The following is a list of vernacular and slang in use in the 1920's and 1930's.
18th (amendment) - Amendment to the US Constitution that started National Prohibition.
Abercrombie - A know-it-all.
Ab-so-lutely - Affirmative.
Abyssinia - I'll be seeing you.
All the Way - Chocolate cake or fudge with ice cream.
All Wet - describes an erroneous idea or individual, as in, "he's all wet."
Ameche/Horn/Blower - Telephone
And How - I strongly agree!
Apple - Any big town or city.
Applesauce - An expletive in the same vein as "horsefeathers," as in "Ah applesauce!"
Attaboy/Attagirl - Well done!
Babe/bim/broad/chick/dame/doll/frail/twist/muffin/kitten - Woman.
Baby - Sweetheart. Also denotes something of high value or respect.
Balled Up - Confused, messed up.
Baloney - Nonsense!
Bangtails - Racehorses.
Bank's Closed - No kissing or making out ("Sorry, Mac, the bank's closed.").
Bathtub Gin - A form of homemade liquor mixed in a bathtub.
Be on the nut - To be broke.
Bean-shooter - Gun
Bearcat - A hot-blooded or fiery girl.
Beat it/Breeze off - Go away, get out of here.
Beat one's gums/Bump gums - Idle chatter.
Beef - Problem ("You got a beef with me?").
Bee's Knees/Berries/Cat's Meow/Cat's Pajamas - An extraordinary or pleasing person, thing, or idea ("it's the _____!").
Beeswax - Business ("none of your beeswax.").
Beezer - Nose.
Behind the eight ball - In a difficult position, in a tight spot, especially due to an earlier misjudgment or a lack of information.
Bell bottom - Sailor.
Big Cheese - The most important or influential person.
Big House/Caboose/Cooler - Jail.
Big One/Big Sleep - Death.
Bing - Jailhouse talk for solitary confinement.
Bird - Man, sometimes meaning "odd man."
Bit - Prison sentence.
Blind tigers - The illegal saloons, speakeasies during prohibition.
Blip off/Blow (someone) down/Bop/Bump off/Croak - To kill.
Blow - Leave.
Blow your wig - To flip out or panic.
Bluenose - An excessively puritanical person, a prude.
Boob - Idiot.
Bootlegger - A person who illegally makes or imports alcohol.
Boozehound - Drunkard.
Box - A safe or a bar.
Box job - A safecracking.
Brace (somebody) - Grab, shake up.
Bracelets - Handcuffs.
Break it up - Stop that, quit the nonsense.
Breezer - A convertible car.
Brodie - A mistake.
Bruno - Tough guy, enforcer.
Bucket - Car.
Bulge, The - The advantage.
Bulls - Plainclothes railroad cops; uniformed police; prison guards.
Bum's rush - Ejection by force from an establishment.
Burn powder - Fire a gun.
Bus - Big car.
Butter and egg man - The money man, the man with the bankroll, a yokel who comes to town to blow a big wad in nightclubs.
Butt me - I'll take a cigarette.
Button man - Professional killer.
Buttons/Coppers - Police.
Butts - Cigarettes.
Buzz - Looks person up, comes to persons door.
Buzzer - Policeman's badge.
C - $100, a pair of C's = $200.
Cabbage - Money.
Call copper - Inform the police.
Can - Jail or Car.
Can house - Bordello.
Can-opener - Safecracker who opens cheap safes.
Canary - Woman singer.
Carry a Torch - Suffering from an unrequited love.
Cash - A kiss.
Cash or check? - Do you kiss now or later?
Cat/Alligator - Fan of swing music.
Chassis - The female body.
Cheaters - Eyeglasses.
Check - Kiss me later.
Cheese it - Put things away, hide.
Chicago lightning - Gunfire.
Chicago overcoat - Coffin.
Chicago typewriter - A Thompson Sub-Machine Gun.
Chilled off - Killed.
Chin - Conversation; chinning: talking.
