Ever Wonder How “Dames on the Giggle Water” (That’s Flappers!) Used to Talk?

by Intern Tessa

Flappers knew how to get dolled up and keep it copacetic in the 20s, and today we love them just as much as they would have wanted us to. Besides partying and staying in style, these ladies created a whole new language so catchy that a lot of it stuck around until today. We all know that the Real McCoy is the cat’s pajamas, not to take any wooden nickels, and that no one likes a wet blanket. But do you know what “Butt me” or “Oh, applesauce!” mean? Sounds intriguing, right?

Flappers were a product of World War I, which used a generation of young men to straighten out the older generation’s mistake. These men lost hope of surviving and adapted an attitude of enjoying life while they could. When the war ended and those who had survived returned home, they were expected to conform to the society that had put them through hell. And they weren’t having it.

At the same time, women’s roles were changing tremendously. During the war, women joined the workforce. They were not expected to date, but to wait for men to propose marriage. But with most of the men their age gone and a flavor of independence in their mouths, they decided to do as they liked and enjoy their lives. They started dressing up, smoking, drinking, dancing, wearing make up, cutting their hair, voting, dating, and embracing their sexuality. And, they started using new slang that reflected their fun-loving, sassy and rebellious new outlook.

The phrase “butt me” means “give me a cigarette.” “Applesauce!” is kind of like “Oh crap!” A “handcuff” is an engagement ring, which is given by a “police-dog,” (fiancé). When a flapper and her date have a fight, she uses “mad money” to get home on her own. Perhaps their fight was caused by this man being a “corn-shredder” (dancing on her feet) and ruining her new “dog kennels” (shoes) while listening to the “whangdoodle” (jazz band). Or maybe he was a “forty-niner” (looking for a rich wife), or a “clothesline” (telling the neighborhood stories). Or maybe he was just “fluky” (strange).

Flappers liked to get “half cut,” or plastered, off of “giggle water” at “petting parties.” This was a type of party devoted to hugging. A “biscuit” was a particularly pettable flapper and a “snugglepup” was a man who frequented these parties. She may have ended up “barney-muggin’ with a bell bottom,” meaning sleeping with a sailor. “Sweetie” is a term for someone a flapper hates, and “dropping the pilot” is getting divorced. When everything was “Jake” it was all good, and a “Moll” was a gangster’s girl.

Clearly, flappers knew how to have a good time, and certainly changed society’s expectations for women. Without these changes there wouldn’t be a BUST Magazine, so we want to say thank you to the women who paved the way for us–you’re the cat’s meow!

We thank Hemingway’s Paris at blogspot.com (http://hemingwaysparis.blogspot.com/2012/05/flappers-and-fitzgerald.html) and Randumbuzz.com (http://randumbuzz.com/tag/flappers/) for the pictures.

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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