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1920s Slang

27th Feb 2022 in

I'm totally going to replace the trite and dated "awesome" in my vocabulary with the 1920's equivalent, and much cooler "berries". Then I'm going to go get owled.

1920s Fashion

The 1920's was the first decade in American history to emphasize youth culture over older generations. In addition, the 19th Amendment passed in 1920 giving women the right to vote. At the same time, the number of women enrolling in college soared. Prohibition may have been in force, but speakeasies were plentiful, you only had to know where to look. Culture was ripe for sweeping change. My aunt on my dad's side was in her 20's during the 1920's, and as such was a part of this revolutionary generation. Wish I could find that picture of her that I know exists: white, close-fitting hat, short curl of hair protruding from beneath the hat on her cheek, pearls, cigarette. Alas, I haven't seen it for lo these many years now. Should I find it I'll certainly add it to the collection of images on this page. 

In addition to "flapper slang", don't forget "gangster slang". Bearcat, babe, bim, broad, doll, and dame all mean the same thing: "woman". Then there was moll, and sheba, meaning a gangster's woman and a woman with sex appeal. So many terms for women - you'd think the guys were objectifying them or something. From the gangsters we also recieved "gum-shoe" for detective, and these other crime-related words still pretty familiar to us today: bracelts, big house, stir, pack heat, goon, grifter... the list is quite long.

1920's Slang

Mary Pickford
Mary Pickford - Choice Bit of Calico

  1. “And how!”
    As in, “I agree!”
  2.  “Applesauce!”
    Synonymous with “horsefeathers,” use this term when you want to express exasperation or disbelief.
  3.  “Berries”
    The much cooler and even more old school version of “the bee’s knees,” this term is the 1920s equivalent to today’s “awesome!”
  4.  “Bubs”
    A somewhat onomatopoeic word for a woman’s boobs.
  5.  “Butt me!”
    A way cooler way of saying, “Hey man, can I bum a cigarette?
  6. “Cash”
    A kiss.
  7. “Choice bit of calico”
    A desirable, even classy woman; a dime. “She’s a choice bit of calico!” Better than saying “she’s a hot piece of ass,” no?
  8. “Dewdropper”
    A lazy lollygagger. As in, “I told my dewdropper boyfriend that if he didn’t get off the couch and get a job, we were through!”
  9. “Doll”
    A superior term to either “babe” or "bae".
  10. “Go chase yourself!
    A safe-for-work version of “go f— yourself!”
  11. “Goofy”
    A perfect term for “in love,” since, well, being in love makes people goofy.
  12.  “Iron one’s shoelaces”
    A way of excusing yourself to the bathroom. What it means, we’re not completely sure.
  13.  “Know your onions”
    To be “in the know” (albeit a little smellier).
  14.  “On a toot”
    On a “totally lit bender.” Note: the phrase sounds extra-funny when you’re actually on a toot.
  15. “Panther piss”
    Whiskey (don’t try this one out on a bartender).
  16.  “Razz”
    To make fun of someone i.e. “Don’t razz me!”
  17.  “Swell”
  18.  “Zozzled”
    “Shitfaced,” but with more Zs. See also: canned, corked, tanked, primed, scrooched, jazzed, spifflicated, owled, ossified or fried to the hat. They did a lot of drinking in the 1920s…

Movie Actress Bessie Love
Bessie Love: And how!


Prohibition enacted
Taking Prohibition Seriously..."Swell!"


Gangster Al Capone
Al Capone, Good With a Gat


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