Chin music - Punch on the jaw
Chippy - Woman of easy virtue.
Chisel - To swindle or cheat.
Chiv - Knife.
Chopper squad - Men with machine guns.
Chump - Person marked for a con or a gullible person.
Cinder dick - Railway detective.
Clam - $1.
Clammed - Close-mouthed (clammed up).
Clean sneak - An escape with no clues left behind.
Clip joint - In some cases, a nightclub where the prices are high and the patrons are fleeced.
Clipped - Shot.
Close your head - Shut up.
Clubhouse - Police station.
Con - Confidence game, swindle.
Conk - Head.
Cool - To knock out.
Cop - Detective, private or otherwise.
Copped, to be - Grabbed by the cops.
Corn - Bourbon ("corn liquor").
Crab - Figure out.
Crate - Car.
Croaker - Doctor.
Crushed out - Escaped (from jail).
Cut down - Killed.
Daddy - A young woman's boyfriend or lover, especially if he's rich.
Dance - To be hanged.
Dangle - Leave, get lost.
Dapper - A flapper's "daddy."
Darb - An excellent person or thing (as in "the Darb" - a person with money who can be relied on to pay the check).
Daylight, as in "fill him with daylight" - Put a hole in, by shooting or stabbing.
Dead soldier - An empty bear bottle.
Deck, as in "deck of Luckies" - Pack of cigarettes.
Derrick - Shoplifter.
Dib - Share (of the proceeds).
Dick - Detective (usually qualified with "private" if not a policeman).
Dingus - Thing.
Dip - Pickpocket.
Dip the bill - Have a drink.
Dish/Doll - Pretty woman.
Dive - A low-down, cheap sort of place.
Dizzy with a dame, To be - To be deeply in love with a woman.
Dogs - Feet.
Dolled up - Dressed up.
Don't know from nothing - Don't have any information.
Don't take any wooden nickels - Don't do anything stupid.
Dope fiend - Drug addict.
Dope peddler - Drug dealer.
Dough - Money
Drift - Go, leave.
Drill - Shoot.
Drop a dime - Make a phone call, sometimes meaning to the police to inform on someone.
Droppers - Hired killers.
Drugstore Cowboy - A guy that hangs around on a street corner trying to pick up girls.
Drunkard - An alcoholic.
Drys - The supporters of the Prohibition Amendment.
Dry Agents - The agents who worked for the Prohibition Bureau in order to enforce Prohibition, including the corrupt ones.
Dry up - Shut up, get lost.
Duck soup - Easy, a piece of cake.
Ducky - Very good.
Dumb Dora - A stupid female.
Dump - Roadhouse, club; or, more generally, any place.
Dust out - Leave, depart.
Edge - Tntoxication, a buzz ("I've got an edge.").
Egg - A person who lives the big life.
Electric cure - Electrocution.
Elephant ears - Police.
Fade - Go away, get lost.
Fall Guy - Victim of a frame.
Fella - A man.
Fin - $5.
Finder - Finger man.
Finger, Put the finger on - Identify.
Fire extinguisher - A chaperone.
Fish - A newcomer, to prison or to university.
Flaming Youth - Male counterpart to a flapper.
Flapper - A stylish, brash young woman with short skirts and shorter hair.
Flat Tire - A dull-witted or disappointing date.
Flattie - Flatfoot, cop.
Flat Tire - A dull insipid, disappointing date. Same as pill, pickle, drag, rag, oilcan.
Flimflam - Swindle.
Flippers - Hands.
Flivver - A Ford automobile.
Flogger - Overcoat.
Flop - To go to bed (see: Flophouse) or to fall through/fail.
Flophouse - A cheap transient hotel where a lot of men sleep in large rooms.
Fly boy - A glamorous term for an aviator.
Fog - To shoot.
Frame - To give false evidence, to set up someone.
Fry - To be electrocuted.
Fuzz - Police.
Gal - Woman.
Gams - A Woman’s Legs.
