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View Full Version : Did people in the 1940s and early 1950s _really_ talk that way?


elmwood
08-06-2008, 11:00 PM
You know, regularly telling people to "make it snappy!", addressing someone by saying "Say there sonny boy", calling women "broads" and "dames" to their face, telling people "don't be such a wise guy!" and "why, I oughtta' pop you one!", and so on.

Stranger On A Train
08-06-2008, 11:11 PM
Heck, I still talk like that when I can get away with it. Then again, I'd have David Mamet and Tom Stoppard write the dialogue for my life if I could. There's nothing better than talking like you just stepped out of a James M. Cain novel.

Stranger

pulykamell
08-06-2008, 11:19 PM
"why, I oughtta' pop you one!", and so on.

Hell, my 60-something neighbors in the 1980s talked to me that way.

Colibri
08-06-2008, 11:34 PM
I grew up in the 1950s. My grandparents and older teachers used to say things like "make it snappy," "don't be such a wise guy," and "Say, sonny boy."

Noel Prosequi
08-06-2008, 11:42 PM
A question that has long puzzled me!

Another variant - there is a particular style of laboured humour one sees only in movies of a certain age. For want of a better expression, I'll call it the "that is" joke.

Example: You take the cake...the fruit cake, that is! (Cue laugh track).

The formula is that the comment before the ellipsis is generally some sort of apparent compliment, which (after the ellipsis) is inverted by the insertion of a modifier which turns the previous apparent meaning of the expression through 180 degrees into an insult. This inversion is followed by the phrase "that is" as a ham-fisted emphasiser of what has occurred.

Did anyone ever really talk like this? Wildean wit it ain't. I have never heard a variant of it that wasn't utterly lame. I associate it with cringe comedies like Lucy.

A further variant - the "Yeah. That's right!" self-interjection. Comes in two flavours.

The first is a heavy-handed cue to the fact that the speaker is making up a comically bad excuse on the spot, thus:-

(Questioner walks in on someone in comic situation suspiciously going through contents of closet).
Q:What are you doing in my closet?
A: Uhh...I'm ... uh ... just doing a mothball inspection! Yeah! That's right! Mothballs!

I am confident no-one ever said this in real life. This is just a comic trope.

But the second flavour occurs in tough guy movies. I'm thinking Jimmy Cagney. In the course of some tough monologue, and in the absence of any interruption that would seemingly justify it, you might hear:

Cagney: I said I was gonna kill ya and I meant it! Yeah, that's right! Kill ya! And all your no-good buddies, too!"


So - did anyone ever use the "Yeah! That's right!" in real life?

Koxinga
08-07-2008, 12:10 AM
There was an SNL skit that made fun of that, something about a newsroom in the 1930s that specialized only in minor, back-page stories. "Shaddup!" "Why, I oughtta pound you!"

Enright3
08-07-2008, 08:38 AM
I'm reminded that there was also an SNL skit with Jon Lovitz doing something similar to the "Uhh...I'm ... uh ... just doing a mothball inspection! Yeah! That's right! Mothballs!"

In Lovitz's case he was a pathological liar though. "... yeah, that's the ticket, I was.... walk... RUNNING to the busss stooo... TAXI STAND" etc.

CalMeacham
08-07-2008, 08:51 AM
I think people ought not to mistake 1930s and 1940s Hollywood scripts with real life.


Certainly people talked differently. Language and slang changes, and each era gets its own flavor. And, without a doubt, people are influenced by the entertainment the watch and see tregularly, so that Three Stooges style ("Why you rotten..." "I oughtta pound you!") makes its way into everyday speech.


But the truth is that real everyday speech is random and filled with ellipses, and has a lot more profanity than radio and the movies would have allowed. I've long suspected that the characteristic "old movie" lingo was a way to portray "ordinary people talk" with all the dirty parts taken out and smoothed over.



As for Noel's delayed "....that is" joke, it hasn't left. It's just gotten a fresh coat of paint to emerge as the "....Not!" joke.


Old: "You take the cake... Fruit Cake, that is!"

New: "You take the cake......Not!"


