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Words That Were: 1950–1959

Silly Putty, processed cheese slices, Yahtzee, the Xerox photocopier: the 1950s truly were a time of invention and innovation. However, atomic-age creativity extended beyond these important technological advances, producing literary milestones such as The Catcher in the Rye, Charlotte's Web, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and On the Road. Of course, it wasn't all fun, games and really good eating—the entire decade was under the constant threat of nuclear annihilation. But nevertheless, if you dig the way they spoke in the 1950s, you'll enjoy Words That Were: 1950–1959.

Definition: musical instrument
Note: In today's slang terms, axe refers exclusively to a guitar.
Definition: Benzedrine, a prescription stimulant popular with recreational drug users
big pickle
Definition: atomic bomb
Synonym: the gadget
black stuff
Definition: opium
blast furnace
Definition: jet plane (used extensively in the Korean War)
Synonyms: blowtorch, firecan, flame thrower, pipe, speed burner, squirt
blow in on the scene
Definition: arrive
Synonyms: fall in, make the scene
Definition: bank
Definition: cocaine
Synonyms: Charlie
Definition: fad among students where as many people as possible squeezed into a small space, such as a telephone booth or a car
cut the scene
Definition: depart
Synonyms: cut out, fall out, split
Definition: three-dimensional movie
dirty bop
Definition: dance like the jitterbug, only slower and with more suggestive hip movement
Synonym: dirty boogie
draggin' wagon
Definition: car built for drag racing
Synonym: dragster
duck tail
Definition: young man's hairstyle where the sides are brushed back into a tail that flips up at the back of the head
five dollars a gear
Definition: type of race where competitors determined which car could go fastest in each gear (with a five-dollar prize for the winner of each gear's race)
Note: Among richer racers, ten dollars a gear was more common.
Definition: very exciting
Synonym: Kicksville
frontier pants
Definition: very narrowly tapered women's pants that required a slit or zipper at the ankle
Synonyms: fireside pants, slim jims
ice cream man
efinition: drug dealer
Note: In crystalline form, cocaine, heroin and morphine were referred to as ice cream.
sack dress
Definition: loose-fitting dress designed by Givenchy
Alternative spelling: sacque dress
Definition: unpopular person
Note: Around the time, the word nerd began to be used. While scurve was used for males or females, an unpopular girl had her own term: roach.
Definition: drive around aimlessly
Tromp it!
Definition: Floor it!
yellow jacket
Definition: Nembutal, a barbiturate that got its nickname from its bright yellow capsule

Test yourself with this quiz: Circa 1950–1959.