Gasper - Cigarette.
Gat - Gun.
Getaway sticks - Legs.
Get a wiggle on - Get a move on, get going.
Get Sore - Get mad.
Giggle juice - Liquor.
Giggle Water - Still liquor.
Gin mill - Bar.
Glad rags - Fancy clothes.
G-men (government men) - FBI special agents.
Gold Digger - A woman who associates with or marries a man for his wealth.
Goofy - Crazy in love.
Goog - Black eye.
Goon - Thug.
Gooseberry lay - Stealing clothes from a clothesline.
Gowed-up - On dope, high.
Grab (a little) air - Put your hands up.
Graft - Con jobs or cut of the take.
Grand - $1000.
Grift - Confidence game, swindle.
Grifter - Con man.
Grilled - Questioned.
Gumshoe - Detective.
Gumshoeing - Detective work.
Gun for - Look for, be after.
Guns - Pickpockets, hoodlums.
Guy - A man.
Hack - Taxi.
Half, a - 50 cents.
Hard Boiled - a tough, strong guy.
Harlem Sunset - Some sort fatal injury caused by knife.
Harrison Narcotics Act - A bill passed in 1914 making narcotics prescribed by a doctor legal. However doctors were not allowed to prescribe narcotics to addicts.
Hash House - A cheap restaurant.
Hatchet men - Killers, gunmen.
Have the Bees - To be rich.
Hayburner - A gas guzzling car or a horse one loses money on.
Hays Code - Also known as the “Motion Picture Production Code”. This was a code created by Will Hays. It was the standard for what movies would and would not show.
Head doctors - Psychiatrists.
Heap - Car.
Heat - Police.
Heater - Gun.
Heebie-Jeebies - The jitters.
Heeled - Carrying a gun.
High-Hat - To snub.
High Pillow - Person at the top, in charge.
Highbinders - Corrupt politician or functionary.
Hinky - Suspicious.
Hitting the pipe - Smoking opium.
Hitting on all eight - In good shape, going well.
Hock shop - Pawnshop.
Hooch - Bootleg liquor.
Hood - Criminal.
Hoofer - Dancer.
Hoosegow - Jail.
Hot - Stolen.
Hotsy-Totsy - Pleasing.
House dick/House peeper - House/hotel detective.
Hype - Shortchange artist.
Ice - Diamonds.
Ing-bing, as in to throw an - A fit.
Iron - A car.
Jack - Money.
Jake - OK, as in , "Everything is Jake."
Jake-Foot - An illness that paralyzed at least one limb in the body. The disease was spread by “Jamaican Ginger”, a popular type of homemade alcohol.
Jalopy - Old car.
Jam - Trouble, a tight spot.
Jane - A woman.
Java - Coffee.
Jaw - Talk.
Jerking a nod - Nodding.
Jingle-brained - Addled.
Jitney - a car employed as a private bus. Fare was usually five cents; also called a "nickel."
Jobbie - Man.
Joe - Coffee, as in "a cup of joe."
Johns - Police.
Joint - A club, usually selling alcohol.
Juice - Interest on a loanshark's loan.
Jug - Jail.
Jump, The - A hanging.
Keen - Attractive or appealing.
Kibosh - To quell ("He put the kibosh on that.").
Kick off - Die.
Kiss - To punch.
Kisser - Mouth.
Knock off - Kill.
Lammed off - Ran away, escaped.
Large: $1,000 - twenty large would be $20,000.
Law, the - The police.
Lead - Bullets.
Lead poisoning - To be shot.
Left holding the bag - To be cheated out of one's fair share, or to be singularly blamed for something perpetrated as a group.
Level with me - Be honest.
Lid - Hat.
Line - Insincere flattery.
Lip - A criminal lawyer.
Live wire - A lively person.
Looker - Pretty woman.
Look-out - Outside man.
Lounge Lizard - A guy that is sexually active.
Lousy with - To have lots of.
Mac - Generic pronoun for a man ("Hey Mac, spare a gasper?").
