Flapper's dictionary: 1922

Discuss

49 Responses to “Flapper's dictionary: 1922”

  1. deckard68 says:

    An enviable era. Though I suppose there were drawbacks along the lines of short life expectancies and rudimentary medical abilities… and you’d really need to like alcohol to enjoy the era properly. Nonetheless, fantastic haircuts, great style, wonderful liberated attitudes… You’d have people lining up to be reincarnated into that era, if reincarnation worked that way.

  2. osmo says:

    Hehehe could someone please explain why an old lady with a mustasche is a Trotzky? Was it because elderly russian ladies (who may have been named Trotskij or something like that) tended to have mustasches? Its just a very… well historicly relevant name of the era.

  3. Verre says:

    The best part is when life imitates art. I was so delighted when I first read about the grunge slang hoax that I’ve been using “harsh realm” and “cob nobbler” ever since.

  4. spost says:

    This is the best thing Boing Boing has ever posted.

  5. Emo Pinata says:

    “Bee’s Knees–See “Cat’s Pajamas””

    I knew it!

  6. Emo Pinata says:

    Boob Tickler—Girl who entertains father’s out-of-town customers

    How dare you cut the article short before boob tickler.

  7. Nadreck says:

    There’s a hilarious short story by O’Henry about some reporters going out to the Bowery in order to pick up some “authentic” slang for their scribblings. Dis would be dat’ lingo whichu hear in Popeye and Warner Brothers’ cartoons.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I still think “cat’s ass” is best. As in, “He thinks he’s the cat’s ass, but he’s in for a rude awakening.”

    Not really historically accurate, but I used to have a boss with a voice like a news anchor who used that phrase a lot to describe self-important people.

  9. piminnowcheez says:

    Haha, I love “Airedale” for homely guy; I’m totally appropriating that one for use. I always thought airedale terriers were awful-looking dogs (although I see now on the internets that it was really the grooming that offended; give ‘em a puppy-cut and they’re pretty cute. Maybe the same is true for homely men?)

  10. Anonymous says:

    Wait, is “Bell Polisher” implying what I think it’s implying?

    • Anonymous says:

      I think the original definition of “lingering in vestibules” inplies a whole constellation of social practice in the 20s, from not being able to come up to the apartment to talking without kissing. The one I’m wondering about is “berry patch”, which could have all sorts of anatomical meanings. I suspect the flappers were having as much sex as modern people, but were they as experimental?

      • Anonymous says:

        Woman’s only apartment buildings with “no men” entrance restrictions existed back then. Heck the show “Bosom Buddies” was based on an apartment building that was a holdover from that period. The Middle East isn’t the only place with gender issues.

  11. Anonymous says:

    fantastic, Jim – you got Boing Boinged!
    For those not in the know, Jim runs the York Emporium in York, PA. If you’re into book, oddities, and intelligent conversation this is THE place to hit in York City.

    http://www.theyorkemporium.com/home.html

  12. tyger11 says:

    This reminds me of the Gary Cooper movie, Balls of Fire (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033373/), where he’s a professor studying language, and has been holed away with his peers so long conducting an exhaustive survey of language, he doesn’t realize popular slang has completely changed in those years, and he has to go out into the real world and find out what new words people are using. A very fun movie, remade years later with Danny Kaye (which used music instead of words as the topic of study).

    This movie was definitely the cat’s pajamas.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Saucy times, although ‘Barneymugging’ doesn’t roll off the tongue like some of the other examples in the list!

  14. Anonymous says:

    “In this case, it’s an article in a magazine aimed at the demographic in question and presumably written by and for the demographic in question. So I’d say this list of slang is substantially more accurate”

    Why would subscribers to Flapper magazine even need to know this stuff? Wouldn’t they be familiar with it?

    Unless this magazine were aimed at men who lusted after this new Flapper phenomenon. Do we know this wasn’t sort of mild porn based on that day’s young women?

    In fact, do we know that this magazine really existed? The dictionary looks a lot like it could have been made up today–using known terms like Bee’s Knees mixed with made-up yuks like “Bell Polisher.”

