Can You Use These Century-Old Slang Words in a Sentence?

Mariana Sabino

Image: H. Armstrong Roberts / Retrofile RF / Getty Images

About This Quiz

To describe the early twentieth-century as an eventful, colorful time is like saying the ocean's kind of big. Um, sure it is. Every doofus knows that, right? Not that we have anything against doofuses, mind you. In fact, we think they're pretty dilly. 

When we mention the last century, we're thinking of a hodgepodge of new words and expressions introduced by the cultural and countercultural revolutions of the time. These words, fresh as a daisy then, made their way into the vocabulary of regular people. Gangsters, freeloaders, dapper folks and service officers all had their say. 

Although we're pretty sure you're familiar with many of these words, there might be a quite a few you missed. This quiz will not only test your knowledge of century-old lingo but may also show you which words are worth including in your daily vocab. In case you haven't heard, old slang is a doozy! 

Also, just because something has gone out of style doesn't mean you can't bring it back. Old-fashioned words are full of pizzazz! Maybe you're just the one to revive the nifty words your grandparents used, and be able to summon Al Capone ack emma or any time. We bet your friends will be impressed and amused. 

Curious? We thought you'd be. By the time you're finished, you'll be ready to put your glad rags on and take your lulu out for a spin. Ready? Let's get started!



"Cough up" can be said in which way?

Coughing up means handing over or surrendering something, especially money, when you'd really rather not. It's uncomfortable yet just has to be done after oodles of persuasion. Unsurprisingly, it's often heard in gangster movies.

"Fast one," eh? What do you mean?

If you're pulling a fast one on someone, you're probably so swift and sly at your deception/cheating game that your victim won't see it coming. You have to be fast, of course, to fool someone without them having noticed a thing.

How would you say "flick" to someone?

In the early days of film screenings, the images flickered a little from frame to frame. This, in turn, may account for the spread of the word flick to mean film. There's also a raunchier version of flick called a skinflick.

With a "G-man" situation, what are you talking about?

Apparently, this term was used to refer to detectives in Ireland. It transferred nicely to the government men of the United States who sniffed around looking for clues. If you think of a G-man, think of a snoop/detective for the government.

When you think of a "copper," what do you think of?

You wouldn't want to be called a copper in the early part of the twentieth century, but nowadays being called a cop, a shortened version of copper, is just fine by most police officers. Time has really taken the sting out of being called a copper.

"Steam up" would be said when?

Not to be confused with steamy, which delves into an entirely different territory, the image of steam captures the term "steam up" well. Something usually steams before it boils over, such as one's nerves. When someone gets really riled up, all that huffing and puffing can make it seem like there's steam coming out of their ears.

When you say "hoosegow," you're saying what exactly?

Sometimes used to refer to jail nowadays, hoosegow is traced to the Spanish word for panel of judges. The story goes that hoosegow is how jugado might have sounded when it was overheard. Whatever the exact origin, it stuck.

"Rinky-dink," you distinctly say. How so?

Say you want to belittle someone's enterprise. You might call it a rinky-dink establishment in the boondocks, a venture so insignificant you don't even care to mention it, let alone go there. That's not very nice now, is it?

To explain the meaning of "wino" to someone, what do you say?

If the thought of someone immediately conjures up an image of their arms around a wine bottle or another kind of liquor, chances are they are a wino. In other words, that person can't get enough of their booze.

When would you say "glad rags?"

If you are wearing your glad rags, you're sure dressed up to the nines! Sunday best with a little more glamour, more pizzazz, so you can show up at a party and foxtrot until dawn. You're ready to impress anyone in sight and then some.

When you use "cushy," how do you use it?

Linked to cushions, if you have a cushy position you're pretty comfortable without actually having to do much. No sweat, no discomfort, no major hassles to deal with. Cushions really do absorb any hardness while propping you up.

"Framed," you say? How so?

Linked to the early 1920s, using "frame" to mean implicating someone for a crime they didn't commit has been a mainstay in the lexicon of films. Think "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" and the entire genre of detective/gangster stories.

When you mention "goof," what would you be saying?

A goof may be naturally silly or take up the persona to entertain people with their goofy eccentricities. Some people are such goofballs! Put a dingbat, a ditz, and a real goofball together and it's going to be one goofy party!

If you say "jinx," what do you say?

Linked to witchcraft, you'd better cross your fingers to keep your good luck and not have your plans jinxed. If someone puts a jinx on you, call Sabrina, your friendly neighbor/witch. She can undo any jinx unless, of course, she's the one who jinxed you in the first place.

Something's a "doozy," you say. What do you say exactly?

Possibly an altered form of daisy, if something or someone is called a doozy it means it's really special (for better or worse). And who doesn't want to be a doozy in someone else's eyes? Even though something bizarre can be called a doozy, it's still an original, a stand-out.

When saying "floozy," what do you say?