Made - Recognized. One whose cover has been blown has been "made."
Map - Face.
Marbles - Pearls.
Mark - Sucker, victim of swindle or fixed game.
Maroon - Person marked for a con or a gullible person.
Meat wagon - Ambulance.
Mickey Finn - A drink drugged with knock-out drops.
Mill - Typewriter.
Mitt - Hand.
Mob - Gang (not necessarily Mafia).
Moll - A gangster's girl.
Monicker - Name.
Moonshine - Illegal alcohol, usually in context with homemade alcohol.
Mouthpiece - Lawyer.
Mugs - Men (especially refers to dumb ones).
Nailed - Caught, especially by the police.
Neck - Kissing with passion.
Nevada gas - Cyanide.
Newshawk - Reporter.
Newsie - Newspaper vendor.
Nibble one - To have a drink.
Nicked - Stole.
Nifty - Great, excellent.
Nippers - Handcuffs.
Noble Experiment - Another name for Prohibition.
Nobody Home - Describes some one who is dumb.
Noodle - Head.
"Now you're on the trolley!" - Now you've got it!
Number - A person.
Off the track - Said about a person who becomes insanely violent ("He comes off the track.").
On the lam - To be a fugitive from justice.
On the level/On the up-and-up - Legitimate, honest, legal.
Op - Detective.
Orchid - An expensive item.
Orphan paper - Bad checks.
Ossified - A drunk person, especially falling-down drunk.
Out on the roof - To drink a lot, to be drunk.
Owl - A person who's out late.
Oyster fruit - Pearls.
Packing Heat - Carrying a gun.
Pal - A man.
Palooka - Man, probably physically imposing but not very smart; a below-average or average boxer.
Pan - Face.
Paste - Punch.
Patsy - Person who is set up; fool, chump.
Paw - Hand.
Peaching - Informing.
Peeper - Detective.
Peepers - Eyes.
Pen - Penitentiary, jail.
Penal System - The court system.
Peterman - Safecracker who uses nitroglycerin.
Piece - Gun.
Pigeon - Stool-pigeon.
Piker - A cheapskate or coward.
Pill - A teacher or someone who's unpleasant to be around.
Pinch - To arrest.
Pins - Legs.
Pipe - See or notice.
Pipe down - Stop talking.
Pipes - Throat.
Plant - Someone on the scene but in hiding, or to bury.
Plug - Shoot.
Plugs - People.
Poke - Bankroll, stake.
Pooped - Killed.
Pop - Kill.
Pro skirt - Prostitute.
Puffing - Mugging.
Pug - Pugilist, boxer.
Pump - Heart.
Pump metal - Shoot bullets.
Punk - Hood, thug.
Pushover - A person easily convinced, seduced, or otherwise circumvented.
Puss - Face.
Put down - Drink.
Put the screws on - Question, get tough with.
Putting on the Ritz - Doing something in high style.
Rag-a-muffin - A dirty or disheveled individual, especially a child.
Rags - Clothes.
Ranked - Observed, watched, given the once-over.
Rap - Criminal charge.
Rappers - Fakes, set-ups.
Rat - Inform.
Rate - To be good, to count for something.
Rats and mice - Dice, i.e. craps.
Rattler - Train.
Razz - To make fun of.
Real McCoy - The genuine article.
Red-light - To eject from a car or train.
Redhot - Some sort of criminal.
Reefers - Marijuana cigarettes.
Rhino - Money.
Right - Adjective indicating quality.
Ringers - Fakes.
Ritzy - Elegant (from the hotel).
Rod - Gun.
Rub-out - To kill.
Rube - Bumpkin, easy mark.
Rubes - Money or dollars.
Rumble, the - The news.
Rum runner - Someone who smuggles alcohol: bootlegger.
Saloon - A bar type organization, operated before prohibition.
Sap - A naive person.
Sap poison - Getting hit with a sap (a small baton).
