The 70s were known for bell-bottoms and rock and roll, the 80s for outrageous fashion trends (think big colorful hair and punk rock) and the 20s was known as the Roaring Twenties or the Jazz Age. Known as the beginning of fusion music and pop culture, it was embossed with the idea to create a sense of freedom of expression and cultural shock through song and dance.
While Jazz has captured followers in the millions across the globe, a lesser-known aspect of the 1920s was its innovative use of slang in the English language. As the English language evolved over time, some slang disappeared while very few survived the exodus of change.
Join us as we take a look at some interesting English slang from the 1920s as we celebrate 100 years since they came to life.
Meaning: a buzzkill or mood dampener
The 1920s were a period of relief and joy post the era of World War 1 which had plagued the world in darkness. The early 1920s saw an economic boom which resulted in most sections of the society doing well financially. The economic prosperity resulted in people living life to the fullest. Anyone who did not was deemed as someone who didn’t have fun or was a ‘bluenose’.
Example: “He complains about long drives and the traffic. Let’s not call the bluenose for the road trip or else he will ruin it for all of us.”
Meaning: Used to signify something that is acceptable, brings someone delight or pleasing
Used to echo a positive sentiment, ‘berries’ was used as an alternative for ‘bee’s knees’ when one encountered something that was pleasing or brought happiness to another.
Example: We have free wifi here. That’s absolute berries!
Meaning: Spectacles or reading glasses
Example: I can’t see the show from here. It’s time for a new pair of cheaters.
Meaning: Something deemed wonderful or splendid
Another alternative for ‘berries’ used to convey delight or reinforce a positive tone
Example: When the boss gives you a raise or you win a few dollars in the local lotto, you say “Well that’s darb”
Meaning: a slacker
Used to address someone who sits around doing nothing all day, a dewdropper can be used in banter with friends during a game of football or with someone who refuses to clean up their trash.
6) Don’t take any wooden nickels
Meaning: Do not do anything dangerous or foolish
An ideal phrase to use for those who are prone to making unwise decisions, it is the 1920s version of “don’t do anything stupid!”
Example: Make sure you don’t take any wooden nickels during your boy’s night out.
7) Big Cheese
Meaning: An important person; a person with significant influence
Here’s one for the bosses or those working under one.
Example: “Hey, the big cheese has left early today. Let’s pack up and go home early for once.”
8) Go chase yourself
Meaning: “Get out of here”
Used to convey something either in shock or to be dismissive about something, go chase yourself is a good change up to the plain old ‘‘go away!’’
Meaning: A wedding or an engagement ring
A common saying at the time, it was used to portray the restrictions that were to face an individual getting engaged or married by his or her significant other. Got a friend getting engaged? Equip yourself with this word, fresh from the 1920s.
Example: Mike is going to propose and soon to be handcuffed.
10) Boiler or Bucket
Meaning: A car
Purchased a classic from the vintage automobile show? Why not invite your friends for a ride in your bucket.
Example: When are you taking me for a ride in your new boiler.
11) Noodle juice
An intriguing twist for a simple beverage, noodle juice was one of the earliest slang from the1920s that lives on to date.
Example: Would you like some sugar in your noddle juice?
12) Oliver Twist
Meaning: A good dancer or mover, well-co-ordinated.
Next time someone breaks into a dance, or ‘got the moves’, use this term from the Jazz Age to convey your appreciation!
Example: Did you see him at the club last night? He is an Oliver Twist
13) Tell it to Sweeney
Meaning: Used to convey the message of disbelief
Know a person who loves to boast or cook up stories? Surprise him or her with this phrase and enjoy the confused look! Do look out for anyone named Sweeney near you 🙂
Meaning: A car or truck that used to consume serious amounts of petrol
Relevant to this day for those cars and bikes that guzzle down petrol, this was the slang used in the 1920s to denote vehicles that consumed petrol or was deemed as non-economical. The next time you hear someone complaining about the fuel prices, you know that person is driving a hayburner.
Example: Sara’s new boiler is a hayburner
15) Iron one’s shoelaces
Meaning: to be excused, mostly for the restroom
Example: Pardon me, but I must go iron my shoelaces.
Meaning: Used to convey everything is alright or okay
Took a small tumble without injuring yourself? Use ‘‘I’m all Jake’’ to brush off that embarrassing tumble.
17) Know your onions
Meaning: To be aware, to be well informed
Example: Watch the news and read the papers to know your onions.
Meaning: Dollar bills, cash, money
19) Now you’re on the trolley
Meaning: Now you’ve got it right
Example: I went to the party with a bottle of ‘hooch’
Getting confused with the crazy fun slang from the 1920s? Keep this list handy and keep practicing! You’re a few words away from someone saying ‘‘Now you’re on the trolley’’
So there is our list of popular slang from the 1920s we believe should make a comeback in 2020. What better way to mark 100 years of an era that changed life as we know it. Which slang from the 1920s are you looking forward to using in 2020?