Language is so interesting – how it’s grown and developed over time, how terms have grown popular and then all but disappeared – and I’m always up for learning more about how and when those changes took place.
Which is why I love this post about slang terms from the 1910s (and some of them are pretty funny).
This is derived from the Arabic word for “go away” and was favored by World War I soldieres.
If you have a friend who loves to play devil’s advocate, you might refer to them as a hater…but you could call them an againster instead.
In the 1800s a jake was someone who was a bit country or simple, but by the 1910s, it had evolved to mean “excellent, admirable, or fine.”
Down under they fancied it up as jakeloo, jakealoo, and jakerloo.
15. Annie Oakley
This meant a free ticket to a performance or sporting event, and according to the woman herself, was coined by baseball player Ban Johnson.
“A man was brought to him one day who had rented out his baseball pass. Ban Johnson looked at it, filled with neat holes, and suggested that the man had been letting me use it for a target.”
Today, we’d call something alive that’s bigger than expected an “absolute unit.”
Back then, they’d call it a lunker.
13. Bean Ball
This is a baseball term that evolved into just “beaned” – if you mean to toss a pitch at a batter for one reason or another, it was a bean ball.
Earlier in America we’d call someone who loved drama a “mellerdrammer.”
By the 1910s, we’d shortened it to simple a meller.
This one is tricky, and could refer to either a smart person or a nose.
Take your pick.
French expressions mispronounced by British troops were oddly common and also funny – this one comes from Il n’y en a plus, and was heard as napoo.
The French translates as “there is no more,” but colloquially it was used as “dead or done.”
“Bosh” comes from the Turkish word for “empty or worthless.” Victorians used it to mean “nonsense,” and bosher describes a person who talks nonsense.
This was an Irish term for “drunk” that probably evolved from blootered.
This one is pretty self explanatory – it’s something that’s funny.
6. Saltash Luck
In Saltash, Cornwall UK, fishermen “sat by the ferry for hours, and caught nothing but colds.”
So, Saltash Luck is a “thankless or fruitless task that involves getting wet through.”
This was an often derisive term for a conscientious objector that was popular during WWI and WWII.
4. Up to Putty
Contrary to what you might believe, which is that this is another term for “up to snuff,” it’s actually the opposite.
This one meant your attempts at something were “worthless or futile.”
This could refer to a cheap car or plane, or could be used as a verb that meant you were going somewhere in a hurry.
Sometimes it also meant someone or something that was a failure.
This is one of many terms that refers to depression or malaise, but could also just mean tired or hungover.
During WWI, soldiers sometimes referred to their firearm as a “hipe.”
I think we need to petition to make some of these come back in fashion.
Which one should top the list? Vote for your favorite in the comments!