1920’s Lingo Part 2: 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?

Welcome back to Part II of the 1920’s Lingo! If you missed part I, you can find it here. Is there anything more fun than 1920s lingo and slang? Granted, much of it revolved around women and drinking, but we have evolved since then. Even still, much of what we still say today has roots in the Roaring 20s.

While I’ve always been enticed by flappers and prohibition, I really began researching the subject for my upcoming series, FLUX. My main guy, Ollie, lived through one of the most fascinating decades in recent history, so putting this list together has been aces! If you love slang or time-period language in general, this one is for you. Be on the lookout for part III in the coming weeks.


  • Rube – a dumb or foolish person.
  • Choice bit of calico – a sexy or attractive woman.
  • Egg – an obscenely wealthy person.
  • Dick – a private investigator.
  • Drugstore Cowboy – a woman chaser.
  • Jane – a woman.
  • Fella – a general term for a guy.
  • Copper – a police officer.
  • Gimlet – someone who is a chronic bore.
  • Big cheese – the most important person in a setting.
  • Dud – wallflower; boring person.


  • On the level? – akin to asking, ‘For real?’
  • Bushwa – something is absurd. Akin to bull crap.
  • Half-seas over – to be sloppy drunk.
  • Know your onions – to know what’s up or what’s going on.
  • On a toot – to be on a drunken bender.
  • All wet – when something is all wrong.
  • Get fresh – to make a move on someone.
  • Beef – to have a specific problem (a beef) with someone.
  • Carry a torch – to have romantic feelings for someone.
  • Dolled up – to get dressed up.
  • Goofy – what happens when someone is in love.
  • Hit on all sixes – to perform at 100%.
  • Hooey – nonsense.


  • Quilt – an alcoholic drink meant to keep you warm.
  • Mazuma – money, most often a reference to cash.
  • Duds – clothes, especially nice clothes.
  • Panther piss – cheap alcohol.
  • Dope – drugs.
  • Hair of the dog – dose of alcohol meant to ward off a hangover.
  • Hooch – bootleg liquor.
  • Joe – coffee.
  • Dead soldier – an empty beer bottle.
What is your favorite term or expression? Do you still use any of these?


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