From Cab Calloway’s Hepster Dictionary, published in 1940
Guitar: Git Box or Belly-Fiddle
Drums: Suitcase, Hides, or Skins
Piano: Storehouse or Ivories
Saxophone: Plumbing or Reeds
Trombone: Tram or Slush-Pump
Clarinet: Licorice Stick or Gob Stick
Accordion: Squeeze-Box or Groan-Box
Electric Organ: Spark Jiver
A hummer (n.) – exceptionally good. Ex., “Man, that boy is a hummer.”
Ain’t coming on that tab (v.) – won’t accept the proposition. Usually abbr. to “I ain’t coming.”
Alligator (n.) – jitterbug.
Apple (n.) – the big town, the main stem, Harlem.
Armstrongs (n.) – musical notes in the upper register, high trumpet notes.
Barbecue (n.) – the girl friend, a beauty
Barrelhouse (adj.) – free and easy.
Battle (n.) – a very homely girl, a crone.
Beat (adj.) – (1) tired, exhausted. Ex., “You look beat” or “I feel beat.” (2) lacking anythingEx, “I am beat for my cash”, “I am beat to my socks” (lacking everything).
Beat it out (v.) – play it hot, emphasize the rhythym.
Beat up (adj.) – sad, uncomplimentary, tired.
Beat up the chops (or the gums) (v.) – to talk, converse, be loquacious.
Beef (v.) – to say, to state. Ex., “He beefed to me that, etc.”
Bible (n.) – the gospel truth. Ex., “It’s the bible!”
Black (n.) – night.
Black and tan (n.) – dark and light colored folks. Not colored and white folks as erroneously assumed.
Blew their wigs (adj.) – excited with enthusiasm, gone crazy.
Blip (n.) – something very good. Ex., “That’s a blip”; “She’s a blip.”
Blow the top (v.) – to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”
Boogie-woogie (n.) – harmony with accented bass.
Boot (v.) – to give. Ex., “Boot me that glove.”
Break it up (v.) – to win applause, to stop the show.Bree (n.) – girl.
Bright (n.) – day.
Brightnin’ (n.) – daybreak.
Bring down ((1) n. (2) v.) – (1) something depressing. Ex., “That’s a bring down.” (2) Ex., “That brings me down.”
Buddy ghee (n.) – fellow.
Bust your conk (v.) – apply yourself diligently, break your neck.
Canary (n.) – girl vocalist.
Capped (v.) – outdone, surpassed.
Cat (n.) – musician in swing band.
Chick (n.) – girl.
Chime (n.) – hour. Ex., “I got in at six chimes.”
Clambake (n.) – ad lib session, every man for himself, a jam session not in the groove.
Chirp (n.) – female singer.
Cogs (n.) – sun glasses.
Collar (v.) – to get, to obtain, to comprehend. Ex., “I gotta collar me some food”; “Do you collar this jive?”
Come again (v.) – try it over, do better than you are doing, I don’t understand you.Comes on like gangbusters (or like test pilot) (v.) – plays, sings, or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes abbr. to “That singer really comes on!”
Cop (v.) – to get, to obtain (see collar; knock).
Corny (adj.) – old-fashioned, stale.
Creeps out like the shadow (v.) – “comes on,” but in smooth, suave, sophisticated manner.
Crumb crushers (n.) – teeth.
Cubby (n.) – room, flat, home.
Cups (n.) – sleep. Ex., “I gotta catch some cups.”
Cut out (v.) – to leave, to depart. Ex., “It’s time to cut out”; “I cut out from the joint in early bright.”
Cut rate (n.) – a low, cheap person. Ex., “Don’t play me cut rate, Jack!”
Dicty (adj.) – high-class, nifty, smart.
Dig (v.) – (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you later.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) comprehend, understand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”
Dim (n.) – evening.
Dime note (n.) – ten-dollar bill.
Doghouse (n.) – bass fiddle.
More coming soon!
Based on The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook by Richard Peters, published in 1982.
18 KARAT: All the way, full-out: “An 18 karat idiot.”
BABY: Used as an exclamation as well as a term of endearment.
BAG: As in “my bag,” a person’s particular interest.
BARN BURNER: A very stylish, classy woman.
BEARD: A male friend who acts as a ‘cover’, usually for extramarital affairs.
BEETLE: A girl who dresses in flashy clothes.
BIG-LEAGUER: A resourceful man who can handle any situation.
BIRD: A “suitcase” word sometimes used in reference to the pelvic section.
BOMBSVILLE: Any kind of failure in life.
BROAD: Affectionate term for a girl or woman with sex appeal.
BUM: A person who is despised, most frequently linked to people in the media.
BUNTER: A man who fails in almost everything he does, the opposite of gasser.
More coming soon!
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