There comes a day in everyone’s life when the slang spoken by people around you sounds strange and out of place. The words used to joke, tease, and save time by one generation are quickly replaced by the next as new words are invented, old words are remixed and phrases are coined to explain modern observations.
In 2019, your style can be on fleek, your parents are probably cray cray, and excited texts between teens are full of “lols” and “omgs.”
You’re not alone if slang of today makes less sense than the slang of yesterday. Slang is nothing new, and here are a number of once-popular slang words and terms that need to make a comeback.
“That’s tickety-boo!” someone might have said in the 1930s and ‘40s, and what they’d have meant is “That’s correct!” The word ticks off the tongue in an affirmative, satisfying way, but it’s hard to imagine modern teens and tweens jumping back on the tickety-boo bandwagon.
Slang terms have a habit of evolving over time, and “hotsy-totsy” is a good example. The word was allegedly first coined by a cartoonist in the mid-1920s and originally meant “appropriate” or “just right.” Somehow, sometime after the ‘20s, “hotsy-totsy” took on a more derivative tone to mean “snobbish” or “pretentious.”
It’s not hard to imagine why folks in the 1920s called alcohol “giggle water.” The term is about as nail-on-the-head as you can get when imagining a dapper lad and dashing dame finding a sip of something to take the edge off and giggling the night away.
If you’ve found the hotsy-totsy amount of giggle water — the amount it takes to get you drunk — you’ve had a snootful. “Snootful” also applied to things other than alcohol and had a broader definition of “as much as one can take.”
Ossified, zozzled, or spifflicated
The same folks from the 1920s looking for a bit of giggle water and finding a snootful likely got ossified, zozzled, or spifflicated soon after. All three words were slang for getting/being drunk, inebriated, impaired, and (in the case of “spifflicated”) properly destroyed. Ossified, zozzled, and spifflicated, while sounding a little silly, also have an interesting dignified quality that makes getting sauced sound less sloppy.
It’s easy to forget that today’s slang-slinging youth didn’t grow up watching Disney classics like Bambi. The movie introduced plenty of people to the word “twitterpated.” Only fools fall in love…because they’re twitterpated, right? The word means to be lovestruck to the point of being foolish.
Jake, groovy, hip, the cat’s pajamas
Cool cats throughout history have been called one thing or another as far back as cool can be traced. There are so many words — both old and new — that mean “cool” that it would be easy to make a list like this with just those words.
Jake, the cat’s pajamas, groovy, hip, fly, and wicked have all been slang for “cool” over the years. Time to bring a few of them back.
There doesn’t seem to be as many slang terms describing a man’s demeanor and outward appearance as there are for women. The word “himbo” was an attempt to right the scales — as the male equivalent of the word “bimbo” — and the definition was made popular in the late 1980s. A himbo is a man who is attractive but also somewhat unintelligent, flighty, and silly—jake or hotsy-totsy on the surface, but not all there under the hood.
Full of moist
There are plenty of ways to say a person is hot, humid or generally uncomfortable due to the heat, but “full of moist” might be the most enjoyable and awkward to say. It says what it means and means what it says, which is saying more than a few of the words on this list. Plus, people today seem to have an interesting love/hate relationship with the word “moist.”
No, phonus balonus isn’t a spell from the Harry Potter universe, but it sure sounds like one. “Phonus balonus!” was a quick-off-the-tongue way to call someone out for their false statements or lies.
Slang is forever fleeting
There will likely never be a time when slang words don’t pepper everyday language. Fun, silly, irreverent words and phrases will always be part of the official (and unofficial) lexicon of any given nation, generation, or in-group. The funny thing about slang is that it always changes but somehow stays the same.
Words, phrases, and terms are used by new generations to explain and abbreviate ideas and feelings we’re all familiar with — cool, hot, in love, intoxicated. Understanding or not understanding current slang, whether pulled from popular culture or invented and abbreviated, will always make people feel like they speak the local language while others feel like they’re in a foreign land.
What slang words were popular when you were growing up, and what phrases just don’t make sense to you these days?
Cover image credit: peshkov / iStock