Incredible 1950s Slang We Need to Bring Back Today

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.

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  • Knuckle Sandwich

    Knuckle Sandwich

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

  • Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

    Cruisin' for a Bruisin'

    Looking for trouble.

  • Are You Writing a Book?

    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.

  • Later, Gator

    Later, Gator

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

    The response was "After a while, crocodile."

  • 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.

  • Made in the Shade

    Made in the Shade

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

  • Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

    Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch...

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

  • Wazoo


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

  • -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.

  • Pile Up Zs

    Pile Up Zs

    To get some sleep.

  • Classy Chassis

    Classy Chassis

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

  • Back Seat Bingo

    Back Seat Bingo

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

  • Clyde


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

  • Cast an Eyeball

    Cast an Eyeball

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

  • Cut the Gas!

    Cut the Gas!

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

    You get the idea.

  • Radioactive


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

  • Razz My Berries

    Razz My Berries

    Get me interested or excited.

  • Come on, Snake, Let's Rattle!

    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.

  • Give Me a Bell

    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.

  • 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.

  • Earth Pads

    Earth Pads

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

  • Bash Ears

    Bash Ears

    To talk, as in, "too much."

  • Shoot Low, They're Sending Shetlands

    Shoot Low, They're Sending Shetlands

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