1910s Slang

"Movies" is a 1900s slang term

1910s Slang

Melina Druga
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Slang. We all use it, generally without thinking much about it. But what is it?

A group of young men in the 1910s
Slang often originates with young people

The dictionary defines slang as the least formal of speech.  It is characterized by using more metaphors and vivid speech and being more playful than ordinary speech. Slang also might be vulgar or 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.

Like more recent decades, the 1910s had its own particular slang. Some of it originated during World War One. Most of it is still in use today, although the meanings in some cases have changed.

1910s Slang No Longer in Use

Slang is, by nature, short lived. Here are some examples of 1910s slang that died with the decade.

  • 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)

But not all 1910 slang words have disappeared from our vocabulary.

Slang that Survived the Test of Time

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.

Here are some 1910s slang terms 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
  • Crackpot
  • Cushy
  • Ding bat
  • Earful
  • Fall for
  • Get on your nerves
  • Goof
  • Jinx
  • Joint (a questionable business)
  • Lay off
  • Nickle and dime
  • Posh
  • Rinky-dink
  • Wino
"Movies" is a 1900s slang term
“Movies” is a 1900s slang term

We still use a few slang words that originated even earlier in the 20th century. Here are some examples:

  • Bonehead
  • Butterflies in the stomach
  • Called out on the carpet
  • Double cross
  • Fall for
  • Frog in the throat
  • Lollapalooza
  • Movie
  • Read the riot act
  • Screw (to harm or cheat)
  • Side kick
  • Stir crazy
  • Stood me up
  • Yeah

New Words

Finally, here are 15 new words that were new to the lexicon in 1912:

  1. Airbrushing
  2. Ambivalence
  3. Autism
  4. Blues (a form of music and to feel depressed)
  5. Cellophane
  6. Churchillian (referring to Winston Churchill)
  7. Histamine
  8. Immunologist
  9. Jazz (first to mean excitement and in 1915 a form of music)
  10. Nosedive
  11. Oreo cookie
  12. Quantum theory
  13. Rumba
  14. Schizophrenia
  15. Vitamin

What was your favorite slang word on the list? Leave a comment below.

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Updated: 16 July 2018

Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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