First things first, dear readers – there are only a couple of weeks left in the Miss Vintage UK 2016 public vote, and, having entered, I would dearly love to get in front of the judges. To do that, I need votes, by which I mean likes on my Facebook entry. If you have a tick, please could you click on this link and like the photo? It would be rather spiffing and unreal of you. https://www.facebook.com/twinwoodevents/photos/a.10153363505802657.1073741846.30797112656/10153363506167657/?type=3&theater
That final sentence leads me nicely into this post. In a bit of a departure for the blog this week, I’m going to talk about the wonder of 1940s’ and 1950s’ slang. As a word nerd, I love looking at language, seeing how it evolves, and looking at words and phrases that were the height of fashion once, but have since been consigned to history.
Which reminds me of a conversation I once had with my grandad. He was telling me and my sister all about how he went on his fair share of dates before he met my nan, but that he didn’t really like any of them too much. Then he met my nan, and that was that. Love at first sight, fireworks, angels singing, the lot.
It was a lovely story, except for the bit where he referred to these dates as ‘one night stands’. We had to explain – awkwardly – that one night stands no longer means going on just the one date before never seeing each other again.
He knew that, of course. He just wanted to see us squirm.
But, back to my curiosity about words. I also like to swear a fair bit when necessary (stressful situations, ponderously slow internet, dropping heavy things on toes – not as unusual as you might think – and the like), so it’s nice to find an inventive alternative to an expletive. I’ve found cockwomble to be a lovely, modern option.
I’ve always liked blimey, crikey, and cripes, and I went through a stage when I was about 13 where I said gosh a lot, which I had a vague idea might have come from the 1940s (and probably said in a suitably affected accent).
For this week’s post, I decided to do a bit more digging. By which I mean I Googled a lot of stuff. And here’s what I found out:
These phrases originated in the 1940s (or, at least, were popular in that decade):
Eager beaver – a rather enthusiastic soul
Above my pay grade – don’t ask me/not my problem;
Grandstand – to show off;
Hen fruit – eggs (this one is amazing); and
A ducky shincracker, which means a good dancer. This one, my friends, is going to be trotted out at parties.
Looking a bit later, to the 1950s, I’d like to share these little gems with you:
An earthbound person is a reliable one;
Cut the gas – be quiet!;
Ankle biter – a child (can’t see my friends being that impressed if I drop this into casual conversation. Unless their child really is biting my ankles, which is probably quite unlikely);
And someone who’s no fun at all? Well, they’re a wet rag.
It surprised me how many phrases from the 1950s I recognised in some form. So, next time someone ticks me off, I may very well flip my wig and tell them to get bent. And try to keep a straight face while I do it.
But, having thought about it long and hard, I think ‘Cripes’ remains my favourite word, for the sheer number of ways you can say it. Sympathetically, emphatically, in a surprised fashion…the possibilities are almost endless.
How about you, dear blog readers – what’s your favourite word, modern or retro?
Keep your eyes peeled for a shockingly late bonus post this week, if you fancy finding out all about my visit to Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Cambridge, and my love affair with The Cambridge Satchel Company.