30 Slang Words from the 1920s That Are Worth Bringing Back
If you’re planning on hitting up a speakeasy sometime soon, these will go over great, Gatsby.
Words come in and out of vogue, and 90 years down the road, the words that you heard (or saw on social media) several times a day could very well have gone the way of these words that make you sound old. In fact, 90 to 100 years ago, the common slang terms were completely different from what we hear today—and often pretty funny! Check out some of the words that were the bee’s knees—or should we say “berries”?—back in the roaring ’20s.
Icy mitt: You receive the “icy mitt” when you express feelings for someone, and said feelings are not reciprocated. It’s kind of like the love-related cold shoulder, or perhaps the friend zone.
Bluenose: A wet blanket or someone who puts a damper on the mood or festivities.
Iron your shoelaces: If someone leaves the room to go “iron their shoelaces,” it means they’re headed to the restroom.
Manacle: In the 1920s, a “manacle” didn’t always mean a shackle or bond used to restrain someone. In the 1920s, it was also slang for a wedding ring.
Handcuff: Going along similar lines, a “handcuff” referred to an engagement ring. (Let’s see if these pieces of marriage advice from the 1950s enforce similar ideas!)
Berries: Something cool or desirable, similar to “the bee’s knees.”
Wurp: This meant something similar to “bluenose”—a buzzkill-type person.
Oliver Twist: Oddly enough, this is not slang for a small beggar boy from 19th century London, but slang for someone who is a particularly good dancer.
Sockdollager: Someone or something which is truly remarkable or impressive; a humdinger.
Know your onions: A 1920s slang term for being knowledgeable about a particular subject.
Mazuma: Cash, money, cheddar, greenbacks, what have you.
Don’t take any wooden nickels: If you want to tell a friend to not doing anything stupid, but if you want to do it in a cool, 1920s slang way, tell them not to take any wooden nickels.
Let’s blouse: In the 1920s they said “let’s blouse”; today we say “let’s blow this clambake!”
Noodle juice: In a hilarious instance of 1920s slang, “noodle juice” meant “tea.”
Bimbo: This was still a slang word back in the day, but it actually meant a tough-looking man! That’s definitely joining the ranks of these words that mean the opposite of what you think.
Bank’s closed: You would say this to a couple that was showing a little too much PDA. Similar to “get a room.”
Phonus balonus: An interjection meaning you thought something was complete nonsense—kind of like “baloney.”
Sinker: In another example of funny food slang, a “sinker” was another word for “doughnut.”
Rhatz: Similar to today, this word means “darn” or “bummer!” But as 1920s slang, it was apparently spelled “rhatz”!
Nerts: Also a monosyllabic exclamation, “nerts” did not mean the same as “rhatz”—it actually meant, “That’s amazing!”
Zozzled: Extremely drunk. You also could’ve called your drunk friend “ossified” or “spifflicated.”
Struggle buggy: Today we have “struggle bus”; in the 1920s, they had “struggle buggy.” Despite meaning the backseat of a car, “struggle buggy” actually wasn’t necessarily negative—it could also refer to the backseat in the context of its popularity for romantic activities.
Tell it to Sweeney: This was another way to tell someone you didn’t believe them, as in “tell it to someone who’ll take you seriously.”
Upstage: In the 1920s, this was an adjective, not a verb. It meant “stuck-up” or “snobby.”
Go chase yourself: “Get out of here!” or “beat it!”
Dewdropper: A lazy guy; a slacker.
Gasper: “Gaspers” were cigarettes, possibly due to their effect on your lungs.
Foot juice: Cheap, sub-par wine.
Mind your potatoes: Mind your own business, beeswax, and the like.
Jake: Just fine or just ducky; copacetic.
Still fascinated with the Roaring Twenties? Check out these Downton Abbey quotes to live your life by!