Slang. We all use it, generally without thinking much about it. But what is it?
The dictionary defines slang as the least formal of speech characterized by using more metaphors, more vivid speech and more playful than ordinary speech. Slang also might be vulgar and socially unacceptable.
Slang has been around since the beginning of language. It might be used as professional jargon, as an euphemism or as a way for young people to communicate.
The 1910s had its own particular slang, too. Some of it originated during World War One. Those words will be covered in a separate post. Most of them are still in use, although the meanings in some cases have changed. Today, we will focus on non-war related slang.
Slang is, by nature, short lived. Here are some examples of 1910s slang that you no longer hear:
- Blotto (a drunk)
- Dilly (excellent)
- Duck soup (something easy)
- Goldbrick (a lazy person, someone who doesn’t do a fair share of work)
- Hoosegow (jail or prison)
- Meathook (a hand)
- On the make (being flirtatious with the opposite sex)
- Short (a streetcar)
- Simp (foolish, stupid person)
- Steam up (build up, agitate)
- Vigorish (high interest on a loan)
Once a slang word enters the dictionary, it becomes legitimatized, although it may still remain informal speech. By this time, everyone knows what the slang word means, not just the group which originated it.
Slang that Survived the Test of Time
Not all 1910 slang words have disappeared from our vocabulary. Here are some we still use:
- Beat it (to leave)
- Bimbo (although in the 1910s it meant a tough guy)
- Boner (although it meant a great mistake, not a euphemism)
- Cabin fever
- Ding bat
- Fall for
- Get on your nerves
- Joint (a questionable business)
- Lay off
- Nickle and dime
We still use a few slang words that originated even earlier during the decade 1900-1909. Here are some examples:
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Called out on the carpet
- Double cross
- Fall for
- Frog in the throat
- Read the riot act
- Screw (to harm or cheat)
- Side kick
- Stir crazy
- Stood me up
Finally, here are 15 new words that were new to the lexicon in 1912:
- Blues (a form of music and to feel depressed)
- Churchillian (referring to Winston Churchill)
- Jazz (first to mean excitement and in 1915 a form of music)
- Oreo cookie
- Quantum theory
What was your favorite slang word on the list? Leave a comment below.
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