The 1940s slang came out of a unique time when the United States was rebounding from the Great Depression and becoming embroiled in a war that would actually help set up the economic growth the country enjoyed at the end of the decade.
Examples of 1940s slang
- Ameche – To make a phone call.
- Armored heifer – Canned milk.
- Bum rap – A false accusation.
- Bust your chops – Used as a scolding, maybe to yell, but not to literally hit someone.
- Buzz – Feeling tipsy. We still use this word today and it still refers to being tipsy.
- Cheesy – In the 1940s it meant cheap.
- Chicken – A coward. Today it still means the same thing.
- Chrome-dome – This used to be a mildly offensive word for a bald man.
- Crack up – To burst out laughing.
- Dame – A woman.
- Dope – Often used as slang for drugs, in wartime 1940s this word took on another meaning, referring to information, especially reliable info, but that usage soon died out.
- Eager beaver – Used to call someone an enthusiastic helper or someone who was overly excited about something.
- Fat-head – A stupid or foolish person.
- Fix –This word is still used today and it means a dose of drugs (narcotics); in the 1940s it was often used when referencing drug fiends.
- Geezer – An old person.
- Gas – No this wasn't what you put in your car, it was either a good time or something that was really funny.
- Jive bomber – A good dancer.
- Joe – Coffee.
- Killer diller – Something that is the best, or amazing.
- Lettuce – Paper money.
- Moxie – Courage or strong nerves.
- On the beam – On the right track or course; cool.
- Pass the buck – Implied that someone wasn’t taking responsibility for their actions or that they were blaming someone one else.
- Rhubarb – An argument or squabble, first used in reference to disputes in baseball.
- Snap your cap – Get angry.
- Swigger – A drinker.
- What’s buzzin’, cousin? – How's it going?
Hopefully this brief list will help you to better understand 1940s slang. Look closely and you will see that many of these terms will not be new to you.
In the 1940s film noir was at its peak in the United States. It was also a time of picking up the pieces after World War II, while forging new ground in technology, science, government intelligence and popular culture. It was the end of the golden age of swing, while jazz as we know it today was slowly coming to the forefront.
While Ol' Blue Eyes (Frank Sinatra) ruled the airwaves and made the bobbysoxers (teenage girls) swoon, artists like John Coltrane and Charlie “Bird” Parker were moving up the ranks to make their mark on the jazz world. From the music and the movies to the fashion style – it was one of the most memorable decades in American history and the slang was something that was unique to the era. It told the story of the time.
That slang has not disappeared completely. Some of those interesting words coined in the 1940s are still used today, although maybe with another meaning.