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Slang from the 1920s


DeaconKC

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Brent McKay published this over on the Art of Manliness. Lots of fun stuff for you.

Big house. Federal prison.

Bird. Person, either male or female, but frequently female.

Bite an egg. Take breakfast.

Blow. To leave.

Bo. Generic address; guy; jack; pal.

Booby-hatch. Mental hospital.

Bull. Cop.

Butter and egg man. Sugar daddy; implication is one fairly free with his money.

Buttons. Cops.

Buzzer. Police badge; identification.

C-note. Hundred-dollar bill.

Chicago overcoat. Coffin.

Chiseler. Low-life; hanger-on; somebody chiseling money from others.

Dance on air. Hang, as from a noose.

Darb. A person with money, who can be relied upon to pay a check.

Dead soldier. Empty liquor bottle.

Deadpan. Bodyguard; tough guy; gunny with a sheen of respectability.

Dip the bill. To have a drink.

Dish. Attractive woman.

Draw a lot of water. To have a lot of influence; to exert great influence.

Drop the arm. Arrest; nab; apprehend; snatch.

Dry-gulch. To ambush; surprise; sneak attack or attack from behind.

Dumb onion. A fool; dupe; idiot.

Dust. Take a hike; get lost; drift.

Fakeloo artist. Conman; faker; liar; pretender; deceiver.

Fin. $5 bill.

Flatfoot. Detective; shamus.

Flim-flam: Dupe; deceive; trick; take in.

Floaters. Corpses in the water; people dead by drowning.

Fog. Riddle someone with bullets.

Gat. Gun.

Gee. Man; fellow.

Gill. A drink.

Go fry a stale egg. Get lost; go jump in a lake.

Goose-berry lay. Stealing clothes from clotheslines.

Gumshoe. Detective/private dick/PI/etc.

Gunny. Hired gun; thug.

Gunsel. Hired gun.

Hackie. Taxi driver.

Hard boy. Tough guy; bodyguard; hired thug.

Hard number. Tough guy.

Hay. Useless scrip/fake bills/etc.

Heel. Jerk; low life; scumbag.

Heeled. Packing; carrying a gun.

How’s tricks? A greeting, akin to “How’s it going?”

Jake [also jakeloo]. Fine; okay; acceptable; no big deal.

Jasper. Man; handsome fellow.

Keyhole peeper. Detective/private dick/PI/etc.

Loogan. A guy with a gun.

Lug. A guy; generic address for a man; connotation of thick-headedness or limited ability/usefulness; not necessarily connoting goon, thug.

Lulu. A good-looking woman.

Make with the feet. Get lost; scram.

Mauler. Brass knuckles.

Mickey Finn (mickey). A surreptitiously adulterated drink (or the drug added to the drink to make it so) given to somebody for the purpose of rendering them insensible or unconscious.

Miscount the trumps. To overlook something.

Moll. Gangster’s girlfriend/woman/partner.

Mugg. A man (sometimes referring to dumb ones), guy, person; possible connotation of not being entirely on the up-and-up.

Muggle-smoker/muggle. Pothead; druggie.

Nevada gas. Cyanide.

Newshawk. Reporter.

No soap. No luck.

Nuts to you. Go to hell (mild).

Pie-eyed. Very drunk.

Piker. Amateur; small-time operator.

Polish an apple: Talk up; chat up; suck up to.

Prowl car. Police car.

Real cream. A good person.

Rodded. Carrying a gun (rod).

Rooster. Man who picks a fight, or somebody who carries himself like a rooster; confrontational.

Sap. Fool; fall-guy; love-struck sucker.

Sawbuck/double sawbuck. 10 dollars/20 dollars.

Shamus. Detective/private dick/PI/etc.

Sharper. Detective; private operator.

Sitting on dynamite. In the crosshairs; in the middle of a (figuratively) explosive situation.

Slip (one’s) clutch. Losing it.

Smart little egg. A fool; dupe; idiot.

Sneezer. Jail.

Squibbed (off). Killed.

Stool-pigeon. Rat; fink; an informant; criminal who talks to the cops.

Take a flutter (at something). To make a passing attempt.

Twist. Woman, with possible connotation of girlfriend, or somebody seen on the side.

Typewriter. Machine-gun.

What’s the score? What’s going on; what’s up; etc.

World-beater. Somebody better than the rest; capable of taking on the world; a person in high esteem.

Yard. One hundred dollars.

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A gunsel was not a gunman. People assume that because Sam Spade called Wilbur a gunsel in The Maltese Falcon.

 

But a gunsel is very close to a catamite. When Spade said that Wilbur was Gutman's gunsel, he was insulting both of them. In the book it was quite plain that Gutman was homosexual and Wilbur was his boyfriend. Actually, I suppose Gutman was bi, since he had a daughter in the book but it was left out of the movie.

 

But that was New York City slang. Dashiell Hammett was a New Yorker, and knew the term. Nobody in California knew that term, which was why it was able to slide past the Hays commission.

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In the 20s a phone call cost a nickel.

 

You would drop a dime on somebody in the '60s.

 

 

Not otto - I just remembered this.

A largeLODGE brother of my father's. If you called his house, he did not say "hello", he said "your nickel".

 

"large brother" - now THAT was otto

Edited by Alpo
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i grew up with that , i had a hard time with the new jargon of the 60s that reassigned meanings and reinvented words ..............but then im still having issues with that and reweighting history these days , ill never get over our third world tearing down statues' , i never imagined that in my country 

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