Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Tue, 10 Oct 100 13:11:41 -0700
Subject: Flappers 2 Rappers: American Youth Slang
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Flappers 2 Rappers
American Youth Slang
By Tom Dalzell
Jive-inspired youth slang of the 1940s had a prodigious vocabulary to
describe parts of the body (the frame), many based on the function of the
body part. No other decade can point to an anatomical slang anywhere even
vaguely as extensive as that of the 1940s. Starting from the head and
working down to the toes:
Hair: brush (a mustache), face lace (whiskers), moss.
The head: biscuit, dome, idea pot, noggin, think-box
The face: index, knob (an ugly face), map, phiz, puss.
Eyes: blinkers, lamps, pies, shutters (eye-lids), slanters, spotters.
[peepers, weepers -psl]
Ears: flippers, flops, lugs (large ears), mikes, sails.
The nose: handle (a large nose), horn, schnozz, sneezer.
The mouth and environs: bone box (mouth), chewers (teeth), chops (jaws),
choppers (teeth), crumb crunchers (teeth), snags (tonsils).
The neck: stretcher.
Shoulders and arms: brace o' broads (shoulders), brace o' hookers (arms),
floppers (arms), hinges (elbows).
Hands: dukes (fists), grabbers, meat hooks, paddlers, paws.
Fingers: feelers, fish hooks, forks, hooks, pickers, stealers, wigglers.
The chest, abdomen and contents: bread basket (stomach), clocker (heart),
pail (stomach), pump (heart), ticker (heart).
Legs: drumsticks, pillars, prayer dukes (knees), splits, stems, stumps,
Feet: hocks, plates.
Toes: ten (as in-it's good to have ten).
["hang ten" came later? -psl]
A Dissertation on Regurgitation
The 1970s and 1980s
Anthropologists of the future who study the slang of the 1970s and 1980s
might conclude from the many expressions and terms that describe the act
of vomiting that American youth had little time for any activity other than
The verbs blow, lose, and toss, the last two of which were standalone terms
for vomiting, spawned a slew of vomit synonyms, including blow chunks, blow
cookies, blow grist, blow lunch, lose it, lose lunch, lose one's groceries,
toss cookies, toss groceries, and toss tacos. Similarly, Ralph and Earl
meant to vomit, as did their cousins call Earl, talk to Earl, talk to Ralph
on the big white phone, and go to Europe with Ralph and Earl in a Buick.
Fred and Hughie (call Hughie) also lent their names to the act. Borrowing
terms that had been prominent in earlier generations and coining new terms
of their own, they certainly had a rich and varied vocabulary when it came
The toilet as the receptacle of vomit figured largely in the language of
regurgitation. Bow to the porcelain god, drive the porcelain bus, hug the
porcelain god, make love to the porcelain goddess, marry your porcelain
mistress, pray to the porcelain god, pray to the enamel god, talk into the
porcelain telephone, worship the throne, and worship the porcelain god all
meant the same thing, and it was not pretty. [Also the "big white phone"
mentioned in the previous paragraph. -psl]
There were a number of miscellaneous expressions (be to the curb, chew the
cheese, chum the fish, decorate your shoes, laugh at the carpet, reverse
gears, ride the Buick, sell Buicks, shoot your cookies, spill the blue
groceries, spit beef, technicolor yawn, throw donuts, water buffalo, and
waste groceries) and then an impressive, graphic-sounding string of
single-word synonyms, including barf, bison, boag, boot, burl, chummy,
chunk, hack, spew, spule, wheeze, woof, yak, yank, and zuke.
The Language of Dude Sports
The 1980s and especially the 1990s have seen the proliferation of several
dude sports, each of which has its own slang vocabulary. Snowboarding,
which was originally called snurfing (snow + surf), was the child of Sherman
Poppen, who invented the first "snowboard" in 1965. After some years of
dormancy, snowboarding has grown tremendously, and around it there has
developed a unique subculture with its own slang and slangy jargon.
Given snowboarding's similarities to surfing, it is not surprising to find
several direct borrowings from the vocabulary of the surfer, including
goofy (riding a snowboard with the right foot forward), shred (to ride a
snowboard very well) and shredder (a way cool snowboarder), and tweak (to
twist or bend).
The words for winners and losers are also surf-derived, with dude and
shredder on the accolade side and cone, dork, dweeb, and nerd used to
describe the outcast.
One who snowboards fast and well is raging or aggro. When jumping, the
space between the board and snow is simply air or an ollie (hair sprayer
air is high enough to puncture the ozone), while a turn that is true to
the radius of the snowboard's sidecut is a carve. A half-pipe is a trough
dug out of a slope in order for snowboarders to perform aerial maneuvers
off the sides. To butter the muffin is to spin on the board's nose.
When things go wrong snowboarding, there is a rich vocabulary for the
occasion. Bad snow, often the cause of problems, is simply crud. If one
abandons a jump or maneuver, one bails. To bonk is to hit something while
riding on a snowboard, while to jib is to slide over a bump; a butt plant
is falling backwards onto one's butt; a head plant or face plant is falling
on one's head; a sketch is a near wipeout; to biff is to wipe out; to lawn
chair air is to jump very high and then to collapse like a lawn chair upon
impact; and a yard sale is a complete and total loss of control which leaves
one's gear and clothing scattered over the snow.
A summertime spiritual equivalent of snowboarding is mountain biking, which
also has its own slang idiom. As is the case with other dude sports,
mountain biking has a variety of words to describe things going wrong,
including beartrapped (what happens when a loose pedal comes back around
and hits the lower leg), boned (to have caught the nose of your seat in
your tail bone), caterpillaring (jerky pedal cadence after failing to
preselect the correct gear for the end of a coast), chain suck (what happens
when the chain flops between the chainstay and the tire), clotheslined
(knocked off your bike by a suspended obstacle), crash and burn (any
gruesome accident), dabbing (to touch the ground inadvertently with any
part of the body), face plant (a face-first crash), groin plant (to catch
your groin in the seat of the bike), hellride (a bad trail or bad ride),
porpoising (reacting to the bike instead of controlling it), and tweaked
(struck with a low glancing blow by a rock).
On the other side of the ledger, clean is to ride a difficult trail without
© 2000 Peter Langston