26 Beatnik Slang Phrases You Should Start Using

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Plenty of phrases from the first self-described hipster generation have lasted into modern conversation: people still get bent out of shape, annoying people bug us and muscular guys are still built, just to scan the b-words. Here are 26 words and phrases that don't get much use today, but are worth sneaking into conversation.

1. A shape in a drape

A well-dressed person. "Usually she just wears jeans, but she sure is a shape in a drape in that dress."

2. Bright disease

To know too much. "He has bright disease. Make sure he doesn't rat us out."

3. Claws sharp

Being well-informed on a number of subjects. "Reading Mental Floss keeps your claws sharp."

4. Dixie fried

Drunk. "It's Friday and the eagle flies tonight. Let's go get dixie fried."

5. Everything plus

Better than good-looking. "He wasn't just built, he was everything plus."

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6. Focus your audio

Listen carefully. "Shut your trap and focus your audio. This is important."

7. Gin mill cowboy

A bar regular. (A gin mill is a bar.) "Cliff Clavin was the _flossiest gin mill cowboy of all time."

8. Hanging paper

Paying with forged checks. "I hope that chick who stole my purse last week goes to jail for hanging paper."

9. Interviewing your brains

Thinking. "I can see you're interviewing your brains, so I'll leave you alone."

10. Jungled up

Having a place to live, or specific living arrangements. "All I know is that he's jungled up with that guy he met at the gin mill last month."

11. Know your groceries

To be aware, or to do things well. (Similar to Douglas Adams' "know where your towel is.") "You can't give a TED Talk on something unless you really know your groceries."

12. Lead sled

A car, specifically one that would now be considered a classic model. "His parents gave him their old lead sled for his sixteenth birthday."

13. Mason-Dixon line

Anywhere out of bounds, especially regarding personal space. "Keep your hands above the Mason-Dixon line, thanks."

14. Noodle it out

Think it through. "You don't have to make a decision right now. Noodle it out and call me back."

15. Off the cob

Corny. "Okay, some of this old Beat slang is kinda off the cob."

16. Pearl diver

A person who washes dishes. "I'm just a pearl diver at a greasy spoon, but it's a job."

17. Quail hunting

Picking up chicks. "I'm going quail hunting and you're my wingman."

18. Red onion

A hole in the wall; a really crappy bar. "I thought we were going somewhere nice but he just took me to the red onion on the corner."

19. Slated for crashville

Out of control. "That girl's been in college for five minutes and is already slated for crashville."

20. Threw babies out of the balcony

A big success; interchangeable with "went down a storm." "I was afraid the party would suck, but it threw babies out of the balcony."

21. Used-to-be

An ex, a person you used to date. "I ran into my used-to-be in Kroger's and I looked terrible."

22. Varicose alley

The runway in a strip club. "Stay in school or you'll be strutting varicose alley, girls."

23. Ways like a mowing machine

An agricultural metaphor for impressive sexual technique, from the song "She's a Hum Dinger" by Buddy Jones. "She's long, she's tall / She's a handsome queen / She's got ways like a mowing machine." (Let us know if any of you ever successfully pull this one off in conversation.)

24. X-ray eyes

To understand something, to see through confusion. "That guy is so smart. He's got x-ray eyes."

25. Yard

A thousand dollars. "Yeah, it's nice, but rent is half a yard a week. Let's jungle up somewhere else."

26. Zonk on the head

A bad thing. "It stormed all night and we lost power, but the real zonk on the head was when hail broke the bedroom window."

These were collected from Straight From the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang by Max Décharné and A Historical Dictionary of American Slang. The first is exceptional in its completeness and worth purchasing if you love dictionaries, and the second is free online and easily searchable. Try them both!

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