Dig it, man…Bop (slang/jive) Dictionary from 1955, for cool kats (hipsters). Gone, man, gone.

Beatnik-3Hey kats, let’s take a gone history trip back to the double-nickle brights of the last century.

(Translation: Let’s take a history lesson from 1955)

Hep talk, Jive, hipster lingo…It all started with jazz musicians back in the 1920s and 30s. It’s generally accepted that “jive” started as a kind of code, especially to warn your fellow musicians about an impending police raid on the speakeasy you happened to be playing in that night. From there it took off into just a cool way for these kats (musicians) to differentiate themselves from the squares, and from there is took off into any USA culture click that considered themselves gone, out, way out, and in possession of a coolness that the cubes could never dig. Dig?

Sent to me 20 years ago through a very un-hip but easy-to-use channel, “email”, this is a list of the hippest words with their American translation. I’m not sure, but I believe this dictionary was originally printed in Mad Magazine, c. 1955

ABE’S CABE – a five dollar bill

BIG GEORGE – a quarter

BLAZE – to go

BLOOD – wine

BREAD – money

BRIGHT – day

BROWN ABE – a penny

CHEATERS – eye glasses


COOL – nice

CRAZY – odd

CRIB – house

CUBE – 3-D square

CUT – make fun of

CUT OUT – leave

DIG, TO DIG – to understand

DUCE – a two dollar bill

ENDS – money

FLICKS – movies

FLIP – react enthusiastically

GONE – wonderful

GREASE – eat

HENCHMEN – friends

HOLLYWOOD EYES – cute girls

HUB CAP – important fellow

JAMS – bop records

JELLY TOT – young hub cap

KAT – latest version of hipster
KICK – thrill

LATER – I’ll see you

LAY DEAD – wait

MAN – opening word when addressing a kat

MAN, MY – friend, comrade

MAN, THE – Stan Kenton

NOD – sleep

NOWHERE – condition of a cube


PLAYER – popular fellow

QUIT, QUIT IT – leave

RANCH – house

RANK – stupid

SCARF – eat


SIDES – bop records

SILVER JEFF – a nickel

SILVER WING – a half dollar

SLAMMER – door

SONNET – radio commercial

SPLASH – rain

SPLIT – to go

SQUAT – sit

SQUARE – one who is nowhere

STOMPERS – shoes

STONED – ecstatic


STRUGGLE – dance

THIN ONE – dime

TICKS – minutes

TUNES – bop records

TURKEY – square

WASTED – broke

WHEELS – car

WILD – nice

YARD, A YARD – a hundred dollars

Dig it how some of these terms are still cool today, like ‘dig’ and ‘cool’, along with ‘scarf’, ‘player’, ‘crib’ and ‘jams’. I also particularly dig that “The Man” is Stan Kenton (see previous post). Well, it’s a bop dictionary, after all.

Compare to the 1958 “COOL” Magazine Hipster Dictionary, one that was more for the masses, not so much for Bop jazzers. Some common ground, of course, but a lot more words for ordinary things. Bop musicians didn’t need so many words. They said very little, saving their strength to play all those notes in their complicated Bop charts. Wild, man, wild.

-Guest Post by Zoot Jackson, Gobble Pipe blower and swingin’ kat extraordinaire.

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