1930s Slang: How Do You Say Very Good?

What’s your story, morning glory?

This is today’s silliness, it being the last day of April and all.  Wave good-bye to April.  Busy month for me.  Did different things for the heck of it.

Case in point, out of curiosity I did some genealogical research about ye olde family and in the process I, once again, stumbled over something entertaining.

In that wordy historical way I like.  Bumping gums and a ring-a-ding-ding I say.

What I found is Dirty 30s!, a fun website with a long list of slang terms from, you guessed it, the 1930s.

Reading through this list gave me an idea of how my ancestors spoke to each other.  You shred it, wheat.  Or I assume that they did.  I mean, they probably used slang, right?  No reason to believe that they spoke in scholarly language all the time.

[Well, one did write a book that landed on the NYT best seller list in the 1930s but he must have at least known these words and phrases.  Togged to the bricks, that one.]

Anyway, below I present for your entertainment a simple little poll about the word GOOD.  My theme for the day, it would seem.  I could do worse. Good is good.

Thus I ask of you to shake a leg and use your peepers because you’ve got a poll to take.

[Slang words and phrases defined in comment section below.]

Published by

Ally Bean

Observant. Humorous. Adaptable. Pleasantly crazy. Midwestern by chance. Kindhearted by choice. Wordy.

114 thoughts on “1930s Slang: How Do You Say Very Good?”

  1. What’s your story, morning glory? = What do you mean by that?
    Bumping gums = Talk about nothing useful
    Ring-a-ding-ding = A good time at a party
    You shred it, wheat = You said it
    Togged to the bricks = Dressed up
    Shake a leg = Hurry up
    Peepers = Eyes

    Liked by 3 people

  2. A few new ones for me, Daddy-O. Maybe some of these came from the 30’s jazz and Bee-bop movement, though slang has no doubt been around forever. Had to vote for “Snazzy,” as it is one of your favorite words.

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    1. Z-D, you’re probably right about the sources of some of these sayings. Plus there was the end of Prohibition in the early 30s so that could have had influence on slang. Snazzy is a good choice!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jill, I can imagine how you’re feeling, but you’re a smart doll [woman] so you’ll see it through and soon be bringing home the cabbage [money].

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  3. Cool kid commenting here. My choice from the 30s is cool. I am a child of the 60s and cool was enjoying a resurgence. It was another 30 years before I began to use the term, however. I am, obviously, waaaay behind the curve. Curvy behinds is another matter, but that would not be cool to hijack this thread. Over and out, scout.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Maggie, yes, I like the word ‘cool’ too. I say it with beans, as in cool beans because, you know, my blogging nom de plume. Behind the curve? You? I doubt that! You are a snazzy one.

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    1. evil, the things we learn along the way, eh? I hadn’t thought of The Three Stooges but I’m sure they used 30s slang and more slang and even more slang.

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  4. I think cool is ageless. As is sweet (my second choice!). Slang is funny. I follow a British blogger and sometimes I have no idea what she’s talking about (and she blogs in English!). Their words often have a different meaning and they have way different slang.

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    1. kate, I bet you’re right. Has there ever been a time when we didn’t say cool? I know what you mean about British slang. I studied in England when I was in college and there were times, even with body language, that I had no idea what was being said. Slang is [dare I say?] cool.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Keen has my vote! Something about that word just rolls off my tongue. I enjoy nifty as well, although google shows varied meanings from good to pleasing to fashionable. And I have no idea when nifty appeared as a term so keen will do nicely.

    Over the years I have latched on to fun little slang words and often used them with my kids when they were young. I suspect they believed that I was crazier than an outhouse fly!
    **that last little phrase Ms Bean is in honor of your southern lady post. I found some fun ones here https://hottytoddy.com/2016/03/04/24-southern-expressions-for-the-crazy/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Deb, I love keen, too. That’s what I voted for, in fact. My mother used nifty often, but like you I don’t know when and why that word came into the lexicon.

      I’m off to follow your link. Thanks for sharing it here. While I like 30s slang, I adore southernisms. I’m so refined, you know!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Deborah, why am I not surprised to learn that you like slang? You’re the most wordsmithy woman I know. I couldn’t stop smiling when I read the list of 1930s slang so I had to talk about it here. It’s a blogging rule! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    1. LA, snazzy is a good choice. [Yes I meant to say it like that.]

