Monday, July 9, 2007

Better Than Awesome Slang


Remember when slang was creative? You know, not just an endless litany of bodily functions and phonetic spellings, but really fun, creative, genuinely unintelligible-to-the-outsider slang? I'm talking about the slang that Hepsters used back in the 40's.

To be honest, I don't remember ever using this stuff myself. But several years ago I found an intreguing little booklet called the "Hepcats Jive Talk Dictionary" (pictured above). It came out in 1945, published by some group called "the T.W.O Charles Company of Derby Connecticut" (itself a hotbed of Jive, I'm sure). The book was published on a rather cheap newsprint, and illustrated with an assortment of poorly-cropped photos of sigers and musicians, which seem to have been culled from other magazines. The intro just inside the cover asks the reader "Are You Jive Wise?", and proceeds to describe how "Jive Talk" is here to stay (or as they quote, "Webster is Dead, Long Live the Hepster").

Well, unfortunately, Webster rose from the grave, leaving our poor Hespter banished to the trash heap of history. We do, however, have this great little reference to amuse and educate ourselves! I'm guessing that by the time this little gem came out, "Jive talk" was already waning as a trend, and our friends at T.W.O Charles were looking to cash in while there was still time.

I'm going to be sharing some of this dictionary from time to time, so keep checking back, and you'll improve your Jive lexicon. Let's start with a few geographical references. Class...button your zoot suits and repeat after me:

Lush Lamb from Alabam- a sucker
Noisy from Boise- a big mouth
Flooga from Chattanooga- a ne'er do well
Square from Delaware- what else? a square!!
Leery from Erie- a skeptic
Giver from Fall River- a miser
Sad Sacks from Halifax- Canadian Soldiers
Flersy from Jersey- a giddy, addled girl
Pill from Louisville- a doctor
Swing Sway from Mandalay- a "cooch dancer"-we'll look at that one again later!!
Bucket from Nantucket- a heavy drinker
O Ma from Omaha- a motherly woman
Wreck from Quebec- a weakling
Skunk from Podunk- an objectionable male
Chassis from Tallahassee- what do you think? also called a gal with a "coke frame"
Fuse from Vera Cruz- a hot jiver
Frails from Wales- any non-American female
Conkers from Yonkers-muggers

3 comments:

Rosslyn said...

Zoot suit buttoned. But need a few with NZ references.

Bore from Gore - a country bumpkin

Weed-in from Dunedin - Student

Alive from the Beehive - Politician

I'll be thinking of more..

Nat said...

I giggle when I think what Mr. Hepcat would have made rhyme with Regina!

Alex Temple said...

These are great. Have you seen the movie "The Gang's All Here" (1943)? At one point one character says, "Don't be a square from Delaware, get hep to yourself." His uptight friend says "Where'd you hear talk like THAT?" and he replies, "Heard it on a jukebox somewhere." (I'm quoting from memory, so I may be getting the details wrong.)

To be fair, though, there's still plenty of creative, bizarre slang now. How about "jump the shark"? How about "hit someone over the head with a clue-by-four"? How about this list of recent political slang:
http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/weekinreview/03word.html
?