The Spectacular Slang of the 1950s

In the days of yore, long before character limits and emojis, there was a far different way of speaking. And we aren’t talking about the token “thus” you throw into your university paper to sound fancy – we’re talking about the cheerful, wonderful and often nonsensical language of the 1950s (or thereabouts).

We’ve searched far and wide to collate our favourite retro slang, ready for you to incorporate into your vocabulary. Why not sprinkle a few of these smashing phrases into your next conversation?


1. “amble-scramble”

You know those big city intersections that stop all traffic for a short time, and allow pedestrians to walk in any direction?

Well, “amble-scramble” is the term for that barely-organised chaos. It started in the ’50s when multi-way pedestrian systems came about, and its use has dropped off since. We think it deserves a revival, since it’s a rather logical phrase (pedestrians really do both ‘amble’ and ‘scramble’).

2. “wumgush”

This is one of those words that really looks like someone gave up halfway through. Despite this, it was a popular ’50s phrase, literally meaning “nonsense”. This is particularly ironic given the word wumgush appears to be nonsense.

3. A “deepie”

When 3-D technology became slightly more prominent in the ’50s, the best word people could summon to describe the 3-D effect was ‘deep’. And so, a deepie referred to a 3-D film.

We don’t see many 3-D films being released nowadays, so sadly there’s less chances to break out this weirdly adorable term. But hey, maybe VR games can become the new ‘deepies’.

4. “full of moist”

There are times when context is vital. Every time you use this phrase will be one of those times.

Put simply, if something was “full of moist”, it was extremely hot. This ’50s phrase appears to have been less popular than the others on our list, perhaps because the world’s hatred of the word ‘moist’ developed fairly quickly.

4. The many, many terms for being drunk

The ’50s was post-Prohibition and post-WWII, meaning the world was very much in need of a celebration. And so, countless terms for being intoxicated started to come about, some logical and some just… well, a load of wumgush.

But next time your friends have had just a few too many, you can always say they “have their flag out”, or that they’re “seeing snakes” (which, frankly, would be terrifying).

If you want to go full retro, you might say they’re “full of prunes”, “on the ree-raw” or “full as a tick”. How we went from all of this marvellous creativity to the word “wasted” is beyond us.

5. “Don’t sell me a dog”

Think getting a new dog is a wonderful thing? Well, not according to the slang of the ’50s.

In the mid-century, “don’t sell me a dog!” essentially meant “don’t lie to me!”. We aren’t sure why dogs were associated with lies (let’s be honest, cats always seem to be the shady ones).

Nonetheless, why not try throwing this phrase at your suspected liar for a bit of retro zing.


What’s your favourite retro phrase? Will you be adding any of these to your repertoire? Comment below and let us know!


Feeling inspired by our flashback phrases? Don’t just talk like it’s a bygone era, dress like it too! Discover our range of vintage-meets-modern dresses, tops and plenty more.


One reply on “The Spectacular Slang of the 1950s

  • Adrien

    I love all the (somewhat) everyday phrases coined by Shakespeare (e.g. ‘wild goose chase’, ‘be-all and end-all’, ‘break the ice’, ‘forever and a day’, etc.). Kinda cool how many people quote him without even knowing it!


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