Sawbuck - $10 bill (a double sawbuck is a $20 bill).
Says you - A reaction of disbelief.
Schnozzle - Nose.
Scram - Ask someone to leave immediately.
Scratch - Money.
Scratcher - Forger.
Send over - Send to jail.
Shamus - (Private) detective.
Sharper - A swindler or sneaky person.
Sheba - A woman with sex appeal.
Sheik - A man with sex appeal.
Shells - Bullets.
Shiv - Knife.
Shyster - A corrupt or dishonest lawyer.
Sing - Make a confession.
Sinker - A doughnut.
Sister - Woman.
Skate around - To be of easy virtue.
Skid rogue - A bum who can't be trusted.
Skirt - Woman.
Slant, Get a - Take a look.
Sleuth - Detective.
Slug - A bullet, or to punch someone, especially if they are rendered unconscious.
Smoked - Drunk.
Snap a cap - Shout.
Snatch - Kidnap.
Sneeze - Take.
Snitch - An informer, or to inform.
Snooper - Detective.
Soak - To pawn.
Sock - Punch.
Soup - Nitroglycerine.
Soup job - To crack a safe using nitroglycerine.
Speakeasy - The illegal saloons during prohibition.
Spifflicated - Drunk. The same as canned, corked, tanked, primed, scrooched, jazzed, zozzled, plastered, owled, embalmed, lit, potted, ossified or fried to the hat.
Spiffy - A dapper appearance.
Spill - Talk, inform.
Spinach - Money.
Spitting - Talking.
Spoon - To neck, or at least talk of love.
Square - Honest.
Squeeze - A female companion or girlfriend.
Squirt metal - Shoot bullets.
Step off - To be hanged.
Stiff - A corpse.
Sting - Culmination of a con game.
Stool-pigeon/Stoolie - Informer.
Struggle Buggy - The backseat of a car. A parent's worst nightmare.
Stuck On - Having a crush on.
Sucker - Someone ripe for a grifter's scam.
Sugar - Money.
Swanky - Ritzy.
Swell - Wonderful. Also: a rich man.
Tail - Shadow or follow.
Take a powder - Leave.
Take on - Eat.
Take for a Ride - To drive off with someone in order to kill them at another location.
Take the air - Leave.
Take the bounce - To get kicked out.
Take the fall for - Accept punishment for.
Temperance - Self restraint or abstinence in the use of alcoholic beverages.
That's the crop - That's all of it.
Three-spot - Three-year jail term.
Throw lead - Shoot bullets.
Ticket - P.I. license.
Tiger milk - Some sort of liquor.
Tighten the screws - Put pressure on somebody.
Tin - Badge.
Tip a few - To have a few drinks.
Tomato - Pretty woman.
Tooting the wrong ringer - Asking the wrong person.
Torpedo - A hired gun.
Trap - Mouth.
Trigger man - Man whose job is to use a gun.
Trouble boys - Gangsters.
Twist - Woman.
Two bits - $25, or 25 cents.
Under glass - In jail.
Upchuck - To vomit when one has drunk too much.
Volstead Act - The act implementing the 18th amendment. It made the 18th amendment enforceable.
WCTU - Woman’s Christian Temperance Union: a group against saloons and alcohol.
Weak sister - A push-over.
Wear iron - Carry a gun.
Wet Blanket - a solemn person, a killjoy.
Wets - The opponents of Prohibition.
What's eating you? - What's wrong?
Whoopee - To have a good time.
Wise head - A smart person.
Wooden kimono - A coffin.
Wood Alcohol - A dangerous form of alcohol made during prohibition.
Wrong gee/Wrong number - Not a good fellow.
Ya Follow? - Do you understand?
Yak-Yak Bourbon - A type of homemade liquor that became extremely popular in Philadelphia. This was one of the types of alcohol that was fermented in old whisky barrels.
Yap - Mouth.
Yard - $100.
Yegg - Safecracker who only opens cheap and easy safes.
"You shred it, wheat" - You said it.