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Home The Decades 1940s 1940s Slang

1940s Slang

stardust-motel-sign

Pictured above: Sign outside the Stardust, one of a string of 1940s-vintage motels in downtown Redding, California/Highsmith, Carol M., 1946-, photographer/2012/LOC

VAV!/July11, 2013

During the 1940s, Americans knew all too intimately the darkest hours of World War II and its devastating effects...as well as the celebrations of unrestrained jubilation that followed victory.  Ohhhh, yeah, beat me daddy eight to the bar!

While pinup girls were soaring in popularity with the GI-Joes stationed abroad...some 12 million women at home were suddenly thrust into factories building airplanes, ships, and trucks until the men who held these jobs returned home from the war. After a taste of new found income and freedom, many women weren't about to give up their jobs, however.  No siree Bob, a new age had dawned and it was 'top notch" all the way.

The 1940s was an era filled with attitude and the time had come where the veritable 'American Dream" actually did come true. TheGI Bill Of Rights sent returning soldiers head on to a college education and economic prosperity. Families were heading to the suburbs and buying into their first home and white picket fence good life.  Beat me daddy eight to the bar (again)!

The decade was also one of style... from the Victory Roll hair do to the savvy styles they wore and right down to the scimpi bikini that blew the dots off of dominos in 1946 when it premiered!

American's were starstruck and flippin their wigs too, over the likes of Humphrey Bogart,  Rita Hayworth and heck, a lot more guys and baby dolls.  

Jazz and Big Bands were in full 'Swing' and oh what a world!

 

A
Above my pay grade – That's not in my area of expertise so don't ask me
Ace - Top notch expert
Ameche – Make a telephone call
Applesauce – Expletive
Are you rationed? – Are you going steady?
Armored heifer – Canned milk

B
Baby - Affection term for male or female
Baby-doll - Affectionate term for female
Bad business - It's troublesome
Bad news - It's trouble
Bathtub – Sidecar for a motorcycle
Beat - Beyond tired
Beat me daddy eight to the bar - Exclamation of excitement or accomplishment
Be-bop - Dancing
Beef - A complaint
Bender - A drinking spree
Biz - Business
Black-and-white - Policeman's car
Blah - So-so
Blast - Ready set, go, shoot
Blivet - Unexplainable
Blow - While away, spend
Blow a fuse - Bad Temper
Bonkers - Over the top, wild
Book - Arrest
Boondocks - The middle of nowhere
Booze - Liquor
Bop - Dancing
Brainchild – An idea
Broad - A woman
Brush off - To ignore/snub
Bum - Borrow from
Bum rap - Accusation/false
Bupkis - Zero, Nothing
Bust your (his/her) chops - To scold, chastise.
Buy the farm - Croak, die
Buzz - Excitement/Heady/slightly inebrieated

1940s-Its-Your-America

Pictured above: It's your America! Help the ten-year roll call--1940 census, U.S.A/United States. Bureau of the Census,funder/sponsor/1940(U.S. Government Printing Office)Head-and-shoulders portrait of Uncle Sam, writing/Reproduction Number: LC-USZC4-1801/POS - US .B873, no. 1 (C size/Repository: Library of Congress


C
Call-girl - Prostitute
Can - Jail
Carry a Torch – To ardently admire/have a crush on someone
Cat's Meow – The best.
Cheesy - Crude/cheap
Chew out - Berate
Chicken - Coward
Chicken out - Weak
Chopper(s) - Teeth
Chrome-dome - Baldhead
Cock-eyed - Backward/crazy/illogical
Cold - Without a trace
Cold fish -Prude
Cook with gas - To do something right.
Cookie - Cute Girl
Cool down - Chill/Relax/Calm down.
Cop - Policeman.
Corny - Hoakey, tacky
Crack open - Open
Crack up - Funny/Stressed out
Creep - Unfavorable person
Croak - To expire
Crummy - Bad


D

Dame - Woman
Dad-blamed - Expression of surprise
Dang - Expression of surprise
Dang nabbit! - Expression of frustration
Dead hoofer – Poor dancer
Deck out - Dressed in impressive attire
Dish - Goodlooking
Ditch - Depart company/dump someone or something
Dog - Track/follow
Dolly - Woman/girl
Done for - Found out/finished/kaput
Dope - Scoop/information
Dreamboat - Beautiful/handsome individual
Done for - Found out/finished/kaput
Dope - Scoop/information
Dreamboat - Beautiful/handsome individual
Ducky Shincracker - Good dancer

census-road-side-stand-1940

Pictured above: A cross roads store, bar, "juke joint," and gas station in the cotton plantation area, Melrose, La.
Wolcott, Marion Post,, 1910-1990,, photographer/1940 June/Title from FSA or OWI agency caption/Photograph shows Sign on left building: Frenchies Beer Garden; above porch: Frenchies Bar/Transfer from U.S. Office of War Information, 1944.


