The Roaring Twenties was an interesting time. The release of The Great Gatsby (2013) this week has reminded me of how purely ridiculous and wild everything was back then, including the vocabulary. I’m not just talking about “the bees knees” here (although that one is pretty swell too). I mean the real obscure slang, the kind your grandma might throw in to one of her stories when she gets overly excited. Some of these are so purely hilarious, I don’t know why they ever went out of style:
Applesauce (adj.): nonsense
Often used as an exclamatory phrase, applesauce represents a response to an outrageous claim, as in, “Can’t change the past? Applesauce! Of course you can!” I understand that not everyone likes applesauce (the food) because of its texture issues so when we bring all of these phrases back (notice how I used “when” and not “if” in order to express my determination), I will allow other fruit-purees to replace applesauce to increase the chances of reviving its popularity. The following options are acceptable: Grapesauce, Aprisauce (apricot-sauce), Bananasauce, Orangesauce, etc.
Wet Blanket (n.): a party pooper
I’ve never liked the term “party pooper” (unless Lucille Ball is saying it while drunk on liquid veggie medicine…anyone??). Wet blanket is an equally loving term meaning “someone who doesn’t like to have fun” or presumably, someone who brings down the party’s energy (puts out their “fire”). All I can imagine with this phrase is a soggy blanket with eyes walking into a room full of people and looking very out of place like those talking M&Ms that secretly give me nightmares. What? Moving on…
Glad Rags (n.): party clothes
“C’mon girls, get your glad rags on. We’re going out tonight!” Can’t you see this being the start some cheesy country song or rom-com movie? No? That’s just me? Well, regardless, glad rags is a much better way of saying “party clothes” in my opinion. Not only is it classier but it gets an assonance bonus. Plus, we can recycle the Glad trash-bag catch phrase. Break-up blues getting you down? Work tension causing you stress? Oprah bailed on your BBQ again? “Don’t get mad, get Glad!” See? It’s applicable for all of these situations.
Lalapazaza (n.): a good sport
Gatsby could have been an entirely different movie if some of these slang terms were thrown in there. “Of course, old sport,” becomes “Of course, lalapazaza.” Sure, it doesn’t sound as poetic as Fitzgerald may have intended but it provides some comedic relief to the classic American Lit tale. Add Leonardo Dicaprio’s intense gaze and 1920s accent onto it and wella, Leo can finally get his Oscar.
Razz (v.): to tease
Combine all of these terms into a conversation and what do you get?
Bettie: Those glad rags make you look like a wet blanket.
Beth: Applesauce! I think they look swell.
Betsy: Gosh, Beth, you’re such a lalapazaza. All everybody ever does is razz you when you’re really just the cat’s pajamas.
I have to stop myself. This is getting too entertaining, you guys. The point here is that “razz” is a more colorful way of the modern day term “rag” as in “to make fun of” (i.e. “Stop ragging on me”). Razz also has two Zs in it, which means a lot of Scrabble points if that’s any incentive to make it a popular word again.
Splifficated (v.): to get very drunk
What I found most interesting in my slang research was the abundance of terms I found related to liquor or being drunk. Splifficated was my favorite, along with “Giggle Water” (meaning alcohol) and “panther sweat” (meaning whiskey). Here are the others, if anyone was interested: blotto, fried, half seas over, hooch, ossified, juice joint, bootleg, moonshine, on a toot, quilt, speakeasy, zozzled, bent, hair of the dog, etc.
It’s no coincidence that the most popular slang terms in the 1920s were related to alcohol and money, the two most defining aspects of the decade. It goes to show, I think how easily our language is shaped by our culture and our values. YOLO, lawlz, chillax, da bomb, peeps, ‘Rents, noob. We may not see it now but these terms tell us something about our generation. I don’t exactly know what but when I figure it out, I’ll let you all know. In the meantime, what’s your favorite slang word from the 1920s (or beyond)?