1950s Slang

Welcome to 1950s slang.

Slang has always been the province of the young. Words come in and out of favor in direct proportion to the speed with which they travel through the age ranks. Once college kids know that high school kids are using a term, it becomes passe. And seniors don’t want to sound like freshman and so forth. Once a word finds its way to mainstream media or worse, is spoken by parents, no young person with any self-respect would use it.

1950s slang wasn’t particularly colorful as these things go. The Sixties, with its drug and protest culture to draw from, would be slang heaven. In the Fifties, hot-rodders and Beats provided inspiration.

About the Beat Culture. This was by no means a mainstream movement. I didn’t actually know any Beats nor I suspect did most of my peers across America. But they sure seemed “cool” to us. A sharp contrast from the way real teens lived in a preppy, conservative, conformist world.

Many of these words, in fact most words can have “ville” added to them. There was coolsville, deadsville, Doodyville, squaresville, weirdsville and so forth.

Oh and here’s a piece of news for you. “Cool” was a 50’s word. We said it a bit differently. Today it is said in a more clipped way. We tended to drag out the pronunciation. But we had it first; we were the originals.

In the 1950s Slang Dictionary below, I have tried to indicate which group used a term or at least it’s derivation, if warranted. And there’s a separate page for Kookie Talk. This is the oft imitated lingo of TV’s most famous carpark from 77 Sunset Strip.

Slang A - B

1950s Slang (A-B)

Actor Show-off
Agitate the Gravel To leave (hot-rodders)
Ain’t that a bite That’s too bad (thanks to Ellie Kronberg for this)
Ankle-biter A child
Anti-frantic Poised, calm (thanks to Jim Hip for this one)
Ape Used with go – to explode or be really mad
Apple butter Smooth talk or flatery (courtesy of Jim Hip)
Are you writing a book? You’re asking too many questions
Baby Cute girl, term of address for either sex
Back seat bingo Necking in a car
Bad something that’s really good (courtesy of Leah E)
Bad news Depressing person
Bake biscuits To make records (courtesy of Jim Hip)
Ballad A love letter (yep, thank Jim Hip)
Bash A party
Bash ears talking too much (courtesy of Jim Hip)
Beat feet Depart quickly
Beatnik a member of the beat culture (courtesy of Dennis Evers)
Bent eight A V-8 engine (hot rodders)
Big Daddy An older person
Big tickle Really funny
Binoculars Glasses (courtesy of Jim Hip)
Bird Dog Someone who tries to steal your girl (courtesy of Lucien Laventure)
Bit An act
Blast A good time
Blow off To defeat in a race (hot-rodders)
Bobbed Shortened
Bogus False, bad, poor, fake, untrue (thanks to Joran Mueller for this)
Boss Great
Bread Money
Bug “You bug me” – to bother
Burn rubber To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders)

Next: Slang C-F
Think of one I missed? Email it to me and I’ll credit the addition to you!
(Please mention if you think it would fit better in 1950s Slang or 1960s Slang)

Candace Rich :