23 Skidoo! Downton-Era Slang For Every Vocabulary

Downton Abbey came back for its fourth season last night (for our more law-abiding North American readers anyway), and that talkie is the cat’s. I’m not just beating my gums here — the ’20s were the start of our modern pop-culture age, and the slang was the bee’s knees.

Incorporate some of these phrases and you’ll sound like your favorite sheik or sheba in no time!

23 skidoo! – leave quickly

  • Example: The coppers are busting the gin mill. 23 skidoo!

And how! – I agree with you SO HARD.

  • Example:

Herman: Those flappers sure are showing a lot of ankle!

Hattie (showing a lot of ankle): And how!

Bank’s Closed: stop making out

  • Example: It’s a speakeasy, not a hootenanny. Bank’s closed, Sam and Ida!

Beat one’s gums – to talk a lot of nonsense

  • Example: Lula says the stock market’s going to tank, but I think she’s just beating her gums.

Beef – a complaint. Actually, just like how we use it now. Thanks, ’20s!

  • Example:

Myrtle: What’s your beef?

Maude: You borrowed my stockings and got rouge all over the knees!

bee’s knees – really, really awesome

  • Example: Boy, Josephine, these movies that you have to read sure are the bee’s knees!

bimbo – a macho, overly manly man

  • Example: Reginald’s always lifting barbells on the boardwalk. What a bimbo!

blind date – a date with a stranger. Actually, just like how we use it now. No thanks, ’20s!

  • Example: George missed his blind date with Thelma because he was stuck on top of a flagpole.

blotto – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely blotto off that moonshine!

bubs – boobs, but way more fun to say

  • Example: Now Mabel’s showing her bubs! Geraldine, get her home!

cancelled stamp – a shy, wallflower-y girl who’s not very fun.

  • Example: Say what you will about Mabel, at least she’s not a cancelled stamp like old Gertie!

cat’s pajamas – particularly great. Often abbreviated to just “the cat’s.”

  • Example: Ida and Roger think dance marathons are the cat’s pajamas!

dead soldier – empty beer bottle

  • Example: Clean the dead soldiers off the field, boys! A football game’s starting and they could scratch our leather helmets!

drugstore cowboy – a guy who hangs out in public trying to look good and pick up ladies. See: the text of No Scrubs.

  • Example: Bernice bobs her hair, and next thing you know she’s taken off with some drugstore cowboy!

Dumb Dora – an unintelligent lady

  • Example: Maxine’s such a Dumb Dora – you can get better conversation out of a silent film!

gasper – cigarette

  • Example: Harold says that gaspers can make you sick, but I think he’s just beating his gums.

giggle water – booze

  • Example: Slow your roll, Mabel. Enough of that giggle water.

half-seas over – drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely half-seas over off that moonshine!

handcuff – engagement ring

  • Example: George has the handcuff on ol’ Thelma and he’s never at the speakeasy anymore.

icy mitt – to coldly blow off a person who’s trying to get with you

  • Example: Now that Ruth’s a coed, she’s giving all of the townies the icy mitt.

Let George do it – something that you’d say to get out of work.

  • Example: I don’t want to work on my financial planning for 1929. Ah, let George do it!

Moll – a gangster’s lady-friend

  • Example:

Moll: No, Irene, this is just the name my parents gave me. I’m not affiliated with the mafia. But I hope my great-granddaughter will be named after me, because what are the chances that the name Molly would be associated with a seedy subculture again in 100 years?

ossified – drunk.

  • Example: Mabel is completely ossified off that moonshine!

quilt – an alcoholic beverage that keeps you warm

  • Example:

Mabel: I sure am cold after that sledding party! Somebody get me a quilt.

Ethel: Oh, you’ve had quite enough, Mabel.

Mabel: I meant a literal quilt, though.

petting pantry – a movie theater. Still relevant for anyone who’s gone to the movies only to realize that it was apparently the couple’s show.

  • Example: Let’s go to the petting pantry! There’s a new Louise Brooks flick. And I want to make out.

So’s your old man – a response to somebody who said something that irritated you. Sort of a “your mama” for the 1920s crowd.

  • Example:

Phyllis: I saw your beau Jimbo at the petting party with Olive. He’s courting a hussy!

Gladys: So’s your old man!

sheba – girlfriend (or a good-looking lady). For millenials, that usually translates to “this girl I’m kind of hanging out with, I don’t know.”

  • Example: Arthur’s sheba is Lucille.

sheik – boyfriend (or a good-looking man). Millenials: “that guy I’ve been seeing or whatever, not really sure what we are.”

  • Example: Lucille’s sheik is Roy. Don’t tell Arthur.

spifflicated –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely splifficated off that moonshine!

struggle buggy – a car’s backseat

  • Example: Wow, it sure is easier to neck in a struggle buggy than it was in a regular buggy! I always felt like the horses were watching.

