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.” A 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! B 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. C 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 D 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. E 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. F 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." G 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 H 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 "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. J 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 K 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 L 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 M 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 N 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. O 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 P 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." Q quiff: a slut or cheap prostitute R 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 S 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 T 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 U unreal: special upchuck: to vomit upstage: snobby V vamp: (1) a seducer of men, an aggressive flirt (2) to seduce voot: money W 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 X Y You slay me!: That's funny! Z zozzled: drunk
2/29/2008 . Edited 3/1/2008 #1
disused account
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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