      This poll is with a new version of WP’s free polls so I guess I’m not surprised you can’t access it. Whenever WP *fixes* something that doesn’t need fixing, whatever it messes with stops working. Or at least that is what it seems like to me. 🤨

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was on my phone yesterday (I usually use an iPad) and I assumed it was an android issue. Leave it to WordPress…..it’s not always snazzy…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I voted for keen, even though I say cool a lot! I’m always having to explain what certain words mean to our three year old grandson. He is very quick to pick them up and use them. His latest words are “appropriate” and “big ‘ol.” I’ll have to use some of these “old” words with him. Fun!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. My parents still use some of this slang, especially shake a leg. 🙂 I’ve always wondered how slang gets started–who comes up with these sayings and then popularizes them? Possibly radio people, actors/actresses or politicians since one normal person wouldn’t be able to get a trend started.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Margaret, you raise a good question about the origins of slang, any slang. I don’t know the answer, but considering I say snazzy and keen and cool I’d say that once slang gets in the lexicon it stays around.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. now this is just snazzy –
    very good and very fun
    and I picked kippy because it felt all 30;s to me

    cool felt like 70s – was surprised to see it there for 30s – and Keen felt like 50-s – so this was a learning adventure –
    and also LOVE the bumping gums – I know folks that do that from time to time – hah

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Prior…, I’m glad that someone picked kippy. I’ve never seen or heard that word before so maybe it stayed in the 1930s? When I think of cool I think of the 60s and as for keen I just like it, feel that I should say it more often. Thanks for being a good commenter and playing along here.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, I voted for “smooth” and it seems I am in quite the minority (at least for the moment). I use “cool beans” a lot too when the kids tell me something interesting about their day. I like “What’s your story morning glory” and the bumping gums! You are certainly getting the hang of these poll things, Ms. Bean.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Janet, I rarely say ‘smooth’ and couldn’t tell you why. I’m glad you picked it. I loved that morning glory phrase and hope to use it in conversations now that I know it. I’m thinking that this will be the last poll for a good long while. They’re more work-y to do than you might think. 😐

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was thinking of the Michael Jackson Smooth Criminal video. Speaking of videos, just wondering if you happened to catch my “Y” with the walk through video of my studio.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Betsy, I think dagnabbit is what is called a minced oath. It was a way to say goddamnit without saying it. I remember this [vaguely] from when I was in college, majoring in English Lit [which lends itself to learning obscure wordy trivia].

      Liked by 2 people

  10. This is one post where I feel I’m totally out of my element. Many of the comments here are just way too clever. I’m feeling inadequate in the comment department 😏
    I don’t even have any clue on how to vote. My only contribution is that my parents used to say ‘shake a leg’ all the time. In fact, I probably say it on occasion.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Joanne, please be assured that voting is optional. It’s funny how certain topics leave all of us wondering about what to say. If slang is not your thing, then so be it. I can never think of a thing to say when people start using sports metaphors. 😳

      ‘Shake a leg’ is a classic slang phrase. I remember my dad saying that, but I don’t know its origins. It sounds like a farm saying to me.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Jan, my parents said ‘hold your horses’ too. That must be a really old slang phrase. I look forward to hearing you say it [and write it] when you hit that magical age of dotage-ness [a word?].

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    1. Akilah, sweet seems timeless to me. I don’t know if it became slang in the 1930s or if it’s always been used in a slang way. Regardless, a good choice. 😉

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    1. Janis, you made me laugh. When you put it like that I agree that aces is cooler than cool. Or maybe I should say that cool isn’t as ace-y as aces? However you want to think about is keen by me. 😎

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  11. Language changes is terribly interesting. Real common person history of a time. Word choices reflect family heritage, regional life, and even religion. Pockets of groups would keep some common slag/phrases alive when it was outdated in other bigger places with access to “sophistication” (HAHA)
    “Aces” sound like early flight era – WWI or WWII? (Now you’ve done it, I’ve got to go look origin of this stuff up) “Shake a leg” also sounds military-ish? “Cool” was originally beatniks? Mom said Snazzy a lot. “Keen”/”Keeno”? Happy days era?
    All of this is so much fun. Great post

    Liked by 2 people

    1. philmouse, I enjoy words, the use of and the history of. When I found this website with the 1930s slang I was smitten. You’re right about how word choices tell you about the person/region that uses the word or phrase. I use snazzy and I use keen often. I don’t know where I picked them up, but I like them so I say them.

