83 Old Slang Phrases We Should Bring Back
History is full of fun, fascinating old school slang terms that are well overdue for a comeback. Here are 83 words you’ll want to start using, adapted from an episode of The List Show on YouTube.
1. Wet Sock
A wet sock is a limp handshake or, in Australia, a dull person.
2. Happy Cabbage
Happy cabbage is a sizable amount of money to be spent on self-satisfying things.
Pang-Wangle is to live or go along cheerfully in spite of minor misfortunes.
4. In the Ketchup
In the ketchup means “in the red” or “operating at a deficit.”
5. Flub the Dub
Flub the dub means “to evade one’s duty.”
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6. Pine Overcoat
A pine overcoat is a coffin.
7. A Butter and Egg Man
A butter and egg man has nothing to do with breakfast preferences. The term, according to Green’s Dictionary of Slang, refers to a wealthy but unsophisticated small-town businessman who acts like a playboy when he visits the big city.
A zib is a nincompoop.
9. Give Someone the Wind
To give someone the wind is to jilt a suitor.
10. Bags O’ Mystery
The 1909 book Passing English of the Victorian Era: A Dictionary of Heterodox English Slang and Phrase captured some great phrases: For instance, they called sausages bags o’ mystery.
11. Cop a Mouse
Cop a mouse was a Victorian-era phrase that meant “get a black eye.” As Passing English explains, “Cop in this sense is to catch or suffer, while the colour of the obligation at its worst suggests the colour and size of the innocent animal named.”
12. Don’t Sell Me a Dog
Don’t sell me a dog was a fancy way of saying “Don’t lie to me.”
13. Door Knocker
A door-knocker was a type of beard, “shaved leaving hair under the chin, and upon each side of the mouth forming with moustache something like a door-knocker.”
14. Fly Rink
A bald head was called a fly rink.
A gigglemug referred to a person who was always smiling.
16. Nose Bagger
A nose bagger is “someone who takes a day trip to the beach. He brings his own provisions and doesn't contribute at all to the resort he’s visiting.”
17. Not Up to Dick
If something or someone was not up to dick, it was not healthy.
18. Take the Egg
Take the egg means “to win.”
20. Rain Napper
A rain napper was an umbrella.
21. Sauce Box
Your mouth was your sauce box.
Here’s a multi-purpose bit of slang, according to the 1967 Dictionary of American Slang: Pretzel-bender can mean a peculiar person, a player of the French horn, a wrestler, or a heavy drinker.
23.-32. Having Your Flag Out (and Other Ways to Say “Drunk”)
So what happens when a pretzel-bender drinks too much? That’s when you’d need to use some old slang terms for being drunk. Like having your flag out, or being soapy-eyed, full as a tick, seeing snakes, canned up, zozzled, owled, striped, squiffed, or swacked.
33. Hotter Than Dutch Love in Harvest
People needed a lot of ways to describe excessive heat in the days before air conditioning. One phrase was hotter than Dutch love in harvest.
34. and 35. The Bear Got Him and Full of Moist
You might also hear the bear got him (the bear, in this case, was heatstroke) and full of moist.
36. Hot as a Half-F***ed Fox in a Forest Fire
A regional term from the south for anything hot.
37. Gives a Body the Flesh Creep
Give a body the flesh creep—a.k.a. the shivers—can be used when it’s cold outside.
38., 39., and 40. Colder than the Hinges of Hell, Colder than a Brass Toilet Seat in the Yukon, and So Cold That the Milk Cows Gave Icicles
More very colorful ways to refer to the cold.
41. To Have One’s Shirt Out
Nineteenth-century Australians had some phrases we may want to adopt—like to have one's shirt out, which means “to be angry.”
42. And 44. Off his Kadoova and Off His Chump
Two ways 19th-century Australians could describe someone who was acting a little bonkers.
44. Hump the Swag
To hump the swag means “to carry your luggage on your back.”
45. Happy Returns
Happy returns describes vomiting, despite those returns being less than happy.
Someone who is tipsy could be called a leanaway.
47. Off the Cob
This piece of beatnik slang means “corny.”
48. Red Onion
Red onion is another name for a dive bar.
49. Focus Your Audio
To focus your audio means “to listen carefully.”
50. Claws Sharp
In beatnik speak, someone who’s claws sharp is well informed on a variety of topics.
51. Bright Disease
But if you know too much, particularly of the kind of information that could lead you to ratting someone out, you might have bright disease—often fatal, at least in the mafia.
52.-56. Blobber (and Other Ways to Call Someone a “Rat”)
There are actually a lot of old school ways to call someone a rat, like blobber, cabbage hat, pigeon, viper, and telegram.
57.-61. Master John Goodfellow (and Other Words for Male Anatomy)
There are also, of course, many interesting words for anatomy. For me, there are a master john goodfellow, gentleman usher, the staff of life, the Cyprian scepter, and the maypole, among many others.
62.-65. The Phoenix Nest (and Other Words for Female Anatomy)
And for women, there are the Phoenix nest, the Netherlands, Mount Pleasant, and Mrs. Fubbs’ Parlor.
66.-69. Amorous Congress (and Other Slang Terms for Sex)
Bring these things together and, at least according to the 1811 version of Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, you get amorous congress, basket making, blanket hornpipe, or convivial society.
70., 71., and 72. Carrying Tackle, Being on a Left-Handed Honeymoon, Groping in a Peculiar River
And if you were caught cheating on your significant other a century ago, you could be accused of carrying tackle, being on a left-handed honeymoon, or in Shakespeare’s time, groping for trout in a peculiar river.
73. Cluck and Grunt
Let’s talk food slang: Cluck and grunt referred to ham and egg.
74. Chicks on a Raft
Eggs on toast.
75. Bloodhound in the Hay
Hot dogs with sauerkraut.
76. Frog Sticks
77. Hounds on an Island
Frank and beans.
78. On the Hoof
Any kind of meat served rare.
79. A Pair of Drawers
Two cups of coffee.
80., 81., and 82. Adam’s Ale, City Juice, and Dog Soup
All ways of saying water.
83. George Eddy
George Eddy is a customer who doesn’t tip well.
Additional Sources: The Dictionary of American Slang; Dictionary of American Regional English; Passing English of the Victorian Era, Straight From the Fridge, Dad: A Dictionary of Hipster Slang; 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue; Dictionary of the Slang-English of Australia and of Some Mixed Languages; Dictionary of the Underworld; Jonathon Green’s Dictionary of Slang