Then & Now: World War II Era Slang – Oh How Times Have Changed.

Do you carry a torch for someone?

No, I’m not talking about the symbol for the Olympic games (although the picture probably fooled you).  During the World War II era, “to carry a torch” for someone actually meant “to have a crush on them.”  It stemmed from the metaphor of a burning flame, or to keep a fire burning, as in love.

Another slang term you might have heard is “applesauce!” or “horsefeathers” used as an expletive.  What kind of expletives do we use today?  I’ll leave that up to interpretation.

If you were ever called the “cat’s meow,” then give yourself a pat on the back, because that’s quite a compliment!  Back in the 1940s, the “cat’s meow” was the “big shot” or a stylish person, or maybe you were just a “hep cat.”

 But if you were called an old “fuddy duddy” then you better hide your head in shame, because “fuddy duddies” were old fashioned, and weren’t considered cool.  You also didn’t want to be called a “stoolie” or “stool pigeon” which was a tattle-tale.  Don’t “snap your cap” though (don’t get angry).

Being called the “big cheese” was the “cat’s meow’s” closest friend.  The big cheese’s were also the “big shots” and the important crowd around town, but nowadays the only adjectives you hear relating to cheese involve Packer’s fans.

If someone were to tell you they liked your “stompers,” don’t flip your wig (lose control)!  They were only complimenting your shoes – and you just might have been wearing saddle shoes.

If you were in the Rat Pack, associated with the Pack, or even just a Rat Pack wannabe, you would’ve called a woman a “dame, broad, or chick.”  If you walked into a bar and wanted some alcohol you might have referred to it as “gasoline.”  “Crazy,” was actually another word for “cool” and “crumb” was used to describe a creep.  “Rind-a-ding” meant terrific, a “gasser” was a great person, a “mouse” was a small woman, “clyde” apparently meant anything, and a “harve” was a “square.”  And if you had a girlfriend who loved to go dancing?  Well you’d be dating a “twirl.”

Are you hard boiled?  No I’m not talking about your eggs, “hard boiled” was a term used to describe a tough, strong person.

A “jalopy” was an old, broken down car, a “kisser” was simply used to refer to a mouth, and a “flat tire” was used to describe a boring, disappointing date.

If you were talking to your friends about Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, or maybe just describing the flawless performance you just gave on the dance floor, you’d be describing a “hoofer,” which was simply a term meaning “dancer.”  Or maybe you’d just decide to call them a “swell” dancer.

When you talked about Fred Astaire wearing his top hat and his tails, you’d probably say he looked pretty “ritzy,” “swanky,” or “spiffy.”

Other slang terms include “high hat” which meant to snub, “keen” which meant attractive or appealing, and “pinch” which was to arrest.

World War II era slang was definitely different than the slang we commonly hear today, but I still think it’s pretty swell!


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