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)
|Agitate the Gravel||To leave (hot-rodders)|
|Ain’t that a bite||That’s too bad (thanks to Ellie Kronberg for this)|
|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 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)|
|Blast||A good time|
|Blow off||To defeat in a race (hot-rodders)|
|Bogus||False, bad, poor, fake, untrue (thanks to Joran Mueller for this)|
|Bug||“You bug me” – to bother|
|Burn rubber||To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders)|