Some Crazy Flapper Slang (That You’ve Never Heard Before)

Note: This is a repost of a Silent-ology article from August 7, 2014.

Everyone’s heard of “the cat’s pajamas” and “the bees knees,” but here are some slang terms from the early twenties that I’ll bet you’ve never heard of:

Airdale — a homely man
Alarm clock — a chaperone
An alibi — a box of flowers
Bean picker — one who tries to patch up trouble
The berries — applied to express surprise, disgust, indignation: “Ain’t that the berries!”
Blue serge — a sweetheart
Cake basket — a limousine
Cellar-sheller — a young man who always turns up wherever there’s free liquor
Clothesline — one who tells the neighborhood secrets
Corn shredder — a young man who dances on lady’s feet
Crepehanger — a reformer
Cutting yourself a piece of cake — making yourself wait patiently
Did I was — an exclamation of approval
Dog kennels — pair of shoes.
Ducksoup — anything agreeable, easy or congenial to the moment (so this is where the title of the Marx Brothers film came from!)
Egg harbor — a dance hall where no admission is charged
Feathers — small talk
Fig leaf — a one-piece bathing suit
Finagler — a young man who stalls until someone else pays the check
Fire alarm — a divorced woman
Flatwheeler — a young man who takes a young lady to an egg harbor
G. G. — refers to a man; a coded form of the English expression Gullible Goof (this is pretty self-explanatory)
Grubstake — an invitation to dinner
Hiphound — one who drinks hooch
His tempo’s bad — a phrase used about any one who’s being off color in any way
Holyholy — a flapper who won’t indulge in a mugging match (whatever that is)
Mugging match — a necking party (ah, so THAT’S what that is)
Oilcan — an impostor
Out on parole — a person of either sex who has been divorced
Owl — a flapper who cuts classes and is only seen at night at dances and parties; usually smart enough to get good grades
Punching the bag — act of a man who chats with a girl–and keeps on chatting
Rug hopper — a young man who never takes a girl out; a “parlor hound”
Sweetie — anybody she hates
Swift’s premium — a clumsy flapper or wall flower
Tomato — a good-looking but brainless girl
Windsucker — any person giving to boasting
A Wow — denoting something extremely clever, brilliant or pleasing

And lastly…you know all about the “cat’s whiskers,” but did you know that “the cat’s the dog’s nightshirt”?

The more you know!

Source: The wonderful site Taylorology, which has a huge collection of vintage news stories, magazine articles and interviews.

8 thoughts on “Some Crazy Flapper Slang (That You’ve Never Heard Before)

  1. Fun article Lea. I’m boasting, but I’ve read enough silent movie title cards to already know what “the berries” and “tomato” mean. The rest were new to me – thanks

    • You’re welcome! You never know what will come up in some of those title cards–one of my favorites is from that clip of FLAMING YOUTH, when Colleen says she might “go all to smash” when she hears sad music. 😀

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