E
Ease up - Loosen up
Eager beaver – Ready and likely able person
Edgy - Overly alert/anxious/nervous


F
Fat-head - Numbscull
Flap your lips - Talking
Flatfoot - Policeman
Flip your wig - Over the top
Fuddy-Duddy – Old fashioned/not mainstream person

G
G-man - FBI
Gams - Legs
Gas - Great time
Gat - Gatling gun
Gay -Fun Filled
Geezer - Old person
Get a load of - Take a look
Get lost - Buzz off/go Away/dissapear
Get under your skin - Bothersome
Glitterati - People in the spotlight/glitz
Go belly up - Fail
Gobbledygook – Nonsense
Goof - Error
Gorilla - Bully/Bodyguard
Grandstand – Brag/show off
Gravy - Cinch
Greenback - Dollar.
Grill - Interrogate
Gumshoe - Private Investigator


H
Hang it up - Quit
Hard-boiled - Jaded/Tough Man
Hen fruit – eggs
Hepcats - Admirer of jazz/swing - A really happening/hip person
Hey sugar, are you rationed? – Are you going steady?
Hi-de-ho - Hello
Hipster - Original Hippi
Hitch - Marry
Holy mackerel! - Expression of surprise and disbelief
Honcho - Head man/leader
Hooch - Bootleg liquor
Hoofer - Dancer
Horsefeathers - Expletive
Hot damn! - Expression of surprise
Hot diggity dog! - An expression of surprise
Hot dog! - An expression of surprise
Hotrod - Souped-up car
Hotsy-Totsy – Pleasing/flirtacious/the right stuff
Hotshot - Head man/leader/knowledgeable
Hubba Hubba- Expression of approval


I
In cahoots with – To agree and act together
In my book - In my opinion.
In the know - Having access to knowledge


J
Jerk - Less than desirable person
Jitterbug - Style of dance
Joint - Jail
Juvie - Juvenile delinquent.

K
Keen - Appealing/the best
Khaki wacky – Boy crazy
kibosh - A stop (to something).
Kick - Enjoyment/fun
Kicks - Fun
Killer-diller – The best.
King-size - Really huge
Kisser - Mouth
Knock off - To kill/To Quit.
Knocked out - Asleep.
Knuckle sandwich - A punch in the mouth.
Knucklehead - A stupid or foolish person.

L
Let someone have it - To give the full brunt of your thoughts/to shoot someone.
Lettuce - Money
Like crazy - Fast and hard/furious
Line - Exaggerated facts or lie
Lulu - Something beyond the pale, or excellent, outstanding.


M
Make a pass - Seducing
Meatball - A sucker
Megabucks - Wealth
Megillah - Details
Moolah - Money.
Motorized freckles – Insects
Mug - Face.
Mug - To make faces.


N
Nada - Nothing.
Match - Naturally, of course
Merve - Audacity.
Nice going! - Interjection of congratulations.
No dice! - An interjection of rejection.
No fooling - Telling the truth or utterance of surprise and re-assurances
Nuts - Crazy, insane.


O
Off the hook - Exonerated, cleared of guilt.
Old lady - Slang for females, usually wife or mother.
On the nose - Exactly.


P
Pain in the neck - Annoyance.
Pass the buck – Passing responsibility for
Patsy - A scapegoat.
Paw - Hand.
Peanuts - Negligible
Peepers - Eyes.
Pennies from heaven – Money easily earned
Pistol - Person full of themselves
Pull - Influence/Sway.


Q
Quarterback - Lead
Queer - A homosexual.


R
Rag - Teasing
Reach for the sky! - Ganster terminology, raise your hands
Retread - Someone intent on trying an event again
Rhubarb - Argument
Ritzy - High class/appearances of wealth
Rock - A jewel (ring)
Rocks - Ice cubes
Roughhouse - Physical play in a friendly manner
Rub out - Murder
Rug - A toupee
Run out of gas - Lack of interest

S
Sappy - Romantic
Sauced - Intoxicated.
Say - Expression of Surprise
Screw up - Mistake
Sell out - Bribed
Share crop – Promiscuous woman
Sharp - Brilliant/Edgy
Shot - Giving something a go or try
Shut-eye - Sleep.
Sing - Tattle
Skip - To depart
Slug - To hit.
Smoke out - To reveal
Smooch - Romantic kissing
Snap your cap – Anger
Soitently- Expression of agreement/Sure!/Of course!
Soppy - Over romantic and sentimental
Souse - Become inebriated
Speakeasy - Bar that sells bootleg whiskey
Spew - To regurgitate (vomit)
Spew your guts out - To reveal everything
Spiffy - To Look the best
Spivvy - To Dress Up
Spook - A spy
Spook - To Frighten
Spread Out!- Get out of the way!/Stand Clear!/Make way!
Spring - To release
Stacked - A well balanced or over-endowed femal physique
Stick around - To stay nearby
Sticks - A backroads area or lodging
Stompers – Shoes
Straight up - Unembellished facts or alcoholic drink sans ice
Stuck On – Infatuated with someone
Sugar daddy - A wealthy boyfriend
Swanky - Appearances of wealth, grandeur, ritz
Sweet - An ideal situation, person, place or thing
Swell - Excellend/positive/wonderful
Swigger - A drinker

 

