

hooey: bullshit, nonsense. Very popular from 1925 to 1930, used somewhat thereafter.

hop: (1) opiate or marijuana (2) a teen party or dance

hope chest: pack of cigarettes

hopped up: under the influence of drugs

Hot dawg!: Great!; also: "Hot socks!" Rarely spelled as shown outside of flapper circles until popularized by 1940s comic strips.

hot sketch: a card or cut-up


"I have to go see a man about a dog.": "I've got to leave now," often meaning to go buy whiskey.

icy mitt: rejection

insured: engaged

iron (1925): a motorcycle, among motorcycle enthusiasts

iron one’s shoelaces: to go to the restroom

ish kabibble (1925): a retort meaning "I should care." Was the name of a musician in the Kay Kayser Orchestra of the 1930s.


jack: money

Jake: great, ie. "Everything's Jake."

Jalopy: a dumpy old car

Jane: any female

java: coffee

jeepers creepers: "Jesus Christ!"

jerk soda: to dispense soda from a tap; thus, "soda jerk"

jigaboo: a derogatory term for an African-American

jitney: a car employed as a private bus. Fare was usually five-cents; also called a "nickel."

joe: coffee

Joe Brooks: a perfectly dressed person; student.

john: a toilet

joint: establishment

juice joint: a speakeasy


kale: money

keen: appealing

kike: a derogatory term for a Jewish person

killjoy: a solemn person

knock up: to make pregnant

know one's onions: to know one's business or what one is talking about


lay off: cut the crap

left holding the bag: (1) to be cheated out of one's fair share (2) to be blamed for something

let George do it: a work evading phrase

level with me: be honest

limey: a British soldier or citizen, from World War I

line: a false story, as in "to feed one a line."

live wire: a lively person

lollapalooza (1930): a humdinger

lollygagger: (1) a young man who enjoys making out (2) an idle person


manacle: wedding ring

mazuma: money

Mick: a derogatory term for Irishmen

milquetoast (1924): a very timid person; from the comic book character Casper Milquetoast, a hen-pecked male.

mind your potatoes: mind your own business.

mooch: to leave

moonshine: homemade whiskey

mop: a handkerchief

munitions: face powder


neck: to kiss passionately

necker: a girl who wraps her arms around her boyfriend's neck.

nifty: great, excellent

noodle juice: tea

nookie: sex

Not so good!: I personally disapprove.

"Now you're on the trolley!": Now you've got it, now you're right.


ofay: a commonly used Black expression for Whites

off one's nuts: crazy

Oh yeah!: I doubt it!

old boy: a male term of address, used in conversation with other males. Denoted acceptance in a social environment. Also "old man" "old fruit." "How's everything old boy?"

Oliver Twist: a skilled dancer

on a toot: a drinking binge

on the lam: fleeing from police

on the level: legitimate, honest

on the up and up: on the level

orchid: an expensive item

ossified: drunk

owl: a person who's out late


palooka: (1) a below-average or average boxer (2) a social outsider, from the comic strip character Joe Palooka, who came from humble ethnic roots

panic: to produce a big reaction from one's audience

panther sweat (1925): whiskey

percolate: (1) to boil over (2) As of 1925, to run smoothly; "perk"

pet: necking, only more; making out

petting pantry: movie theater

petting party: one or more couples making out in a room or auto

piffle: baloney

piker: (1) a cheapskate (2) a coward

pill: (1) a teacher (2) an unlikable person

pinch: to arrest. Pinched: to be arrested.

pinko: liberal

pipe down: stop talking

prom-trotter: a student who attends all school social functions

pos-i-lute-ly: affirmative, also "pos-i-tive-ly"

punch the bag: small talk

putting on the ritz: after the Ritz Hotel in Paris (and its namesake Caesar Ritz); doing something in high style. Also "ritzy."


quiff: a slut or cheap prostitute


rag-a-muffin: a dirty or disheveled individual

rain pitchforks: a downpour

razz: to make fun of

Real McCoy: a genuine item

regular: normal, typical, average; "Regular fella."

Reuben: an unsophisticated country bumpkin. Also "rube"

Rhatz!: How disappointing!

rub: a student dance party

rubes: money or dollars

rummy: a drunken bum


sap: a fool, an idiot. Very common term in the 20s.

says you: a reaction of disbelief

scratch: money

screaming meemies: the shakes

screw: get lost, get out, etc. Occasionally, in pre 1930 talkies (such as The Broadway Melody) screw is used to tell a character to leave. One film features the line "Go on, go on -- screw!"

screwy: crazy; "You're screwy!"

sheba: one's girlfriend

sheik: one's boyfriend

shiv: a knife

simolean: a dollar

sinker: a doughnut

sitting pretty: in a prime position

skirt: an attractive female

smarty: a cute flapper

smoke-eater: a smoker

smudger: a close dancer

sockdollager: an action having a great impact

so's your old man: a reply of irritation

spade: yet another derogatory term for an African-American

speakeasy: a bar selling illeagal liquor

spill: to talk

splifficated: drunk

spoon: to neck, or at least talk of love

static: (1) empty talk (2) conflicting opinion

stilts: legs

struggle: modern dance

stuck on: in love, student.

sugar daddy: older boyfriend who showers girlfriend with gifts in exchange for sex

swanky: (1) good (2) elegant

swell: (1) good (2) a high class person


take someone for a ride: to take someone to a deserted location and murder them.

tasty: appealing

teenager: not a common term until 1930; before then, the term was "young adults."

tell it to Sweeney: tell it to someone who'll believe it.

tight: attractive

Tin Pan Alley: the music industry in New York, located between 48th and 52nd Streets

tomato: a "ripe" female

torpedo: a hired thug or hitman


unreal: special

upchuck: to vomit

upstage: snobby


vamp: (1) a seducer of men, an aggressive flirt (2) to seduce

voot: money


water-proof: a face that doesn't require make-up

wet blanket: see Killjoy

wife: dorm roomate, student.

What's eating you?: What's wrong?

whoopee: wild fun

Woof! Woof!: ridicule



You slay me!: That's funny!


zozzled: drunk

2/29/2008 . Edited 3/1/2008 #1
Lee's ghost re-born
You forgot my fav. word! I still use it today a little cuz its fun to say.

Ossified: Drunk

3/1/2008 #2
Danielle Thamasa
I did not make this list up. I found it on-line.
3/1/2008 #3
Danielle Thamasa

Should probably add this to the list.

barney-mugging: sex

10/29/2010 #4
J.A. Fletcher

Jazz - Sex

10/29/2010 #5
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