Tell it to Sweeney! – I don’t believe you. Tell it to someone who does.

  • Example: Sick from gaspers, Harold?! Tell it to Sweeney!

zozzled –  drunk

  • Example: Mabel is completely zozzled off that moonshine! I think she might have a problem.

Old trends don’t die as soon as a new one starts. Case in point: 40-something women who still dress like they did in the class of ’87. So, some of the early ’20s Downtoners were still using their World War I and Edwardian-era slang. It’s not too late to start using these words, too:

balmy on the crumpet –  crazy

  • Example: Henrietta is wearing bloomers! She’s gone balmy on the crumpet.sybil

blue devils – feeling down in the dumps

  • Example: Aminta has the blue devils because her best corset just broke.

beaver – a man’s beard

  • Example:

Jonesy: Why the long face, Jamesy?

Jamesy (whose face is hairless):  I can’t give Clorinda what she wants. I’m a baby-faced boy, but she likes the beaver.

Jonesy: Perhaps she can find a beard elsewhere.

boner – a mistake

  • Example:

Ronald: I made a real boner while I was courting Flossie in her parents’ parlor. I think I really ruined my chances.

Donald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor? What was it?

Ronald: A boner while courting in her parents’ parlor.

cheese it! – stop it!

  • Example: Cheese it, Edmund! You have to take your cod-liver oil!

clergyman’s daughter – a whore

  • Example: Bridget’s a clergyman’s daughter, and mark my words, in ten years her little Mabel will be just as bad.

cootie – crabs

  • Example: Bridget has cooties.

curtains – the end

  • Example: So… I guess that means it’s curtains for you and Bridget, then?

fittums – a great fit

  • Example: Constance, your new hobble skirt is just fittums!

jumping jesus – a fanatic

  • Example: I mean, I’m as excited about the coronation as anyone, but Nigel is a bit of a jumping jesus about the whole thing.

off his chump – crazy

  • Example: Now Henrietta wants to vote, as well? She’s off her chump.

pad the hoof – walking

  • Example: Ready to pad the hoof to the magic lantern show? It’s really the best entertainment option at this point in history.

pipe off – lose interest (in a romantic relationship)

  • Example:

Edwardine: Why did you pipe off Simon?

Thomasine: He spent more time with his hair tonic than I did on my pompadour!

Razzle-dazzle – to go out there, stir up some trouble, and get some ladies!

  • Example:

Bert: Shall we go razzle-dazzle, Simon?

Simon: I’m actually less interested in razzle-dazzling than you might think.

Teagie – tea gown

  • Example: You know, calling it a teagie makes it seem like it would be pretty casual, but it takes like three handmaids to change into this thing.

What priced head have you? – How bad’s the hangover?

  • Example: You really hit the music-hall hard, Basil. What priced head have you?

yeah – yes

  • Example

Charles: In 100 years’ time, will old people still get mad when you say “yeah” instead of “yes?”

Charlotte: Yeah.

Best of C+S 2013: What Even Is ‘Ratchet?’

