1920s and 1930s slang

Using the correct slang for an era is absolutely key in capturing the feel of the time and making the characters’ dialogue sound right. There are a lot of slang lists floating around the internet already, but I thought I’d add this one to the mix. All of these terms are ones I have come across in primary sources from the 1920s and 1930s. I’ll be adding to it periodically.

awfully: very (e.g. “would you mind awfully?”)

beastly: terrible

blamed fool: an idiot

blue: sad/depressed

cake of soap

chummy pair: two close friends

cool your heels: wait

corking: wonderful

crook: criminal

devil: common swear word (e.g. “why the devil did you do that?”)

dinky: little

dough: money

famously: good/well (e.g. “he got on famously with them.”)

fast set: group of fashionable people

good egg: a good person


“had a hankering for”: wanted something

hell: common swear word (e.g. “the hell of it is”)

honey/hon: a good thing/person (e.g. “we thought that was a honey”)

hooey: nonsense

hot dog kennel: roadside refreshment stand

howling: great (e.g. “a howling success”)

“I’m-from-Missouri attitude”: very critical and skeptical

“in a funk”: depressed/sad

jig time: fast (e.g. “it’s on the job in jig time”)

jolly: good

“keep your trap shut”: keep your mouth shut

lamb: a sweet person

lousy: crappy

mental capacity: intellgence

old bean: a man

old bus: an older car

“on the level”: true

phoney: fake

plug: kill

rotten: crappy

a scrap: a fight (e.g. “a dandy scrap”)

shiftless: unreliable (e.g. “shiftless fellows of no account”)

sister: a girl

skunk: a jerk

smashed to flinders: wrecked, like a car

smackers: dollars

snappy: cute/fashionable

sock on the nose: a punch

spooner: a teenage couple

sport: an easy-going/accommodating person (e.g. “what a glorious sport you are!”)

swell: good

“taken for a buggy ride”: fooled

tinsmith’s delight: a car

“why the heck”

“you could have knocked off their eyes with a barrel stave”: surprised