      Liked by 1 person

          1. Cool beans. Now they’re lit.
            I was asked to “hit the whoa” the other day, which I keep referring to as “stop the whoa” and it’s cracking us all up. It’s not a dance step, but it sorta reminds me of driving dances…
            Now and again I have NO IDEA who or what in blazes they’re going on about.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I’ve never heard “hit the whoa” but if that’s what all the cool kids are saying then you be one of them. Slang is fun, but like you every so often I’m clueless about what the heck someone is saying to me. Oh well, whatever…

              Liked by 1 person

  12. Well I picked “swell” Ally and I was racking my brains to think if that word was more like the 40s or 50s. I love hearing the old-time jargon. I liked your post you did about “cool beans” and I shared Evan Morris’ “Word Detective” site with you then – it’s a pity that he’s not still writing it anymore, as you’d have had a field day there. (There’s an old expression too – field day, something kids did like a hopsack race to win a ribbon?)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. linda, I must be old because I remember having Field Days. We had then when I was in middle school. All the kids from all the middle schools competed. There were track and field events– and anyone could compete in any event. Winners got ribbons. It was like Thunderdome middle-school style. In other words, I didn’t think it was swell at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, it looks like we are old together Ally.
        We didn’t have Field Day it in middle school, but in elementary school in Canada (we moved here when I was 10) and I can remember it was an end-of-the-school-year event and several hours were spent outdoors. I never had siblings and my parents were older when they had me, so I never spent time doing sports physical activities outside, so this day was not my “cup of tea” and not swell to me either. A couple of years ago, I spent my Thanksgiving long holiday scanning in all the photos and memorabilia from the photo albums and scrapbooks and will tell you that I never saw a single Field Day ribbon which doesn’t surprise me.

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    1. laura, I remember older people saying that when I was a child. I’d forgotten about it because, like you implied, it’s icky. I bet it was a way of saying “hot sh!t” without swearing.

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    1. Marty, you picked the winner [so far]. You can make these polls for free you know… just saying… when blogging gets monotonous it’s a snazzy way to add some variety. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I like ‘aces’ . My son goes to college in New York and we are in Chicago. When he got annoyed with me the last time he was in town, he turned to me and hollered, ‘Hop off!’ Now there was a new one for me.

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    1. Ernie, aces is a slang term that seems to have been lost in time, yet it’s a good one. Maybe we’ll bring it back! I’ve not heard ‘hop off’ but I get its meaning from your example. Slang is as current as today’s youth.

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    1. Master of Something Yet, many commenters are on Team Aces. I picked keen, but it seems to be losing ground in the poll. I’ve not heard the words you share here, but then why would I? Bonza is aces, if you ask me. 😊

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  14. These expressions are so much fun. I’ve heard of some of them. I think my dad used to say to me, when a child, “What’s your story, morning glory?” Always produced a smile. I voted for “sweet” day, because I think I still say that in this “day and age.” xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pam, I’d only heard the “morning glory” saying in an episode of The Big Bang Theory– if you can believe that. I like sweet but don’t use it. I don’t know why. Maybe I should try to toss it into my personal lexicon. That’d be sweet, wouldn’t it?

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      1. LOL – I hope you weren’t drinking that new Vodka when you laughed. That burns. So I hear – but I also hear it is quite snazzy in a tall nobby glass with a splash of lime juice. 🙂

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        1. No I was a sober as a church mouse when I read your comment. That vodka-lime-soda drink was refreshing and I’d even go so far as to say that I looked snazzy while I drank it. 😎

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  15. Ally, you’re pos-i-lutely aces! I can see that a lot of other people think so too, by the number of comments. 🙂
    I’ve researched a lot of Roaring Twenties slang, and Victorian as well for my serial stories. Yet I haven’t worked my way up to the 1930s. Thanks for a fun post.
    (Slipping back to the 20s) You’re the caterpillar’s kimono!

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    1. Teagan, the CATERPILLAR’S KIMONO might be the best slang phrase I’ve heard. Thank you for calling me such, although I am assuming that’s a good thing. Obviously you’re keen on slang too. Looking forward to your Saturday blog post.

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  16. Loving the slang here. Today’s slang moves so fast I can barely keep up — forget barely, if I’ve heard it that means it’s about 3 weeks from being out. I need to find a tutor just so I can interpret these texts!!

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    1. Laura, I hadn’t thought of that but you’re right. Slang today moves at lightning speed– and all those acronymns that I’m somehow supposed to know how to pronounce? Those drive me bonkers, too.

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