Slanging American Youth

Popular youth culture was in many was undaunted by the troubles of the Great Depression. The entertainment industry knew an opportunity when it saw one, and the 1930s were glory years for the escapes of radio, movies, and music, all of which appealed to the nation's young.

Until the Great Depression, most young Americans worked for a living and high school was the domain of the privileged. The Depression forced young Americans out of the farm, factory, or home into high school, and in this shift they became for the first time a generational age-group, a separate teenage nation (the word teenager was first cited in 1941).

Joe College

College campuses across America generated their own slang, much of which was specific to a campus or academic setting. Some of the idiom, though, was general-purpose slang, explained to us here by Joe College (your typical imaginary 1930s college boy).

Check Out Joe's Dic


The Female

Youth slang of the 1920s was female-dominated, while the tone of slang of the 1930s reverted to the male. Within the body of slang was a wide assortment for girls, including a baby, bag (unattractive), beetle, belle, bim or bimbo, blimp (loose), breigh, broad, buff, butter and egg fly (popular), buttermilk (unattractive), calico, canary, choice bit of calico (attractive), clinging vine (delicate), crock (unattractive), dame, darb (popular), doll, extra (a girl no one wants to date), fem, filly, flame, flirt, frail, fuss (frequent companion), guinea, hairpin, heiferette (young), honey, hot mama, hot sketch, hotsy-totsy, keen number, lemonette (unpopular), lolleos (popular), Minnie, muddy plow (unattractive), muff, peach, petting skirt, piece (loose), piece of calico, pig, pot, powder puff (frivolous), queen (attractive), S.Y.T. (Sweet Young Thing), sack (unattractive), sardine, sex-job (loose), sheba, skirt, smelt, snappy piece of work, squab, squaw, stuff, sweet mama, sweet patootie, tot, or wren.

The Jerk

The sode jerk of the 1930s was as charming and clever as any 20th century slinger of slang. The language of the young men who worked behind soda fountains--important gathering places for the young--more closely resembled a jargon than slang.

Shoot Some Soda Jerk Slang

Kicking Out

Young men who still had jobs took their hot patooties out to drag a hoof a popular swing clubs. Jazz in the thirties was hotter than ever.

Don't be Dead Between the Ears, Check out some Jivin' Slang

and while you're at it

Check Out Jazz and Drug Culture

Macho Macho Men

It seems in a time where men felt worthless and emasculated with the loss of work and inability to support their families, the emphasis on masculinity was elevated. The slang of the 1930s saw a noticeable influx of words to describe not only the "effeminate male" and the homosexual, but also ultra-masculine words and names for the penis:

1928: macho 1933: hetero
1929: homo 1933: queenie/1936: queeny
1929: muscle man 1935: queer/1938: queerie
1929: pansy 1939: whanger
1930: dong 1940: lesbo
1932: cojones 1941: butch


The Toilet

For reasons which are not at all clear from the cultural context, the young of the 1930s were extremely inventive when it came to devising slang words to describe the toilet:

Chamber of Commerce, crapper or crappery, domus, Egypt, honey house, Jake, Joe, John, or Johnny, marble palace, may, old soldiers' home, poet's corner, prep chapel, Ruth (for women), shot tower, temple, Widow Jones, and, simply, X.