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Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today

Updated January 2, 2018 14.2k votes 1.5k voters 74.8k views23 items

List RulesVote up the sick retro slang you’ll be working into everyday conversation.

Every generation develops its own slang. It often sounds alien to the generations who came before, even as these new words and phrases eventually get adopted into mainstream culture and become just the way people talk. 1950s slang is no different. The decade that birthed rock & roll used old words in whole new combinations, to the consternation of parents and old fogies everywhere, giving us terms like "baby," "cool," and "hipster" that mean more or less the same thing now as they did when they were just rockabilly slang.

Modern American English slang owes a lot to retro slang, so it's worth looking back to see if there's anything else we should be using. Here's a list of 1950s expressions that are worth reviving. Most of them began with either hot-rodder or Beat subcultures, but quickly infiltrated teenage language everywhere.

  • 1

    A punch in the face. Has this one ever gone out of style?

  • 2

    Looking for trouble.

  • 3

    Good-bye. So long. Short for "See you later, alligator."

    The response was "After a while, crocodile."

  • 4

    This one means, "you're nosy, you're asking too many questions."

    This one still gets used sometimes today, but it's worth spreading around again. Especially since books are on the way out.

  • 5

    This means "kid," usually a small one. Said by rockabilly fans, it should be obvious that this is a reference to short stature.

  • 6

    Something that was made in the shade was a guaranteed success, a sure thing.

  • 7

    A conversational segue borrowed from TV Westerns. It's intended to get a meandering conversation back on track.

  • 8

    The rear end of something or someone. "Talking out your wazoo" would mean "talking out of your butt."

  • 9

    A suffix added to a word, to make it an adjective describing the feel of a place or state of mind. "This place is a total squaresville," for instance.

  • 10

    A great body, referring to either a person or a car. Used originally by hot-rodders.

  • 11

    To get some sleep.

  • 12

    A description of making out in a car. ("Making out," for those who are terminally uncool, meaning "kissing.")

  • 13

    Catch-all derogatory term for a conformist or an idiot, used mostly by Beats. "Hit the road, Clyde" was their "Bye, Felicia."

  • 14

    To look upon. "Hey Frankie, cast an eyeball at that joker across the street."

  • 15

    Incredibly popular. This word was (mostly) a good thing in the '50s.

  • 16

    Shut up. Be quiet. Can it. Zip it...

    You get the idea.

  • 17

    Get me interested or excited.

  • 18

    A brash, bold invitation. Delivered to the opposite sex when asking for a dance, or to the same sex when demanding a fight. It was complicated.

  • 19

    "Call me." Would be appropriate these days if you set your cell phone ringtone to "old phone" or "vintage."

    Once upon a time, all phones sounded like that. They also had to be plugged into a wall at all times to work properly, and you couldn't text or take selfies with them.  What a dark time that must have been.

  • 20

    Refers to a person who is calm and poised under pressure. The opposite of panicky, but not quite the same as being cool.

  • 21

    Shoes. This one is a pretty sensible description of what shoes actually do, if you think about it.

  • 22

    To talk, as in, "too much."

  • 23

    Another reference to TV Westerns ("Shetlands" are a kind of pony). This one roughly translates to "be careful."