1920s Slang

59 Quick Slang Phrases From The 1920s We Should Start Using Again

Get ready to “know your onions,” readers. If you’ve ever wanted to talk like characters from an old movie or the folks from The Great Gatsby, now’s your chance. For the twenties lovers among us, here are 59 of the era’s best slang phrases. Now you just have to practice talking really, really fast so you can say this old slang.

Flickr/Sam Fam
Flickr/Sam Fam

1. Ankle: to walk

2. “Applesauce!”: “Horsefeathers!”

3. “Bank’s closed!”: what you tell someone to stop making out

4. Bearcat: a lively, spirited woman, possibly with a fiery streak

5. Berries: like “bee’s knees,” denotes that something is good, desirable or pleasing. “That sounds like berries to me!”


6. Bimbo: refers to a macho man

7. Bluenose: term for a prude or individual deemed to be a killjoy

8. Bubs: a woman’s boobs

9. “Bushwa!”: “Bullshit!”

10. “Butt me!”: “I would like a cigarette.”


11. Cancelled stamp: a shy, lonely female, the type one would describe as a “wallflower”

12. Cash: a smooch

13. Cake-eater: in the 1920’s refers to a “ladies’ man”; later, slang for homosexual

14. Cheaters: Glasses or bifocals

15. Choice bit of calico: a desirable woman


16. Darb: something deemed wonderful or splendid, similar to “berries”

17. Dewdropper: like lollygagger, a slacker who sits around all day and does nothing, often unemployed

18. “Don’t take any wooden nickels!”: “Don’t do anything dumb!”

19. Dumb Dora: an unintelligent woman

20. Egg: a person who leads an absurdly wealthy, extravagant lifestyle (see: Gatsby’s “West Egg”)


21. Four-flusher: someone who mooches off the money of others in order to feign wealth

22. Gasper: cigarette, “fag” (also of the 1920s)

23. Giggle water: liquor, alcoholic beverage

24. “Go chase yourself!”: “Get out of here!”

25. Handcuff: engagement ring


26. Half-seas over: shitfaced

27. Hayburner: a car with poor gas-mileage, a guzzler

28. Hotsy-totsy: attractive, pleasing to the eye

29. Icy mitt: rejection from the object of one’s affection, as in: “He got the icy mitt.”

30. Iron one’s shoelaces: to excuse oneself for the restroom


31. Jake: okay, fine, as in “Don’t worry, everything’s jake.”

32. Jorum of skee: a swig of alcohol, particularly hard liquor

33. Know your onions: to know what’s up or what’s going on

34. “Let’s blouse!”: “Let’s blow this popsicle stand!”

35. Manacle: Wedding ring


36. Mazuma: Dollar bills, cash, money

37. Mrs. Grundy: an uptight or very straight-laced individual

38. Noodle juice: tea.

39. “Now you’re on the trolley!”: “Now you’ve gotten it right!”

40. Oliver Twist: an extremely good dancer.


41. On a toot: on a bender

42. Ossified: drunk

43. Quilt: an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm

44. Panther piss: whiskey, particularly homemade whiskey

45. Petting pantry: a cinema or movie theatre


46. “Phonus balonus!”: “That’s nonsense!” or “That’s horseshit!”

47. Pull a Daniel Boone: to upchuck

48. Reuben: a hick or redneck

49. Rub: a dance party for college or high school students

50. Sheba – someone’s girlfriend; or a sexually desirable woman


51. Sinker: a doughnut

52. Sockdollager: an event or action of great importance

53. Spifflicated: inebriated

54. “Tell it to Sweeney!”: what you say when you believe something to be untrue; “Tell it to someone who would buy that!”

55. Tomato: a woman

Flickr/Duke Yearlook
Flickr/Duke Yearlook

56. Upstage: arrogant, snobby

57. Whoopee: to have a good time, “make whoopee”

58. Wurp: wet blanket or person seen as a buzzkill (see: Debbie Downer)

59. Zozzled: shitfaced Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Flickr/deflam