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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

One of my favorite twitter accounts to follow is @RetroMusicVideo.  Most of the time they post daily throwback music videos.  The other day, they posted an article about slang from the 1920’s that needs to make a comeback.  Below are some 1920’s slang and their meaning.

The Cat’s Pajama means the most excellent, the coolest.  Other kooky versions of that phrase include combinations I’ve never heard, such as the eel’s ankle or the monkey’s eyebrows.  Neither caught on.  As a figure of speech, it made sense at the time.  The “cat” was used to describe the coolest of the cool.  Pajamas comes from the Hindustani pay-jama or Persian Pay-jameh and refers to the comfy. Loose-fitting clothes you wear when you don’t want to leave the house.  Back then, they were an up-and-coming fashion trend.

Here's another one: Juice Joint.  That is, a speakeasy or nightclub.  All the cool cats need a trendy spot to hang out, right? Where else but a local juice joint? This may sound like a trendy name for a chain of smoothie shops today, but in the ‘20’s America, prohibition of alcohol was in full swing, with unlawful bars and speakeasies popping up in major metropolitan areas faster than you can say “I have to go see a men about a dog(code for buying whisky).  

This next one clarifies something for me.  Occasionally I’d hear a classic from Rod Stewart titled “Dixie Toot”.  “Toot” means going on a drinking spree.  It’s hard to find the exact origins of this phrase, toot is a versatile word.  Besides the obvious clouds of gas that we emit, it can also refer to cocaine, the act of playing a horn or even rubbish.

Another bit of ‘20’s slang is giggle water/juice.  This means alcohol.  Lots of booze-related terms in the ‘20’s, weren’t there? The term “juice” seemed to be en vogue because it was also used in alcohol-free contexts.  “Noodle juice”. For another example, refers to tea.

“Egg” is someone who lives extravagantly.  “What’s up, egg” could be heard in the ‘20’s.   This usage might come from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional suburb of West Egg, where the Great Gatsby himself threw ritzy parties and lived a life of luxury among his fellow new money elite.

“Know Your Onions” is another one.  This is simple to figure.  It means to know what you’re talking about.  Nobody really knows where this came from.  Some speculate it came from Oxford Dictionary editor C.T. Onions (yes, that’s his name).  This theory. However, has been debunked.  Or final phrase from the ‘20’s is glad rags.  These are fancy clothes you wear on a night out.  “Glad” comes from various Germanic words for “shiny” or “smooth”.  This eventually came to mean bright or joyful.  Glad rags is considered today as an old-fashioned British terms for fancy clothes.  The expression dates all the way back to the turn of the last century.  If there ever was a decade to dust off your spiffy clothes and go dancing, it was the Roaring ‘20’s.  (  Below are links to my podcast Blendertainment:    


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