January 13, 2014

“Barneymugging” & Other Slang Phrases from the Roaring ’20s.

Did you ever wish you were born in a different era?

My kids rhapsodize about the ’80s (Saved By The Bell!) and even the ’90s (Full House! The Spice Girls!), but they don’t know cool.

Cool is handing teetotalers a martini while cops are banging down the speakeasy door. Cool is picketing with your sister suffragettes and insisting your vote counts—and then chopping your hair off above the ear and boosting some absurdly long fake pearls from the dime store to spin around like a lasso at your local dance hall.

Do I romanticize? Sure I do. Even so, the ’20s were avant garde in a way no decade has managed to be since.

Just ask my Gram; she tickled the ivories in the pit at a silent movie house—a gig that was sternly frowned upon by her dad—a devout Methodist minister. But it’s easy to imagine when you see her with that signature cock eyed grin in a classic photo, standing next to my grandfather, his foot perched on the running board of a Studebaker (or some such horseless carriage) with a rakishly angled pork pie cap perched atop his head.

If you’re as tired of today’s slang as I am… words that for the most part have just been reduced to letters; LMFAO, FML, and who can forget, WTF… try some of these Bronx cheers. You’ll be the quiff of the party, guaranteed.

1. Absent Treatment: dancing with a shy person, inexperienced dancer or awkward partner.

2. Air Tight: extremely desirable or attractive. (Note: A “sheik” is an attractive male.)

3. Baby Vamp: a very popular young woman or an attractive girl. (Note: “Vamp” on its own refers to a flirt.)

4. “Banana oil!”: “That’s doubtful!”

5. Bangtail: a race horse.

6. Barneymugging: sexual intercourse.

7. Beat Session: a gossip session between two males, consisting of idle chatter.

8. Bluenose: someone who is prudish, puritanical or morally uptight.

9. Bronx Cheer: the sound of raspberries you make to indicate disapproval.

10. Bug-Eyed Betty: used to refer to an undesirable, ugly woman.

11. Bunny: someone who seems lost, but endearingly so.

12. Burning with a Blue Flame: drunk. (Also used for drunk: “blotto,” “boiled as an owl,” “half-shot,” “half-screwed,” “lit up like the commonwealth,” “loaded to the muzzle,” “over the bay,” “pie-eyed,” “polluted.”)

13. Cast a Kitten: to throw a temper tantrum. (Also use for “temper tantrum”: “ing bing.”)

14. Cellar Smeller: a guy who only comes around when there’s free booze.

15. Dead Hoofer: a terrible dancer, someone with two left feet.

16. Dead Soldier: an empty container of alcohol. Example: After draining your beer, you might proclaim that soldier dead.

17. Declaration of Independence: a divorce. (Also use: “dropping the pilot.”)

18. Eel’s Hips: a phrase similar to “The Cat’s Meow” or “The Monkey’s Eyebrows.”

19. Face Stretcher: an older lady still trying to look young (and usually failing).

20. Flat Tire: used to indicate that one’s date did not meet expectations. Example: “She seemed so interesting, but she was nothing but a flat tire!”

21. Frolic Pad: a dance club or nightclub (Note: If it’s a really swanky place with rich patrons, that’s called a “clip joint.”)

22. Hope Chest: your trusty pack of cigarettes.

23. Indian Hop: a code name for reefer.

24. “Ish Kabibble!”: “Who cares?”, “No worries!”

25. Kick the Gong Around: to smoke opium.

26. Knee-Duster: a skirt.

27. Lalapazaza: a good sport.

28. Meat Wagon: an ambulance.

29. Mustard Plaster: someone who isn’t wanted but won’t leave.

30. “Nerts!”: “That’s awesome!”

31. Quiff: a sexually active female.

32. Rock of Ages: a middle-aged woman, usually over 30.

33. Screaming Meemies: the shakes.

34. Streeted: to be tossed out of a party.

35. Togged to the Bricks: dressed to the nines.

For all 59 phrases, visit this website.

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Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Tumblr

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