Vocabulary Spotlight | 1940s and 50s American Slang

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In this episode of The A to Z English Podcast, Jacks tests Xochitl on her knowledge about American slang from the 1940s and 1950s.

Here are some slang terms from the 1940s and 1950s:

1940s Slang:

“Giggle water”

Meaning: Alcoholic beverages.

Example: “Let’s hit the speakeasy and grab some giggle water.”

“Cat’s pajamas” (or “the bee’s knees”)

Meaning: Something excellent or outstanding.

Example: “That new jazz band is the cat’s pajamas!”


Meaning: A feeling of discomfort or nervousness.

Example: “The spooky old house gave me the heebie-jeebies.”

“Take a powder”

Meaning: To leave quickly or abruptly.

Example: “When the cops showed up, he had to take a powder.”

“Lay it on me”

Meaning: Share the information or tell me what you know.

Example: “You’ve got the scoop? Come on, lay it on me!”

1950s Slang:


Meaning: A term of address for a cool or fashionable person.

Example: “Hey, daddy-o, check out this new record.”

“Far out”

Meaning: Unconventional, exciting, or excellent.

Example: “That concert was far out, man!”

“Sock hop”

Meaning: A dance event, typically held at schools, where attendees dance in their socks to protect the gym floor.

Example: “Are you going to the sock hop this Friday night?”


Meaning: Trustworthy or reliable.

Example: “You can count on him; he’s solid.”

These slang terms capture the unique language and culture of the 1940s and 1950s. They were often used in the context of jazz, swing, and the evolving youth culture of the time.

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