Can You Translate These Slang Words From the '20s?

By: Allison Lips
Estimated Completion Time
3 min
What was a flapper?
An old man
A cool teenage boy
A fashionable young woman
In the 1920s, flappers pushed the boundaries. Many of their parents found their lifestyle to be outrageous because these young women pushed the economic, political and sexual barriers.
A nosy parent

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What does it mean to bop someone?
Like
Hug
Kill
Bop can also mean to punch someone. In the 1940s, the word became more associated with jazz and a form of music called bebop.
Shake hands

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If a man is looking at a choice bit of calico, what is he seeing?
A desirable woman
"A choice bit of calico" may have been inspired by the fancy clothing flappers wore. If a man wanted to describe an attractive woman, he would simply say, "She's a choice bit of calico."
A cute kitten
A friend from school
A hot rod

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If someone advises you, "Don't take any wooden nickels," they are saying what?
Have fun.
Don't let anything stop you.
Don't do anything stupid.
The phrase, "Don't take any wooden nickels" refers to a coin that would be worthless. While wooden nickels were never official currency, in the early 1900s the phrase was used as a warning not to get ripped off.
Don't take any nonsense.

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If you're wearing cheaters, what are you wearing?
A bracelet
Boots
Sunglasses
Cheaters can refer to sunglasses or reading glasses. Originally, sunglasses were called cheaters because they make it difficult to see if someone is telling the truth. The phrase was mentioned in the 1938 song "Jeepers Creepers."
A suit

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In the 1920s, bimbo meant what kind of person?
A good friend
A smart woman
A happy woman
An unintelligent man
A modern day bimbo would be an attractive, dim woman. However, in the 1920s, a bimbo was a macho man who wasn't particularly smart either.

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What does a dew dropper do all day?
Sits around doing nothing
A dewdropper is specifically a male slacker who sits around all day. He may also be called a lollygagger.
Works hard
Attends school
Odd jobs

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Something that is "darb" is what?
Bad
Mediocre
Excellent
The phrase may be a contraction of darby. Darby referred to money that could be made available quickly.
Soft

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A woman who is hotsy-totsy is what?
Attractive
"Hotsy-totsy" was first recorded in the late 1920s. U.S. cartoonist Billie De Beck is believed to have coined it.
Ugly
Nice
Rude

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What is a glass of giggle-water?
Plain water
Seltzer
Soda
Liquor
In the 1920s, this was a phrase used by lappers. Men at the time would have called it hooch.

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Why wouldn't you want to hang around a bluenose?
They are rude and arrogant.
They are naive and selfish.
They are a prude or killjoy.
Bluenose was popular in the 1920s. However, the first usage of the word to mean a prude was in 1785.
They live life in the fast lane.

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What type of person is a cake eater?
A ladies man
Cake eater was first recorded in the early 1920s. The word later gained the meaning of an effeminate man.
An attractive woman
A happy child
A person who likes desserts

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A woman who is a canceled stamp is what?
Outgoing
Shy
A canceled stamp is literally a stamp that can't be used anymore. However, in 1920s slang it was used to describe a wallflower, specifically a shy girl.
Rude
Friendly

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What is a Dumb Dora?
A young woman
An old woman
A smart woman
An unintelligent woman
In the 1920s, the phrase was popularized by George Burns and his wife Gracie Allen. Dumb Dora was also the subject of a cartoon illustrated by Chic Young. The comic ran from 1924 to 1935.

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What is something described as the "bee's knees?"
Excellent
In the 1920s, the bee's knees came to mean something excellent or enjoyable. However, it originally was used to describe something small and insignificant.
Terrible
Bad
Intriguing

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If you describe something as the cat's pajamas, what are you saying?
Interesting
Boring
Desirable
The bee's knees was coined in the 1920s. it was one of many animal-themed phrases used to describe something terrific.
Foolish

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Something that is sockdolager is what?
Hot
Cool
Boring
Exceptional
Sockdolager was coined in 1830. It originally meant something that settles a matter. Its meaning shifted in the 1920s.

