20s Slang



Ace: One-dollar bill

All wet: Incorrect

And how!: I strongly agree!

Ankle: To walk, i.e.. “Let’s ankle!”

Applesauce: Nonsense, i.e.. “Aw, applesauce!”

Attaboy! or Attagirl!: Well done!


Balled up: Confused, messed up

Baloney: Nonsense

Barn burner: An extremely impressive event or successful outcome

Barrel house: Illegal distillery

Bearcat: A hot-blooded or fiery girl

Beat it: Scram, get lost

Beat one’s gums: Idle chatter

Bee’s knee’s: Terrific

Beef: A complaint or to complain

Beeswax: Business i.e.. “Mind your own Beeswax!”

Bell bottom: A sailor

Belt: A drink of liquor

Bent: Drunk

Berries: (1) Perfect (2) Money

Bimbo: A tough guy

Blow: (1) A crazy party (2) To leave

Bootleg: Illegal liquor

Breezer: A convertible car

Brown: Whiskey

Brown plaid: Scotch whiskey

Bum’s rush, the: Ejection by force from an establishment


cake-eater: a lady’s man

caper: a criminal act or robbery

cat’s meow, cat’s pajamas or cat’s whiskers: great

cash: a kiss

cast a kitten or have kittens: to have a fit

chassis: the female body

cheaters: eye glasses

check: kiss me later

chewing gum: double-speak, or ambiguous talk

Chicago typewriter: Thompson sub-machine gun

choice bit of calico: an attractive female

chunk of lead: an unattractive female

clam: a dollar

coffin varnish: bootleg liquor, often poisonous

copacetic: excellent, all in order

crasher: a person who attends a party uninvited

crush: infatuation

cuddler: one who likes to make out


daddy: a young woman’s boyfriend or lover,

especially if he’s rich

dapper: a flapper’s dad

dead soldier: an empty beer bottle

dewdropper: a young man who sleeps all day and doesn’t have a job

dogs: feet

doll: an attractive woman

dolled up: all dressed up

don’t know from nothing: doesn’t have any information

drugstore cowboy: a well-dressed man who loiters in public areas trying to pick up women

dry up: shut up, get lost

ducky: very good

dump: roadhouse


earful: enough

edge: intoxication, a buzz

egg: a person who lives the big life


face stretcher: an old woman trying to look younger than she can pull off

fella: a fellow, a guy

fire extinguisher: a chaperone

fish: (1) a college freshman (2) a first timer

flat tire: a bore

floorflusher: an insatiable dancer

flour lover: a girl with too much face powder

fly boy: a glamorous term for an aviator

fried: drunk

futz: the “F” bomb


gams: legs

Get Hot!: encouragement for a hot dancer

get-up: an outfit

get a wiggle on: get a move on, get going

get in a lather: get worked up, angry

giggle water: booze

gigolo: dancing partner

gimp: cripple; one who walks with a limp

gin mill: a seller of hard liquor; a cheap speakeasy

glad rags: fancy clothes

go chase yourself: get lost, scram.

goof: (1) a stupid or bumbling person, (2) a boyfriend

goofy: in love

grummy: depressed

grungy: envious


hair of the dog: a shot of alcohol

half seas over or half under: drunk

handcuff: engagement ring

hayburner: (1) a gas guzzling car (2) a slow horse

heavy sugar: a lot of money

heebie-jeebies: an icky feeling

heeler: a poor dancer

high hat: a snob

hip to the jive: cool, trendy

hit on all sixes: to perform 100%; as in a car motor hitting perfectly on all six cylinders

hoary-eyed: drunk

hooch: booze

hood: hoodlum

hooey: nonsense

hop: (1) opiate or marijuana (2) a dance

hope chest: pack of cigarettes

hopped up: under the influence of drugs

horse lineament: bootleg liquor

Hot dawg! or Hot socks!: “Awesome!”

hot sketch: a card or cut-up


I have to go see a man about a dog: “I’ve got to leave now,” often meaning to go buy whiskey

icy mitt: rejection

insured: engaged

iron one’s shoelaces: to go to the restroom

ish kabibble: a retort meaning “I should care”


jack: money

jake: great, i.e. “Everything’s jake.”

jalopy: a dumpy old car

jane: any female

java: coffee

Jeepers creepers!: “Aw geez!”

