How Well Do You Know Your '50s Slang?

Becky Stigall

Are you _______ a book?

In the 1950s, if someone asked you if you were "writing a book," they were trying to tell you you were asking too many questions. Might want to "tone it down" in that case.

Ain't that a ____.

In the 1950s, someone might say "ain't that a bite" to refer to something that was bad. They might also say it was a drag.

Backseat _____.

Backseat bingo was a term used for necking. Only the 1950s would spawn such a reference!

Bad ____.

The term "bad news" was used to refer to a person, not an event. If you were a thief, you might be called "bad news."

Burn ______.

The term "burn rubber" was used to indicate that someone was driving fast. It refers to the rubber left on the road during a very fast acceleration.

Cast an _______.

The phrase "cast an eyeball" was used to ask someone to take a look at something. The phrase was popularized in the 1950s.

Cloud ____.

The term "cloud nine" was used to refer to someone who was really happy. We're not sure if there were other levels of clouds.

Come on snake, let’s ______.

The phrase is "come on snake, let’s rattle." It means "let's dance."


The phrase "chrome-plated" was used to refer to someone who was dressed up. The phrase originated with hot rods - the more chrome, the fancier they were.

Cruisin' for a _______.

The phrase "cruisin' for a bruisin'" referred to someone who was looking for trouble. This kind of trouble often led to fighting.

Don't have a ___.

The phrase is "don't have a cow." It tells someone to not get excited. This phrase is still used today, especially by Bart Simpson.

Cop a ______.

The phrase "cop a breeze" was something someone might say if they were leaving. I'm about to cop a breeze.

Get ____.

The phrase "get bent" meant "drop dead." It was popularized in the 1950s.

Give me _____.

"Give me five" referred to shaking hands in the 1950s. Now it means a high five.

Hit the ______.

Although now we might say "hit the bottle" to mean drinking, in the 1950s this phrase referred to someone who bleached their hair blonde.

Knuckle ________.

In the 1950s, a knuckle sandwich referred to a punch in the mouth. This phrase is still used today.

Lay a _____.

The phrase is "lay a patch." Like the phrase "burn rubber," it refers to the rubber left on the road during a quick acceleration.

Lighting up the ____ sign.

The phrase "lighting up the tilt sign" refers to someone who is lying. The phrase appears to have its origins in pinball.

Made in the _____.

The phrase is "made in the shade." It means that something is easy or guaranteed.

Negative ____________.

The phrase is "negative perspiration." This phrase refers to something that is easy or effortless.

Make the _____.

The phrase is "make the scene." It refers to attending an event or a party.

Off the ____.

The phrase is "off the line." It means the starting line of a race.

Paper ______.

A "paper shaker" is 1950s slang for a cheerleader. The paper refers to the pom poms.

Pinky’s out of ____.

The phrase is "Pinky’s out of jail." One girl might say this to another girl to let her know that her slip is showing.

Put an egg in your shoe and ____ it.

The phrase is "put an egg in your shoe and beat it." It's a not-so-nice way to tell someone to leave.

Rattle your ____.

The phrase is "rattle your cage." It means to make you upset or angry.

Razz my _______.

The phrase is "razz my berries." It means to impress or excite me.

Smog in the ______.

The phrase is "smog in the noggin." It refers to a bad memory.

Stable the ______.

The phrase "stable the horses" means park the car. The use of "horses" refers to horsepower.

What's buzzin', ______.

The phrase is "what's buzzin', cuzzin?" It means "what's up?"

What's your tale, ___________.

The phrase is "what's your tale, nightingale." It is a snazzy way to ask someone "what's the story."

Word from the ____.

The phrase is "word from the bird." This means to tell the truth.

You make the ______ jive.

The phrase is "you make the king’s jive." This means that you speak well.

Apple ______.

The phrase is "apple butter." It was used to refer to smooth talk.

Agitate the ______.

The phrase "agitate the gravel" was used to indicate that someone was leaving. The use began with hot rodders who stirred up the gravel with their tires.

Explore More Quizzes

Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

Sure, maybe you weren't alive in the 1950s, but the slang from this era has permeated television. You're probably familiar enough to take this snazzy quiz.

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!