Be Hep to the Jive!

With The Great Gatsby national movie release this month, you’ll want to be sure to get the Jazz Lingo down pat now, so you are ready to be ‘hep to the jive’. Don’t be left behind when the new craze of slang re-emerges, creeping into our everyday vernacular. Be one of the ‘wild cool and swingin’ hepcats’ – not only looking the part but sounding like it too!
6973026979_4e6549aa2a_o Flickr The Lane Team

Here are some favourites of the 1920s as well as the more popular definitions of jive. You’ll notice that we still use many of them today. Learn a few choice phrases and try peppering your speech with them. You’ll get a kick out of the reactions you get.

Flickr Allan Trotter


Most used phrase in the film:  Old Sport –  a 20’s colloquial kind of expression meaning like ‘Hey Pal’



Bees’ Knees – An extraordinary person, thing or idea
Baloney – nonsense!
Breezer – a convertible car
Caper – a criminal act or robbery
Cat’s Meow – Something splendid or stylish, similar to bee’s knees. The best or greatest
Flat Tire – A dull witted, insipid, disappointing date
Spiffy – An elegant appearance
You slay me – that’s funny
Hip (Hep) – someone who is ‘in the know’ or ‘in tune’ with the latest style. This usage of hip gained popularity around 1905, and in jazz it refers to the ‘cool’ demeanour of talented musicians or informed listeners
Hepcat [hep-kat] – a guy or gal ‘who knows what it’s all about’. It represents both lovers of the music and jazz musicians themselves
Dig – When a jazz musician really identifies with a tune or a jazz devotee discovers a new sound, you can say they dig the music
Cut of the Jib – One’s general appearance and demeanour
Daddy – a young woman’s boyfriend or lover, especially if he’s rich
Rag-a-muffin – a dirty or dishevelled individual
Giggle Water – An intoxicating beverage
Beat one’s gums – idle chatter

Edward_g_robinson circa 1920s Wikimedia Commons‘GATSBY SPEAK’ COMPETITION
Do you have a favourite slang phrase to share?

Just enter it into the COMMENTS panel below and you could WIN a double pass to Baz Luhrmann’s new film, The Great Gatsby.

Competition is now open and closes Sunday May 26, 2013. The Into Vintage team will judge the best on Monday, May 27 at 12 noon and the winner will be advised by email that afternoon.

Tickets will be posted to the winner by registered express mail the following day.

C’mon ….. slay me!

Images courtesy: Wikimedia Commons; Great Gatsby Book Cover image originally posted on Flickr by Allan Trotter.


27 thoughts on “Be Hep to the Jive!

  1. Ariadna

    I love telling friends that they’re “the cat’s pajamas”, because it’s so endearing! Who doesn’t want to be called that? XD

  2. Sheree

    Love the slang of the 20’s, amazing how much is still around today :-) One I find funny – “butt me” – to ask for a cigarette :-)

  3. Hanna Pickersgill

    Hey Babydoll, saunter those gams over here so we can enjoy a chinwag and a shindig!

  4. Lala

    My favourite expression, and I use it often, is ”I’ll be jiggered!” (= I’m very surprised)

  5. Michelle Agius

    Bearcat – hot blooded or fiery girl
    Bimbo – a tough guy
    Tomato – an attractive female
    On the lam – fleing from police
    Piker – cheapskate, coward
    Rubes – money or dollars
    Now you on the trolley – Now you’ve got it, now you’re right
    Cash or check – kiss me or making out

  6. Helen

    Dad always used to ask us (when we were little) to ‘keep our eyes greased’ when driving around looking for a car park. Also the saying ‘Shank’s pony’ when describing a mode of transport – on foot!

  7. Miss Cindy Timms

    Hot dawg! Get into my glad rags and have a swell time! Tell the other saps to scram!

  8. Francesca Formoso

    i love the term “flat tire”- means a bore, which when said doesn’t have the big sting and we still use the phrase…. Real McCoy which is referring to being (or having )the genuine item- that’s me!!!

  9. Karen Wescombe

    When I was little my parents used to always say on the phone or to friends “Yep, we’re taking the “ankle biters” when we were going in the car visiting and I was always fearful and would wriggle all the way, scared the “ankle biters” would ‘get me’. Didn’t find out for a long time that ‘ankle biters’ meant my brother and I – slang for ‘small children’.

  10. KC

    Something that I’ve noticed in old 20s and 30s film is “Natch” – which means “Naturally”. I quite like it.

  11. Lauren

    The favourite of mine is: “Don’t take any wooden nickels” It means; Don’t do anything stupid.
    Such a random one, but I love it!

  12. Belinda "Lindi" Nowack

    Adam’s Ale= water
    Oh My giddy Aunt!!!- love that one!
    Hey Doll face!

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