1920’s Lingo Part I: Are You Hip to the Jive?

The roaring 20’s. A time of flappers, gangsters, and speakeasies. Words were much more evocative then, weren’t they? They sparked just the right image and emotion. They captured just the right meaning. Why else would we still be stuck on them today?

My current work in progress, FLUX, has an on the level character who lived through prohibition and loves to spill about his time in juice joints chasing dames. In learning more about him, I’ve picked up on some fantastic new words and sayings. I’ve compiled a comprehensive list I’ll be sharing over several posts. Be on the lookout for part II in the coming week.

If you don’t know nothing from nothing about 1920’s slang, then grab a cup of Joe and sit back and relax.


  • Doll – an attractive woman.
  • Dame – a woman; synonym Jane.
  • Mrs. Gundy – a prudish person.
  • Moll – a gangster’s girl.
  • Dewdropper – a lazy person; unemployed; synonym lollygagger.
  • Flat tire – a bore.
  • Piker – a coward.
  • Pill – an unlikable person.
  • Poor little bunny – a pitiable person.


  • Bee’s knees – something fantastic; synonym swell; berries; darb.
  • Don’t take any wooden nickels – don’t fall for anything dumb.
  • Iron my shoelaces – to excuse oneself to the bathroom.
  • Are we square? – are we even; are we okay?
  • Beat your gums – all talk and no action.
  • Leave off – get out of here; synonym beat it; scram.
  • Get in a lather – to get worked up over something.
  • Mind your potatoes – mind your business.
  • On the up and up – acceptable; synonym on the level.
  • Are you hip to the jive? – are you trendy; do you get what I’m saying?


  • Clam – a dollar.
  • Gasper – a cigarette.
  • Giggle water – alcoholic beverage.
  • Sinker – donut.
  • Jalopy – an old car.
  • John – the toilet.
  • Handcuff – an engagement ring.
  • Manacle – a wedding band.
  • Dead soldier – an empty beer bottle.

Roaring 20's flapper


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