For the benefit of our readers, we have asked Babs to provide some plain translations of her more commonly used Flapperisms.
She rolled her eyes and called us “grand-dad” a few times, but eventually consented.
ANKLE, also BLOUSE, BREEZE (v): To leave, to go, to proceed. Yes? You’re getting the picture, here? What a woman does when a man is impertinent.
ALL WET (adj): Useless. Behind the times. Less than helpful. I may be a rusalka, and therefore a water spirit. If I call you this, it is not to be taken as a compliment.
APPLESAUCE (n): Mixed-up nonsense. What most people talk.
BALLED UP (adj): Having been subjected to too much applesauce. Confused, darling.
BEANPICKER (n): One who attempts to smooth over a problem. After someone has spilled the proverbial beans, a beanpicker attempts to repair the damage.
BEARCAT (n): A woman of appropriate temperament. That is, fiery and defiant. Yours truly, in her better moments.
BIG SIX (n, adj): We used to think that a car with six cylinders was a powerful beast. Typically this refers to a man with muscles.
BISCUIT (n): An attractive woman.
BUSHWA (n): Lies, scandalous lies, patent untruth. It’s a euphemism, dear.
CAKE EATER (n): A fellow who enjoys having a good time. Handy to have around the house on a Saturday night.
CASH OR CHECK? (phr): Would you care to kiss me right now, or would you prefer to do so later? Sometimes a woman has to ask.
CAT’S MEOW (n): The absolute best. Admittedly, the species flapper tends to indulge in too many superlatives, but at least we’re colorful about it. The giraffe’s spats, the caterpillar’s elbows…
CLOTHESLINE (n, v): Where one is likely to find someone else’s laundry. In other words, a gossip or a tale-teller.
CORN SHREDDER, also DESTROYER (n): A man who treads on your feet while dancing. Rarely seen twice.
DARB (adj, n): A wonderful person is the Darb. They can always be counted on. A darb cocktail or roadster is the exact remedy for what ails one.
DRY UP (phr): What those who are all wet (q.v.) should do.
EDISON (v): To ask a lot of questions. Whether or not answers are available.
EGG (n): A fellow, a man, typically a Good Egg. Though Bad Eggs are hardly unknown.
FEATHERS (n): Small talk. One of life’s great pleasures, except when it’s absolutely not.
FLAPPER (n): Oh, dearie. If you need to ask… short skirt, shorter hair, unwilling to subject herself to traditional notions of femininity just for a man’s benefit. If you are ever so lucky as to cross paths with one, treat her with respect. She’s probably busy doing something spectacular, so don’t get in her way.
FLAT TIRE (n): Any insipid or disappointing thing. A pill, a drag, a pickle. Just talking about such things makes me tired.
GIVEN THE AIR (phr): Sent home without a goodbye kiss. Left standing at the train platform. What one should do with a date who turns out to be a flat tire.
HEEBIE JEEBIES (n): The term comes from a popular song of 1926, and most likely refers to delirium tremens. It can also refer to how one feels when confronted with the uncanny, the eerie, the unreal. Though around here, we just call that Monday.
HITTING ON ALL SIX (adj): Getting along gloriously; when a dancer really hits their stride; when everything just comes together nicely.
HORSE LINAMENT, also COFFIN VARNISH (n): Oh, there are so many names for bootleg liquor, I really haven’t time to list them. Though I’ve probably sampled them all.
IRON ONE’S SHOELACES (phr): Putting this delicately, to re-apply one’s powder. Which is done in a certain room of the house. Come, now, darling. We all do it. You know what it means.
IT (n): Sex appeal. Charisma. That which draws the attention, specifically of young men.
JACK, also CABBAGE, KALE, LETTUCE, SPINACH, THE GREEN GLORIOUS, VOOT (n): Filthy lucre, yes? The root of all evil? Really only a problem when you haven’t any.
JOHN D (n): A person of an oily disposition.
KNEE DUSTER (n): The kind of dress that could get you arrested last year. Typically sleeveless and loose-fitting. The flapper’s uniform, often complete with insignia (a double string of pearls, a cloche hat, and a miniscule handbag to hold your mad money).
MUNITIONS (n): Cosmetics, applied liberally and often. One’s best weapons in the battle of the sexes.
PETTING PARTY (n): A gathering of one or more couples. The lights are low, soft music plays. What happens after that is nobody’s potatoes (q.v.).
PILLOWCASE (n): Someone full of feathers (q.v.). One who just won’t shut up.
POTATOES (n): What you should mind. Your own business, that is.
RHATZ (exc): An expression of frustration or distaste.
SHEBA/SHEIK (n): An attractive person. From the Queen of Sheba, and “The Sheik”, Valentino’s most celebrated film.
SMITH BROTHERS (n): Those who never cough up. Oh, they’re thrilled to drink the champagne, but when somebody needs to pay the bill they’re nowhere to be found.
SNUGGLEPUP (n): Sometimes one likes to curl up with a good book. Other times, one prefers to curl up with someone else. A snugglepup is the perfect thing for the latter occasion.
SPLIFFICATED (adj): I will not begin to catalog the different ways we may refer to the state of intoxication. This is a good one. I’m also partial to “fried to the hat.”
SWEETIE (n): I may call you darling, dear, dear heart, and they all mean I’m feeling affection for you. Should I ever call you “sweetie” you should run away. Why is this particular endearment is reserved for those I despise? Because I am a dangerous woman and often unpredictable. Do you wish to ask me more questions, just now?
TOOT THE WRONG RINGER (phr): “You’ve asked the wrong person”. I don’t have the information you’re looking for.
WATERPROOF (n): A face that requires no makeup. Though it never hurts.