T
Take a gander - To Look
Take a powder - To leave.
Tap - To borrow money, etc.
The big house - Federal prison.
Thingamabob - An adjective for something
Through the wringer - A difficult situation/repeated berating or questioning
Tough - Description for a difficult situation
Two cents worth - Opinion


U
Unmentionables - Undergarments
Up for grabs - Anything goes


W
Wacky - Out of sorts/wild
Wad - Money
What's buzzin', cousin? – Expression of greetings/What's new
What's cooking? - Expression of greetings/What's new
What's eating you? - Query for what's the matter
What's up? - Expression of greetings/concern
What of it? - Query for 'What business is it of yours'
Whistl'n (Whistling) Dixie - Wasting Time
Whoopee – Romance/good time
Wise guy- Obnoxious, rude, smart aleck
Wolf - Man with romantic intentions
Wow! -Expression of surprise/delight
Wrack your brain - Examining all facts/evidence
Wacky - Out of sorts/wild


Y

 

 


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Last Updated ( Monday, 08 September 2014 12:15 )  

 

 

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Halloween

Pictured above: The Haunted Lane/ c1889/LOC VAV!/October 22, 2014 The black as night holiday, Halloween, is celebrated on October 31.  Otherwise known as Hallowe'en, All Hallows' Eve, or All Saints' Eve, Halloween is the time of year when children and adults dress as ghosts, scarecrows, vampires, princesses, or their favorite cartoon character and forage into the night, ringing doorbells and knocking on doors.  While visions of ghastly ghouls, witches, pumpkins, jack-o-lanterns and hobgoblins dance mysteriously before the celebrant's eyes, they sing out 'trick or treat' in anticipation of the candy that will most certainly fill the bags they carry. While trick or treaters comb the streets today, a succession of Halloween parades unfold elsewhere in cities and towns and Halloween parties take the night with the bobbing of apples and carving out of pumpkins by roaring bon fires! While today, Halloween is an evening of gaiety, that was not always so.  During the 19th century and a greater part of the 20th century, Halloween earned a bad rap as rogues of ne'er do wells and trouble makers roamed the countryside and city raising a not so welcome raucous. Merrymakers began dressing in imitation of evil spirits and ghastly creatures all while performing mischief making activities in exchange for food and drink...a practice called mumming. From this, trick or treating evolved.  For the greater part, the tricks were harmless, but others engaged in a more serious endeavor of vandalizing homes and businesses. As a result, it was not unusual to find a special police force put in place for the sole purpose of patrolling throughout the evening "Nearly all Halloween traditions may be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead." What are the origins of Halloween? The origins of Halloween began in an ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of the dead. In accordance with the Celtics, their year began on the day that corresponded to November 1st on today's calendar. The first day of the year was the beginning of winter and a time when livestock was kept at closer pastures for the months ahead. As well, the new year was a time when crops were harvested and stored. It was, in short, a day that served as the beginning and ending of an ever eternal cycle. The festival celebrating the first day of the year was called Samhain. The occasion was a very significant holiday, if not the most significant holiday, of the Celts. They believed on Samhain that the ghosts of the dead mingled amongst the living, "because at Samhain the souls of those who had died during the year traveled into the otherworld." - Library of Congress During Samhain, animals were sacrificed and bonfires burned brightly in homage to the dead as they made their final journey into the otherworld, and to keep them at bay from the living. The Celts also believed that Samhain harbored demons, ghosts, and fairies. Samhain has long since transformed into the Halloween we celebrate today.  The transformation came after Christian missionaries attempted to change the religious practices of the Celts and put an end to their "pagan" holidays, such as Samhain.  While sweeping changes were made, in 601 A.D. Pope Gregory the First issued an edict to his missionaries that rather than obliterate native peoples' customs and beliefs,  he adjured them to consecrate it to Christ and allow its continued worship.  Consequently,  the Christian feast of All Saints was assigned to November 1st and the day honored every Christian saint This feast day was meant to substitute for Samhain, and finally,  replace it forever.  While that eradication did not occur, and Samhain never died out entirely, the church tried again to supplant it with a Christian feast day in the 9th century on November 2nd as All Souls Day as a day when the living prayed for the souls of all the dead. Nevertheless, the traditional beliefs and customs lived on, in new guises. All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows, continued the ancient Celtic traditions. The evening prior to All Saints Day was the time of concentrated activity of both human and supernatural entities. People continued to celebrate All Hallows Eve as a time of the wandering dead. As time moved onward, people continued  the legacy of  those spirits' existence (and their masked impersonators) with the practice of  setting out gifts of food and drink. Thereafter, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, which became Hallowe'en. Nearly all Halloween traditions may be traced to the ancient Celtic day of the dead.   The wearing of costumes  and going door to door for trick or treats can be traced to the Celtic period and the first few centuries of the Christian era,  offerings of food and drink were left out to placate the souls of the dead and evil spirits. As time evolved, and centuries lapsed one into another, people began dressing in imitation of evil spirits and ghastly creatures all while performing hi-jinx in exchange for food and drink.   The practice is called mumming, from which the practice of trick-or-treating evolved.   Reference: Library of Congress

 

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