Of all the slang that's stuck around, the beat slang of the 1950s has maintained the firmest hold. In fact, "hipsters" aren't a new phenomenon. They were the leaders of an entire movement from several decades ago. Even then, hipsters subscribed to a particular lingo, dress, and attitude.
In the '50s, anyone who was a hipster was in pursuit of whatever was "cool," a slang term that survives to this day. Indeed, beat generation slang was pretty hip. It wouldn't have survived all this time if it wasn't. Let's take a walk through this colorful decade and see how many terms have survived to our present day.
Hipsters embraced "the good life." Music, sex, and camaraderie were all on the table. Jazz musicians, in particular, attracted their own followings. Hipsters were, in their day, a bit like today's groupies. As such, music venues were a great starting place for most dates. Let's dive deeper into their dating world:
Eyeballing a doll: Giving a woman a good look over
A gas: An incredible amount of fun
Big daddy: Usually a girl's father. Typically, a big daddy isn't "hip" to the beat scene and want to put a damper on Beatnik fun.
Copping a bit: Making up an act to trick someone
The big tickle: To laugh at the expense of the victim
Square: Someone who's super serious, not fun
The flicks: The movies
A blast: To have a good time
Because of their "on the brink" lifestyle, and their engagement in activities that were sometimes illegal, a Beatnik viewed an officer of the law as his worst enemy.
Pig: This may be the first time the word "pig" was used as a slang slur against police officers.
Haul ass: Drive fast
Beat the gravel: To run like crazy to get away from the cops
Stoolie: An informer who "sang" or "ratted" to the authorities
Beat culture had many ways of describing the ultimate amazing experience. Did you cats have a blast? Here are more ways to express yourself, Beatnik style:
Bad news: People who are up to no good
Cats: A variation on the Beatnik self-descriptive "hipster" word to describe themselves (as in "cool cats")
Daddy-o: Another word for the "cool kids" of this generation
Cookin': If you're cookin', you're doing something well.
Crazy: Something that's plain old good
Dig it: If someone says they can dig it, they like it.
Digging: To understand something
Boss: Something that's a-okay
Go ape: If someone's going ape, they're going crazy. At minimum, they're yelling.
Wigged out: Highly annoyed
Kicks: As in "get your kicks," it's the thrill you get by doing something fun.
Making the scene: In the right place at the right time
The Beat generation harkens back to the late 1940s. The generation was sick of World War II and stunned by the sudden entry into the atomic age by the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. They had no place to go, and nothing from which to draw hope. They were the predecessors of the "turn on and tune out" hippies of the 1960s. That said, it can be argued that the Beatniks - the followers of the Beat lifestyle - did it with more aplomb than the hippies.
Three writers were the most famed from this generation: Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S. Burroughs. Much of their writing supported the Beatnik movement, embracing a love of drugs and alcohol, and greater freedom.
The term "beatnik" is derived from the slang term "beat," which was popularized by Kerouac after the war. "Beat" came to mean "beaten down," but Kerouac said that wasn't his intent. The Beat Generation, as Kerouac saw it, were people who were "down and out, but who had intense conviction."
Understanding the slang from an era gone by can help you add authenticity to your writing. Although this list pertains to a specific subculture, we also have a list of generalized slang from the 1950s (along with the 1930s, '40s, '60s, '70s, and '80s).
As you incorporate authentic dialogue into your writing, make sure you're being precise with your grammar. Use these Dialogue Examples to check if your punctuation is on point!