joe: coffee

Joe Brooks: a perfectly dressed person

john: a toilet

joint: establishment

jorum of skee: a drink of hard liquor

juice joint: a speakeasy


kale: money

keen: appealing

killjoy: a solemn person

know one’s onions: to know one’s business or

what one is talking about


lay off: cut the crap

left holding the bag: (1) to be cheated out of one’s

fair share (2) to be blamed for something

let George do it: a work evading phrase

level with me: be honest

limey: a British soldier or citizen; from WWI

line: a false story, as in “to feed one a line”

live wire: a lively person

lollapalooza: a humdinger

lollygagger: (1) a young man who enjoys making out (2) an idle person


manacle: wedding ring

mazuma: money

milquetoast: a very timid person; from the comic

book character Casper Milquetoast

mind your potatoes: mind your own business

moonshine: homemade whiskey

mop: a handkerchief

Mrs. Grundy: a prude or kill-joy

munitions: face powder or make-up


neck: to kiss passionately

nifty: great, excellent

noodle juice: see tea

nookie: sex

Not so good!: “I personally disapprove.”

Now you’re on the trolley!: “Now you’ve got it!”.


off his (her) nuts: crazy

Oh yeah?: “I doubt it!”

old boy: a male term of address, used in conversation with other males as a way to denote acceptance in a social environment; also: “old man” or “old fruit”

Oliver Twist: a skilled dancer

on a toot: a drinking binge

on the lam: fleeing from police

on the level: legitimate, honest

on the up and up: on the level

orchid: an expensive item

ossified: drunk

owl: a person who’s out late


palooka: (1) a below-average or average boxer (2) a social outsider; from the comic strip character Joe Palooka

panic: to produce a big reaction

panther piss or panther sweat: homemade booze

pet: like necking, only more so; making out

petting pantry: movie theater

phonus balonus: nonsense

piffle: baloney

piker: (1) a cheapskate (2) a coward

pinch: to arrest

pinched: to be arrested

pinko: liberal

pipe down: stop talking

pos-i-LUTE-ly: affirmative

punch the bag: small talk

putting on the ritz: after the Ritz Hotel in Paris; doing something in high style; also, “ritzy”


quiff: a slut or cheap prostitute


rag-a-muffin: a dirty or disheveled individual

rain pitchforks: a downpour

razz: to make fun of

Real McCoy: a genuine item

Rhatz!: “How disappointing!”

rotgut: bootleg liquor

rub: a casual dance party

rube: an unsophisticated country bumpkin

rummy: a drunken bum


sap: a fool, an idiot

sawbuck: ten-dollar bill

Says you!: a reaction of disbelief

scratch: money

screaming meemies: the shakes

screw: get lost, get out

screwy: crazy

sheba: one’s girlfriend

sheik: one’s boyfriend

simolean: a dollar

sinker: a doughnut

sitting pretty: in a prime position

skee: Scotch whiskey

skirt: an attractive female

smarty: a cute flapper

smoke-eater: a smoker

smudger: a close dancer

snort: a drink of liquor

sockdollager: an action having a great impact

So’s your old man!: a reply of irritation

speakeasy: a bar selling illegal liquor

spill: to talk

splifficated: drunk

spoon: to neck, or at least talk of love

static: (1) empty talk (2) conflicting opinion

stilts: legs

strike-me-dead: bootleg liquor

struggle: modern dance

stuck on: in love

swanky: (1) good (2) elegant

swell: (1) good (2) a high class person


take someone for a ride: to take someone to a deserted location and murder them

tasty: appealing

tea: marijuana

tell it to Sweeney: tell someone who’ll believe it

tight: attractive

Tin Pan Alley: the center of the music industry in New York City

tomato: a “ripe” female

torpedo: a hired thug or hit man

trip for biscuits: a wild goose chase


unreal: special

upstage: snobby


vamp: (1) a seducer of men, an aggressive flirt (2) to seduce

voot: money


water-proof: a face that doesn’t require make-up

wet blanket: see killjoy

white lightning: bootleg liquor

wife: roommate

What’s eating you?: “What’s wrong?”

whoopee: wild fun

Woof! Woof!: ridicule

X, Y, Z

You slay me!: “That’s funny!”

zozzled: drunk