Tuesday, February 9, 2016

What'd you say?

According to dictionary.com slang is defined as “very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language, as in hit the road.”

The use of slang, especially by a character in a story, can make them very memorable. But sometimes it’s even more fun in person. When I moved several hundred miles up the East coast from Virginia to New Hampshire in 2002, I didn’t realize I would have to learn a new language. However, I was delighted to discover that New England has their own slang vocabulary - as do most regions in the U.S., so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Examples include: “The kid’s got moxie,” “make a packie run,” (go to the liquor store) and “bang a u-ey” (make a u-turn).

World War II brought forth its own vibrant collection of slang. Here are some of my favorites:

6-and-20 tootsie: a girl worth the 6 demerits and 20 rounds of marching an aviation cadet got for returning to base late.

Ameche: a telephone, as in “I'll talk to you later on the Ameche.” Named for actor Don Ameche, who played inventor Alexander Graham Bell in a 1939 movie.

Army Strawberries: prunes, a less vibrant, more fibrous alternative to their slang namesake for GIs at the front

Baby: a plane's detachable extra fuel tank; this baby could be dropped in tight situations to reduce weight.

Blivit: anything (or anyone) big and floppy that goes plop when you drop it.

Birdbag: a flight suit

Behavior report: letter to a girl, a letter to the missus as in the prune always forgot to send behavior reports to his girl.

Bubble dancing: washing the dishes

Devils in baggy pants: what some German troops called US 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers, who tucked their pants into their boots

Dodo: like his winged by flightless namesake, this air force cadet had not flown (yet)

George: a name that originated with the RAF for a plane's autopilot, used in phrases such as “Let George fly it.”

Goozlum: goop masquerading as sauce or gravy – maybe atop a blivit on your plate

Naff: British slang for solders' clothing and ordinary belongings, perhaps from NAAFI – Navy, Army Air Force Institutes, which supplied such things.

Pineapple: deceptively sweet sounding slang for a hand grenade

Pollywog: A shipmate who has never crossed the equator; when he does he'll become a shellback

Roller skate: a tank

Sugar report: letter from a sweetheart
Tiger meat: an exotic name for not-so-exotic meat

Do you have any favorite slang expressions?

Don't forget to leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for an Orphan Train Bride Audiobook by Teresa Ives Lilly! Winner announced in the Weekly Windup on the 15th. Check out all of our great prizes on the Prizes Galore page.

A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett also writes historical fiction. She is currently seeking a publisher or her series about WWII war correspondent Ruth Brown. Visit Linda at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com


  1. So many of these slang terms sound logical. You mentioned that they originated during/after WWII, but I would imagine that many are still used today. Probably not "Ameche." :)

  2. LOL. You're right about "Ameche." Wonder how many folks even know who he is anymore!

  3. I had never heard any of these slang words but I do know who Don Ameche was! :-)
    Thanks for sharing.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the post - AND that you know who Don Ameche was! :-)

  5. How fascinating! Such fun! I didn't know Ameche's name became slang for phone. I remember him!

    1. I didn't know the one about Don Ameche either!

  6. Love it! One of my WIPs is WWII era so this hits the spot. :)

    1. Excellent! Don't suppose you'd give me a hint about your book...

  7. These are very interesting.
    Here's one: Bust (one's) chops.....to criticize

  8. I've heard of that one - it's a good one. :-)

  9. My dad used the term Geedunk (candy, junk food or the place where you can buy this kind of stuff)