Classic Film Linguistics 101

March 17, 2009

Today was a stay in bed day, which in my book usually means: Barbara Stanwyck movie marathon-- I watched two films I recorded a few months ago and hadn't gotten around to watching yet -- Ten Cents a Dance and Illicit (I could write a whole book about how let down I was by the ending in Illicit... pre-code my foot!) and one of my favorites, Ball of Fire.

In case you aren't familiar with the premise of Ball of Fire: Barbara Stanwyck plays a sassy nightclub performer who is a walking encyclopedia of slang. Gary Cooper plays a stuffy professor who just so happens to be compiling an actual Encyclopedia of Slang. So Cooper recruits Stanwyck to teach him all the hip lingo that, being a stodgy professor, he knows nothing about. As such, this film is
filled to the brim with lots of yummy 30's and 40's lingo.

I like to use a lot of old words, my favorites being swell, gee whiz, neat and nifty. Since today is a no-painting, no-drawing, no-actual post sort of day, I thought I could at least accomplish something.... expanding my classic film vocabulary! In the comment section, let's compile our own Encyclopedia of
(Classic Film) Slang (don't you wish that they had actually published one as a gimmick for the film?! How nifty would that have been?!) Tell me what your favorites are... I am determined to start using these words more often!

By the way: I will be painting again in time to do a few of our favorite Irish lads and lasses. Happy St. Patricks Day!


Lolita of the Classics said...

I'm for 1920's slang, like "that's the cat's meow!", "he's a big cheese!" or "yes, we have no bananas!"

Anonymous said...

This is a amazing idea, Kate! I, too, try to inject my phrasology with vintage slang. I often think people don't have the faintest idea what I'm talking about, but that makes it all the better. :)

My favorites are:
"pipe down!" (always said with emphasis, so as to accomplish the desired reaction)
"Jeepers" (I just said this one today when I was nearly broadsided in traffic)
"ixnay" (Probably the most famous pig latin phrase. I adore pig latin!) and
"scram" (frequently said to bothersome younger siblings).

This is so fun!

elena-lu said...

love todays lesson!

vivienne strauss said...

the first that comes to mind is "the bee's knees" , mainly because it makes me laugh to think of bee having knees :)

Raquel Stecher said...

Oh I've got many. I love...

from 20's/30s
"strictly on the level" - I'm not kidding!
"Sheik" - hot guy
"and how!" - in agreement to whatever is said.
"that's banana oil" - that's ridiculous!
"dumb dora" - dumb chick

"heavy" from the '70s - intense!

"the living end" from the 50s/60s - the best of the best.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Me, I'm a bit of an Anglophile and a Swinging London fanatic, so I tend to love British slang from that era--fab, gear, grotty, and so on. Of course, I also like British English anyway--stuff like saying "post" for "mail" and "lift" for "elevator."

Of course, I also like the slang of the old gangster movies, sexist as it was--skirt for "woman," packing heat for "being armed," torpedo for "hired gun," and so on.

Anonymous said...

Lolita-- The cat's meow, I love that one! Especially because I have cats :)

Casey- I do love it when people don't know what I'm talking about. It's fun to be strange... ixnay's a fun one... Although I can't figure out what the non-pig latin wording is? Scram is fun too! I'll start saying it to my younger brother-- it's much better than my usual "please just go away"

elena-lu- Why thank you :) A+

vivienne- Do bees have knees? I never have the time to look, I'm always running frantically in the opposite direction whenever I see one...

Raquelle- "strictly on the level" and "and how" are two of my favorites too... I need to work them into my daily vocabulary. "Are we really having mashed potatoes for dinner?" "Yep, strictly on the level." "Did one of the cats throw up in the hallway?" "And how!"

Mercurie- I love British lingo, too. I'm a big fan of the brit-com, and that's where I get most of it from. I have a sign hanging on my bathroom door that says "loo"

Anonymous said...

"ixnay" is the Pig Latin for "nix" - a great piece of slang in itself meaning stop or cut it out. :)

Genevieve said...

I love old-fashioned slang! Some of my friends call me an old lady because I tend to say "oh dear", "fiddlesticks", and call middle school kids "hoodlums". After watching "Kitty Foyle", I wanted to work "judas priest!" into my vocabulary, but I think it might have been confused with the band.

Raquel Stecher said...

Here's Looking Like You Kid just did a post on the history behind the term "bee's knees"


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