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      Why would subscribers to Flapper magazine even need to know this stuff? Wouldn’t they be familiar with it?

      One word: Nebraska.

      • bklynchris says:

        Absolutely….kind of like today’s version of XXL for today’s suburban gangsta.

        On another note…Barneymugging? Etymological stabs in the dark (omg no pun intended), anyone?

        • Antinous / Moderator says:

          Or how Money magazine is mostly read by people who don’t have any.

          • Anonymous says:

            Or teenbeat is read mostly by pre-teens. So this was probably mostly read by those who aspired to be, or possibly to do flappers. Personally, I just love that this dictionary of slang appears to use euphamism in its definitions. Because when they say “berry patch = A man’s particular interest in a girl” I THINK that they’re trying to say that it means her vulva and without getting in trouble from the postmaster general.

  15. Anonymous says:

    burritoflats: Flipper is still alive, albeit retired, living comfortably in a ranch-style home in Coral Gables.

  16. penguinchris says:

    I’ve always disliked the term “petting” when describing human romantic interaction. I’m never quite sure what it means and it makes things which I enjoy (whatever interaction it actually refers to I assume is something I enjoy doing with a girl) sound disgusting and creepy for some reason.

  17. Baron Karza says:

    Applesauce is the bunk, ’cause ya don’t know what’s in it. It aint’ flattery, but someone’s attempt to gild the lily might be bunk. See, when ya makes applesauce, ya use up some of the bruised and banged up fruit, and if ya uses some old apples with the fresh, ya can’t really tell. It’s all mixed up, made outta who knows what, just like when ya makes baloney.

    An’ if ya wanna know what folks from them times thought about the boids an’ da bees an stuff, ya oughtta Google “Tijuana Bibles” or look up the book by that name on Amazon. Believe me, there was plenty of screwin’ around goin’ on in dem days, an’ the slang and terms for that stuff’s changed surprisin’ly little.

    Gotta go now, time ta ankle back to the salt mines.

  18. Anonymous says:

    In 100 years, people will be reading Urban Dictionary and asking what it says about our generation.

  19. Queerulous says:

    Interesting. I wonder if the phrase “cake eater” is the origination of the gay slang term cake boy. Also, it’s interesting to see that the idea that 30 is old has been in exisence for generations.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’d wager that the notion that everybody other than you is having the sex was as effective a way to sell magazines in the 20s as it is today.

  21. Anonymous says:

    “Dropping the Pilot—Getting a divorce.”

    Hm, that explains a bit about Joan Armatrading’s song “Drop the Pilot” from 1983.

  22. Onehundredjobs says:

    I scripted this video (and did the voice over!) with this dictionary. I worked as a vintage stylist for a 1920s party: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzqB-RjqEGE

  23. Amelia_G says:

    I’ve always been glad some of Anita Loos’s 1920′s slang made it into the 1950′s filmed version of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

  24. Ceronomus says:

    How totally cool! Nothing I’ve ever seen film-wise from this era includes any sort of Flapper lingo, so learning this stuff is just fun!

  25. burritoflats says:

    At first I thought the headline read “Flipper’s Dictionary” – as in Flipper the famous television bottlenose dolphin

  26. Qi says:

    My lady and I still use the Bee’s Knees (thanks in part to Alanis Morissette), but we know the alternative as the Cat’s Meow, not the Cat’s Pajamas.

  27. RyanH says:

    It’s rather neat that a certain amount of this slang is still in use, or at least has entered the general english language. Some of it, like ‘bees knees’ or ‘cats pajamas’, are now used as intentionally dated language. But to be a ‘crasher’ or to ‘crash the party’ hasn’t changed in almost a century. In fact it’s kind of odd to thing of those as slang at all.

  28. Felton / Moderator says:

    I’ve been known to use “bee’s knees.” I think I’ll switch to “cat’s particulars.”

  29. jjsaul says:

    We should probably credit the writers of the Simpsons at least a bit for bringing back so much of that language. As much as it’s hilarious when Mr. Burns uses it, it’s even better coming from Bart in his cockney boot-black persona.