If you were a called a floozy, you probably were perceived as being less than a virgin. In other words, the person was calling you unchaste; however, wearing skirts above the knee was considered very bold and daring back then. Remember, the bikini was named after the site of atomic bomb tests, indicating the stir it caused!

Did you say "doofus?" How did you say it?

You can really be silly and incompetent in a lovable way, you know? If someone calls you a doofus, they're probably saying it with a smile. Think about it. How can you not enjoy the antics of a doofus? They're memorable, that's for sure.

A "dingbat" would be said in which of these scenarios?

If someone calls you a dingbat, they probably think you're endearingly dumb in a silly kind of way. If they say it behind your back, they might already have you pegged as a nitwit. Fret not, they probably like you anyway.

You said "rat" in which way?

If you're a rat, your ... er, associates may find out and get rid of you before you betray them and turn them in. Invariably, there will be a rat in a gangster flick. Gangsters bump off rats for failing to uphold their code of loyalty. Mum's the word if you're a gangster.

When you said "simp," what were you talking about?

A variant of the word simpleton, simp is rarely heard nowadays. Whether it be a simp or a simpleton, the term conjures up a lovable fool who is too clueless to pick up on social cues.

What comes to mind with "easy rider?"

The classic hippie road movie "Easy Rider" starring Henry Fonda and Dennis Hopper turns the term on its head, giving it a cool, relaxed, countercultural meaning. The term, as it's defined originally, refers to a pimp or parasitical type of person.

Someone heard you say "scram." What were you saying?

Saying scram to mean "get out of here" now has something quaint and humorous about it. You may use it when joking around with friends. Whether or not they take you seriously is another matter altogether. For emphasis, you can always try 23 Skidoo!

You say "zing." How so?

An onomatopoeia (it sounds like what it is), zing implies zest and that sizzling quality that gives something its oomph. If it's got zing, it has pizzazz. If you've got it, you know it. Zing has an energy all its own and one immediately recognizes it.

In which situation would you say "goldbrick?"

Even though it's associated with deceit or a swindle of some kind, the meaning of goldbrick evolved over time. Originally linked to someone selling bricks as gold, by World War I goldbrick meant anyone who told white lies in order to avoid their duties.

How do you mention "blotto?"

If you're blotto, you're pretty drunk. This one might have acquired its name from the word blot. When things start to get hazy and confused, blot starts to sound a lot like blotto, doesn't it? Three bottles of wine will get you there.

If you say "shamus," you say what?

Possibly of Yiddish origin, a shamus refers to a police officer or private detective. Used in a derogatory sense, a shamus is the type of copper who might be friends with a rat. Then again, you never know when one will turn on the other.

When "dilly" comes to mind, what do you say?

Although dilly may sound silly, it actually means something extraordinary, as in really special and remarkable. Then again, being extraordinarily silly could be dilly for someone who cherishes all things goofy. It's a doozy!

"Jim-dandy" would be said by you in which way?

It's got to be pretty nifty to be deemed a jim-dandy. It's so sweetly exciting that it has a candy named after it. It may also be used to describe a car with style, even if one's definition of style differs from another's.

What's a fruit salad situation for you?

Bearing an abundance of ribbons and medals can conjure up an image of a fruit salad. You get them for serving in the military and serving it well. The ornamental effect of all those medals, with its mix of colors, made someone come up with this playful term.

Someone heard you say something quirky involving "gas." What did you say?

No, we don't mean it in the passing gas sense, although some people find fart jokes hilarious and gas. Gas, you guessed it, means something is considered delightfully fun. If you're having a hard time visualizing the meaning, think of laughing gas.

"Duck soup" would be said in which of these cases?

Apparently making duck soup is foolproof, easy as pie, you know? You can't mess it up. Whoever came up with it gets the credits for one funny-sounding image. The Marx Brothers thought so. They named one of their films "Duck Soup."

How would you say "23 skidoo" to someone?

There has been a lot of speculation about the origin of 23 Skidoo. Does 23 refer to an unlucky losing number, a street in New York, or is it just a variant of the word skedaddle? In any case, it's a way to tell someone to get a move on, and make it snappy!

You come out with "lulu" by saying what?

If something (or someone) is lulu, it's really wonderful. You wouldn't want to miss it or part with it. If a woman gets called a lulu, it's a compliment unless, of course, it's said ironically. Still, it's too lulu to carry any real sting.

You were talking about "jake" or something. What did you mean?

If everything is jake, you're doing just fine. Everything's cool. And sometimes doing all right is just perfect. No complaints at all. In fact, if someone says that all is jake then there's really nothing to worry about.

"Ack emma," you say. What do you mean?

Now obsolete, ack emma is traced to a British signaling code in usage around World War I. It then spread to the general population. Ack stands for A and Emma stands for M. Rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Pip emma is the P.M. version of it.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!

Explore More Quizzes