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


By: Allison Lips

5 Min Quiz

Image: mammuth/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

The Roaring '20s were a time when many young people rejected their parents' values and struck out on their own. It was a time of great upheaval because fewer children were working and they were spending more time with each other. As a result of spending more time with their peers, kids and teens developed a language of their own.

For the first time, teenagers could take the family car and smoke gaspers without worrying about their parents getting in the way. The United States may have been under Prohibition, but that never stopped anyone from drinking Panther Piss or other moonshines.

Women were also gaining more freedoms than ever before. Their hairstyles got shorter, and as did their skirts. The birth control pill became available, so a woman could go to the petting pantry with a man who thought she was hotsy-totsy without worrying about pregnancy. That's if they ever got that far. After all, a bluenose wouldn't approve and would yell "bank's closed" before it ever got that far.

Were the '20s really the bee's knees? Take this quiz to find out if "now you're on the trolley!" That means getting these questions right. What are you waiting for? It's time to brush up on that '20s slang.

What was a flapper?

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.


What does it mean to bop someone?

Bop can also mean to punch someone. In the 1940s, the word became more associated with jazz and a form of music called bebop.


If a man is looking at a choice bit of calico, what is he seeing?

"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."


If someone advises you, "Don't take any wooden nickels," they are saying what?

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.


If you're wearing cheaters, what are you wearing?

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."


In the 1920s, bimbo meant what kind of person?

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.


What does a dew dropper do all day?

A dewdropper is specifically a male slacker who sits around all day. He may also be called a lollygagger.


Something that is "darb" is what?

The phrase may be a contraction of darby. Darby referred to money that could be made available quickly.


A woman who is hotsy-totsy is what?

"Hotsy-totsy" was first recorded in the late 1920s. U.S. cartoonist Billie De Beck is believed to have coined it.


What is a glass of giggle-water?

In the 1920s, this was a phrase used by lappers. Men at the time would have called it hooch.


Why wouldn't you want to hang around a bluenose?

Bluenose was popular in the 1920s. However, the first usage of the word to mean a prude was in 1785.


What type of person is a cake eater?

Cake eater was first recorded in the early 1920s. The word later gained the meaning of an effeminate man.


A woman who is a canceled stamp is what?

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.


What is a Dumb Dora?

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.


What is something described as the "bee's knees?"

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.


If you describe something as the cat's pajamas, what are you saying?

The bee's knees was coined in the 1920s. it was one of many animal-themed phrases used to describe something terrific.


Something that is sockdolager is what?

Sockdolager was coined in 1830. It originally meant something that settles a matter. Its meaning shifted in the 1920s.


If your friend is splifficated, what condition are they in?

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.


What kind of woman is a Sheba?

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.


What do you have if you have lettuce?

Lettuce was slang for the U.S. dollar. It took on this meaning sometime between 1925 and 1930.


What are you doing if you're petting your girlfriend?

Petting was part of flapper slang. In "This Side of Paradise," F. Scott Fitzgerald references "petting parties."


If someone slays you, what did they do?

The slang phrase is most commonly said as "you slayed me." In 1929, Harry Charles Witwer used the phrase in "Yes Man's Land."


What is someone who is zozzled?

Zozzled was just one of many speakeasy slang words. It specifically meant someone who was extremely drunk.


What kind of person is a jelly bean?

Jelly bean as slang originates from 1905. It may be an extension of the slang word "bean," which means head.


What are you drinking if you're drinking foot juice?

Foot juice is another slang term that comes from the speakeasy. If you wanted hard liquor, you would order "jag juice."


Why would the police have an issue with a scofflaw?

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."


If something is applesauce, what is it?

The first time "applesauce" was used to mean nonsense was in 1921. H.L. Mencken credited the word to cartoonist T.A. Dorgan.


If something is jake, what is it?

"Jake" acquired the meaning of fine sometime in the late 1800s. However, it also took on the meaning bootleg liquor in the 1920s.


What is a Mrs. Grundy?

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.


If someone upstages you, what did they do?

Upstage was first recorded between 1905 and 1910. It also refers to someone literally standing on a stage.


What does whoopee mean?

Whoopee is an Americanism from the late 1800s. The musical Chicago features the word in the song "All that Jazz."


If someone is drinking noodle juice, what are they having?

"Noodle juice" picked up this meaning in the 1920s. The word noodle on its own was slang for head.


What is a man looking at if he's checking out a woman's gams?

Gam entered English around 1780. It may have come from the Italian word gamba, which means leg.


Why would you be wary of a four-flusher?

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.


Why wouldn't you hang around with a wet blanket?

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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