  30. Rider says:

    With slang usually you can see some thread or pun to how they derived the slang term the slang term. But some of these “Apple Sauce” how the hell did they come up with that one.

    I also wonder how accurate some these old books are because when I read books on modern slang I offten find that the author is making stuff up.

  31. lewis stoole says:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0021546/quotes
    our gang: when he wind blows (1930)
    Jack: “Applesauce, Mary! I ain’t got no time for foolin’. ”

    is jack saying “bunk, mary!”
    or is he saying something else. i always thought the inference was “give me a break, mary”, but then again, i thought chubsy wubsy said it, not jack.
    i still don’t get it. maybe if i tie an onion on my belt, which was the style at the time, i might, but i don’t.

  32. facetedjewel says:

    Fun!

    I’m also smitten with the old diner lingo waitresses used, to call in their orders to the cooks. There was a little bit of that left back when I waitressed, and it varied depending on what part of the country you worked in.

  33. andigopow says:

    I wish the showrunners for Boardwalk Empire would pepper their dialogue with these terms.

  34. Ceronomus says:

    A lot of the terms that I still hear used aren’t from usage on the Simpsons…

    Blah, crasher, dogs, ducky, dud, dumbell, goofy, and many many others.

    As for the accuracy of the slang? As opposed to someone writing something NOW about the origins of the slang, this is a listing from the period of the slang and its meaning. Wholly different thing.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I’ve only heard “bank’s closed”, “bee’s knees”, and “barlow (girl)” from old movies.

  36. voiceinthedistance says:

    “Biscuit–A pettable flapper”

    I guess I overlooked the definition of gravy, though.

    Amusing, trying to visualize the sexual promiscuity of previous generations. Since it isn’t often well captured in popular culture, a little tidbit or two like this helps to fill in the blanks. Hormones weren’t in very many things at the supermarket then, but they certainly were found in their natural state, just as now. Granny may have done quite a lot of Barneymugging in her time.

  37. adamnvillani says:

    As for the accuracy of the slang? As opposed to someone writing something NOW about the origins of the slang, this is a listing from the period of the slang and its meaning. Wholly different thing.

    I believe what Rider was referring to with the accuracy question was the phenomenon of contemporary magazine-article writers producing lists of contemporary slang of dubious veracity. E.g., “The Preppie Dictionary” or articles purporting to be general dictionaries of “internet speak” that really only apply to limited sub-cultures on the web. Certainly there’s nothing stopping a magazine writer looking to fill some space from making a list of some words from a limited number of sources and then slapping an authoritative-sounding title on the article like “The Hip-Hop Dictionary” or somesuch.

    In other words, the same thing as this 1922 flapper dictionary, just more recent. This isn’t to say that there’s any evidence that this list of phrases is anything but an accurate account of the times, but we don’t have any way of really knowing without further research.

    • adamnvillani says:

      And I see that the “Grunge Speak” example shows that sometimes these purported subcultural dictionaries can be outright hoaxes, even when found in “the paper of record,” the New York Times.

    • RyanH says:

      I believe what Rider was referring to with the accuracy question was the phenomenon of contemporary magazine-article writers producing lists of contemporary slang of dubious veracity. E.g., “The Preppie Dictionary” or articles purporting to be general dictionaries of “internet speak” that really only apply to limited sub-cultures on the web.

      In this case, it’s an article in a magazine aimed at the demographic in question and presumably written by and for the demographic in question. So I’d say this list of slang is substantially more accurate than the average ‘how to understand what your kids are saying’ article. Most of those are aimed at people who don’t actually participate in the sub-culture in question.

      • Anonymous says:

        “In this case, it’s an article in a magazine aimed at the demographic in question and presumably written by and for the demographic in question.”

        Kind of like the “authentic” slang in the Outlaw Biker-type magazines back in the 1970′s written by people who would never even sit on a motorcycle, but claimed to be patch-wearing club members?

        I suspect publishers in 1922 were just as keen to make a buck off a subculture as they are now.

        That said, what an entertaining dictionary.

Leave a Reply