Writing

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

gosh

“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

Latest work and what’s next

My short story “Another Saturn Monday” is now available in the Simmer anthology, at Dreamspinner or Amazon.

This story is a sci-fi fantasy, but I am more at home in historical fiction, and that’s the genre I’m working in for my next novel. And I am working on a new novel. It’s just taking a while mostly because I’m also in the middle of writing my dissertation. But I also do care about getting the history right, and that requires a lot of research.

The new novel–untitled as of yet, because I’m awful at titles–is set in Los Angeles in 1925. Yes, there is bootlegging, and speakeasies, and I try to slip in some of the great twenties slang. Building up the world that the characters live in is really fun, but also a lot of work. For example, when the two main characters decide to go see a movie, first I had to look in the Los Angeles Times archives to determine what movies were showing in July 1925 and ideally at what theater, then see if any of the movies were available on youtube so I could watch it myself and accurately describe it. (They go to see The Lost World, by the way. Stop motion dinosaurs!) I recently decided that another character enjoys fishing and camping, and so I want to try and read some issues of a contemporary magazine, Outdoor Life, so I can have him talking about current products and activities. Often these details only take up a paragraph or two, or maybe even just a sentence, but it takes hours to research them. Inevitably, you still get things wrong, but I want to do my best to represent the place and time.

So yes, a new novel is coming, it just might not be arriving quickly. But I hope the wait is worth it!