Culture

Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today  

Robert F Mason
7.6k votes 968 voters 48.7k views 23 items

List Rules Vote 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.

list ordered by
1
Cruisin' for a Bruisin'... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

Looking for trouble.

2
Knuckle Sandwich is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Knuckle Sandwich

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

3
Later, Gator is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Later, Gator

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

The response was "After a while, crocodile."

4
Are You Writing a Book? is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Are You Writing a Book?

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
Ankle-Biter is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Ankle-Biter

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

6
Made in the Shade is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Made in the Shade

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

7
Wazoo is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Wazoo

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

8
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch..... is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

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

9
-ville is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
-ville

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
Back Seat Bingo is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Back Seat Bingo

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

11
Classy Chassis is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Classy Chassis

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

12
Clyde is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Clyde

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

13
Radioactive is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Radioactive

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

14
Pile Up Zs is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Pile Up Zs

To get some sleep.

15
Cut the Gas! is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Cut the Gas!

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

You get the idea.

16
Cast an Eyeball is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Cast an Eyeball

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

17
Razz My Berries is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Razz My Berries

Get me interested or excited.

18
Come on, Snake, Let's Ratt... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Come on, Snake, Let's Rattle!

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
Give Me a Bell is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Give Me a Bell

"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
Anti-frantic is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Anti-frantic

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

21
Earth Pads is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Earth Pads

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

22
Shoot Low, They're Sending... is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Shoot Low, They're Sending Shetlands

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

23
Bash Ears is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today
Bash Ears

To talk, as in, "too much."