You know that moment when you realize that you have to turn to Urban Dictionary to find out what “the youths” are talking about? That happened to us this year with “ratchet.” We worked through the definition, and in the process determined what Hogwarts house ratchets belong in and who is behind those ridiculous Yahoo Answers queries. The whole ratchet thing was so bizarre to us that we couldn’t leave it off of our Best Of list.

~~~~~~~~~

Are You Ratchet?

Originally Posted on August 5 

Sometime in the past year, I realized just how old I am. A term showed up describing a subculture, and I had no clue what it meant. Yes, ratchet. Urban Dictionary has a few definitions, but frankly I’d avoid that unless you’re cool with 13 pages of white boys using the words “slutty” and “ghetto.” Google images helped a little more, but it still didn’t completely clear things up. I believe it was Helen Keller who said that ratchet “cannot be seen or heard, but must be felt with the heart.”

Here’s my take on it: a “ratchet” person is an outspoken and possibly brash young woman who favors ostentatious or eye-catching “urban” fashion and other facets of hip-hop culture. She displays marks of conspicuous consumption, but is associated (correctly or incorrectly) with urban areas of lower socioeconomic status.

However, that definition is kind of boring. In case you’re trying to work through whether you, yourself, are ratchet, please consult this handy guide instead:

(1) Did you learn the definition of ratchet from Urban Dictionary?
The ONLY ratchet definition from Urban Dictionary that was fit to print on our website.
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
(2) Okay, did you learn the definition of ratchet during a conversation about a Miley Cyrus video?
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
(3) In the past year, have you had a conversation about a fact you learned from the John Tesh radio show?
  • You’re probably not ratchet, and may be my mother. Hi, mom.
(4) Did you learn how to twerk by watching a YouTube tutorial?
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, and are just really tenacious about developing your skills, like a ratchet Hermione Granger. I get you.

* In my mind’s eye, Ratchet Hermione Granger has bucktoothed grills and wears a Gryffindor-colored bustier under her dress robes — but also, “ratchet” seems more Slytherin.

(5) Do you care at-freaking-ALL about whether or not I think you’re ratchet?
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
(6) Within recent memory, have you lamented the decline of panty hose in women’s fashions?
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, but have to wear professional attire for work and always feel a little less-than-polished every time you wear a skirt without hose.
(7) Was Sean Combs still going by Puff Daddy the last time you were at the club?
  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, but are really more of an introvert, which is fine.
(8) Did you learn the definition of “ratchet” by writing a question in to Yahoo Answers?
  • Trick question. You’re not ratchet, but that’s only because every Yahoo Answers question is written by the same confused but well-intentioned 14-year-old girl who doesn’t quite know how to use Google.
(9) (a) If someone referred to you as “nasty,” would you be offended?
  • You’re not ratchet.
(b) Is the reason you’re offended because you’re assuming they mean “nasty” in terms of being unkind, rude, and unpleasant?
  • You’re not ratchet, and seem like an old lady.
(10) (a) Do you own hoop earrings with your name written across the middle?
  • That doesn’t mean you’re ratchet.
(b) Do you own earrings with “Ratchet” written across the middle?
  • Now you’re ratchet. Unless that’s your name.
(10) Last one: are you Miley Cyrus?
  • Oh, honey. You’re not ratchet. Your dad wrote Achy Breaky Heart. (note: Noah Cyrus… Maybe)

Are You Ratchet?

Sometime in the past year, I realized just how old I am. A term showed up describing a subculture, and I had no clue what it meant. Yes, ratchet. Urban Dictionary has a few definitions, but frankly I’d avoid that unless you’re cool with 13 pages of white boys using the words “slutty” and “ghetto.” Google images helped a little more, but it still didn’t completely clear things up. I believe it was Helen Keller who said that ratchet “cannot be seen or heard, but must be felt with the heart.”

Here’s my take on it: a “ratchet” person is an outspoken and possibly brash young woman who favors ostentatious or eye-catching “urban” fashion and other facets of hip-hop culture. She displays marks of conspicuous consumption, but is associated (correctly or incorrectly) with urban areas of lower socioeconomic status.

However, that definition is kind of boring. In case you’re trying to work through whether you, yourself, are ratchet, please consult this handy guide instead:

(1) Did you learn the definition of ratchet from Urban Dictionary?

The ONLY ratchet definition from Urban Dictionary that was fit to print on our website.

  • You’re probably not ratchet.

(2) Okay, did you learn the definition of ratchet during a conversation about a Miley Cyrus video?

  • You’re probably not ratchet.

(3) In the past year, have you had a conversation about a fact you learned from the John Tesh radio show?

  • You’re probably not ratchet, and may be my mother. Hi, mom.

(4) Did you learn how to twerk by watching a YouTube tutorial?

  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, and are just really tenacious about developing your skills, like a ratchet Hermione Granger. I get you.

* In my mind’s eye, Ratchet Hermione Granger has bucktoothed grills and wears a Gryffindor-colored bustier under her dress robes — but also, “ratchet” seems more Slytherin.

(5) Do you care at-freaking-ALL about whether or not I think you’re ratchet?

  • You’re probably not ratchet.

(6) Within recent memory, have you lamented the decline of panty hose in women’s fashions?

  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, but have to wear professional attire for work and always feel a little less-than-polished every time you wear a skirt without hose.

(7) Was Sean Combs still going by Puff Daddy the last time you were at the club?

  • You’re probably not ratchet.
  • Or, you are ratchet, but are really more of an introvert, which is fine.

(8) Did you learn the definition of “ratchet” by writing a question in to Yahoo Answers?

  • Trick question. You’re not ratchet, but that’s only because every Yahoo Answers question is written by the same confused but well-intentioned 14-year-old girl who doesn’t quite know how to use Google.

(9) (a) If someone referred to you as “nasty,” would you be offended?

  • You’re not ratchet.

(b) Is the reason you’re offended because you’re assuming they mean “nasty” in terms of being unkind, rude, and unpleasant?

  • You’re not ratchet, and seem like an old lady.
(10) (a) Do you own hoop earrings with your name written across the middle?
  • That doesn’t mean you’re ratchet.

(b) Do you own earrings with “Ratchet” written across the middle?

  • Now you’re ratchet. Unless that’s your name.

(10) Last one: are you Miley Cyrus?

  • Oh, honey. You’re not ratchet. Your dad wrote Achy Breaky Heart.
    (note: Noah Cyrus… Maybe)