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If your friend is splifficated, what condition are they in?
Happy
Sober
Drunk
Someone who was splifficated may have had too much panther piss or panther sweat. It was one of many slang words referring to alcohol and alcohol consumption.
Angry

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What kind of woman is a Sheba?
Boring
Sexually desirable
In the 1920s, Sheba was slang for someone's girlfriend or someone men found to be sexy. It may have come from the Queen of Sheba.
Dumb
Unattractive

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What do you have if you have lettuce?
Cash
Lettuce was slang for the U.S. dollar. It took on this meaning sometime between 1925 and 1930.
Vegetables
A car
A girlfriend

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What are you doing if you're petting your girlfriend?
Kissing and caressing
Petting was part of flapper slang. In "This Side of Paradise," F. Scott Fitzgerald references "petting parties."
Dancing with
Arguing
Partying

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If someone slays you, what did they do?
Make you sick
Make you laugh
The slang phrase is most commonly said as "you slayed me." In 1929, Harry Charles Witwer used the phrase in "Yes Man's Land."
Make you dance
Make you angry

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What is someone who is zozzled?
Bored
Happy
Drunk
Zozzled was just one of many speakeasy slang words. It specifically meant someone who was extremely drunk.
Hungry

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What kind of person is a jelly bean?
Boring
Smart
Stupid
Jelly bean as slang originates from 1905. It may be an extension of the slang word "bean," which means head.
Exciting

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What are you drinking if you're drinking foot juice?
Cheap wine
Foot juice is another slang term that comes from the speakeasy. If you wanted hard liquor, you would order "jag juice."
Excellent
Expensive
Bad

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Why would the police have an issue with a scofflaw?
They break the law.
Scofflaw was created in 1924. Delcevare King, a Prohibitionist from Massachusetts, held a contest to find a word for "lawless drinker." The winning word was formed from "scoff" and "law."
They have an attitude.
They yell at them.
They stay out late.

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If something is applesauce, what is it?
Boring
Delicious
Fun
Nonsense
The first time "applesauce" was used to mean nonsense was in 1921. H.L. Mencken credited the word to cartoonist T.A. Dorgan.

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If something is jake, what is it?
Excellent
Delicious
Fine
"Jake" acquired the meaning of fine sometime in the late 1800s. However, it also took on the meaning bootleg liquor in the 1920s.
Awful

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What is a Mrs. Grundy?
A prude
Mrs. Grundy comes from the Thomas Morton play "Speed the Plough." In that 1798 play, the main character kept wondering what her prudish neighbor with that name would think.
A rude person
A scumbag
A fun person

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If someone upstages you, what did they do?
Overshadow
Upstage was first recorded between 1905 and 1910. It also refers to someone literally standing on a stage.
Disappoint
Ignore
Yell

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What does whoopee mean?
Fun
Whoopee is an Americanism from the late 1800s. The musical Chicago features the word in the song "All that Jazz."
Anger
Disgust
Bored

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If someone is drinking noodle juice, what are they having?
Water
Wine
Tea
"Noodle juice" picked up this meaning in the 1920s. The word noodle on its own was slang for head.
Coffee

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What is a man looking at if he's checking out a woman's gams?
Breasts
Legs
Gam entered English around 1780. It may have come from the Italian word gamba, which means leg.
Face
Arms

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Why would you be wary of a four-flusher?
They lie.
Four-flusher is an American word. It was created in the late 1800s. The word has been used in poker to describe someone who is bluffing, but it is not very common.
They get very drunk.
They get angry.
They drive too fast.

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Why wouldn't you hang around with a wet blanket?
They are a loser.
They are embarrassing.
They leave the party early.
They spoil the fun.
The term "wet blanket" came into usage in the early 1800s. It originally referred to smothering a fire with a literal wet blanket.

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