List of slang terms from 1920s surfaced online expressions and their meanings revealed

From ‘bearcat’ and ‘clam’ to ‘giggle water’: How many of these 1920s slang terms are YOU able to define?

  • A list has surfaced online revealing the terms that were popular 100 years ago 
  • Phrases young people said in the 1920s included ‘giggle water’ and ‘bee’s knees’
  • Other expressions of the day were ‘applesauce, ‘bearcat’ and ‘glad rags’ 

A list of slang terms that were popular 100 years ago has recently surfaced online and it covers all that was ‘hip, cool and trendy’ back in the 1920s.

The expressions people used at the time covered all manner of activities from getting drunk to gossiping and looking good.

From ‘giggle water’ and bee’s knees’ to ‘applesauce’, 5Why has revealed some of the most common 20s-era words and phrases as well their meanings. 

Know one’s onions: If you know your onions, you are the person who has all the inside information 

Applesauce: If you call something ‘applesauce’ you are saying it is something you don’t believe.

‘Use it to demonstrate your lack of appreciation for the words of another,’ reports The Atlantic.

Bearcat: According to 5Why ‘a bearcat is free-spirited woman, one who is possibly a bit fiery’. explained a bearcat means ‘a person or thing that fights or acts with force or fierceness’.

Bee’s knees: The term ‘bee’s knee’s is complimentary. The term itself is part of a series of nonsense catchphrases from 1920s America that included the cat’s miaow, ant’s pants and tiger’s spot.

Clam: If you’re asking someone for a clam or few clams, you’re asking them for money.

Dewdropper: A dewdropper is a person (generally male) who is young, lazy and likes to sleep all day.

Fire extinguisher: The phrase refers to someone who puts the dampener on a fun night out. They may be a chaperone or the person who pipes up to say you’ve had enough.

Giggle Water: During the 1920s, prohibition was peaking. The term giggle water was used in place of alcohol, primarily by women.

Glad rags: Stylish individuals back in the day described their best outfits as wearing their ‘glad rags’.

‘I have to see a man about a dog’: In keeping with the need to use code when referring to alcohol, this phrase meant stepping out to buy booze.

Giggle water: If you are enjoying a drink with friends, you're indulging in 'giggle water'

Giggle water: If you are enjoying a drink with friends, you’re indulging in ‘giggle water’

Know one’s onions: Someone who ‘knows their onions’ has all the insider knowledge and is a good source of gossip.

Let’s blouse: According to The Flapper’s Dictionary, ‘let’s blouse’ means you are leaving a venue, pub or club.

Noodle juice: This term refers to tea. However, the word noodle on its own means head.

Phonus Balonus: If you are describing something as ‘phonus balonus’ you are saying it is absolute rubbish.

Putting on the Ritz: This expression was inspired by the Ritz Hotel in London. It means to dress up fashionably before hitting the town.

Zozzled: The slang term zozzled, which comes from the older word 'sozzled' is to say someone is drunk

Zozzled: The slang term zozzled, which comes from the older word ‘sozzled’ is to say someone is drunk

Tell It To Sweeny: The term means you don’t believe what someone has said.

Wet blanket: To use the phrase ‘wet blanket’ is to describe a person who spoils other’s fun.

You slay me: This slang expression means to make someone laugh or you might say it to a person you find hilarious.

Zozzled: To call a person is ‘zozzled’ is to say they are drunk. It is understood the term comes from the older word ‘sozzled’.

Sozzle means to sozzle to spill or splash, often in a messy manner.