Or, since people don't really say "you take the cake" anymore


New: "That is so slick.....NOT!"

muttrox
08-07-2008, 09:23 AM
In the latter part of the twentieth century, did people ever really say Not after a sentence to reverse the meaning? Seems very heavy-handed to me. And did they really say "Dude" and "Like" all the time? Who would talk like that!

DooWahDiddy
08-07-2008, 09:33 AM
A question that has long puzzled me!

Another variant - there is a particular style of laboured humour one sees only in movies of a certain age. For want of a better expression, I'll call it the "that is" joke.

Example: You take the cake...the fruit cake, that is! (Cue laugh track).

The formula is that the comment before the ellipsis is generally some sort of apparent compliment, which (after the ellipsis) is inverted by the insertion of a modifier which turns the previous apparent meaning of the expression through 180 degrees into an insult. This inversion is followed by the phrase "that is" as a ham-fisted emphasiser of what has occurred.

This is a good post... for me to poop on.

Tristan
08-07-2008, 09:57 AM
In the latter part of the twentieth century, did people ever really say Not after a sentence to reverse the meaning? Seems very heavy-handed to me. And did they really say "Dude" and "Like" all the time? Who would talk like that!

Yes, yes we did. At least in the late 80's and the early to mid-90's.

"NOT!" was popularized by Wayne's World, which was HUGE with teenagers.

And Dude and Like are still around. I hate them, even though I still catch myself saying "Dude, check this out!", especially when drunk.

muttrox
08-07-2008, 09:59 AM
Like dude, I think I like totally wooshed you. Epic!

Triskadecamus
08-07-2008, 10:03 AM
Wow. groovy.

elmwood
08-07-2008, 10:04 AM
How about this:

If I found myself transported back in time to 1955, into a part of the United States where the Mormon population was negligible, got into a conversation with someone, and told them some good news, would they really respond with "[Gee|Golly|Gosh|Gee whiz], that's [keen|swell]!"?

3acresandatruck
08-07-2008, 10:13 AM
Actually, elmwood,my friends and I were more likely to say keen-o than keen, but that's just being nitpicky. The short answer is 'yes'.

Shagnasty
08-07-2008, 10:26 AM
The one that always surprised me was "Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident."

I have pondered this statement way too much and the implications are enormous. Here are just a few points.

1) The mother is implying that her son regularly shits himself.

2) This is not a problem in and of itself as long as medical personnel don't see it.

3) Reminding the child that he might get into an accident so bad that he will have to be completely stripped when he leaves the house is a distinct possibility.

4) This statement should be followed by a laugh track.

Voyager
08-07-2008, 12:58 PM
You know, regularly telling people to "make it snappy!", addressing someone by saying "Say there sonny boy", calling women "broads" and "dames" to their face, telling people "don't be such a wise guy!" and "why, I oughtta' pop you one!", and so on.
Some of that is movie speak, but my father told me to "make it snappy" more times than I can count.
And in the late 60s early 70s I heard lots of people say things like "far out" and other stuff I'm embarrassed to recall. But never me. ;)

mbh
08-07-2008, 01:09 PM
by Shagnasty
The one that always surprised me was "Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you get into an accident."
My mother used to tell me that one. I came away with the impression that I could be maimed, mangled, and mutilated, but as long as my underwear was clean, mom could continue to show her face in public.

pseudotriton ruber ruber
08-07-2008, 01:34 PM
I also get the general impression that changing one's underwear on a regular, if not to say daily, basis, was considered prissy until the second part of the 20th Century. I can remember people wearing outer clothing two or three days in a row, in warm weather, like it wasn't anything special--I can only imagine their standards for underwear.

(These are people I liked, growing up.)

BMalion
08-07-2008, 01:42 PM
This sure is a swell thread, it's the cat's meow!

73!

rowrrbazzle
08-07-2008, 01:49 PM
In October 1944, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that he received a letter from "John Barrow 12 yrs. West town School, West town, Pa." It included this: "Gee Whiz, I'm surprised that [The Hobbit]'s not more popular."

Dung Beetle
08-07-2008, 01:50 PM
It's the ginchiest.

mbh
08-07-2008, 02:41 PM
by pseudotriton ruber ruber
I also get the general impression that changing one's underwear on a regular, if not to say daily, basis, was considered prissy until the second part of the 20th Century. I can remember people wearing outer clothing two or three days in a row, in warm weather, like it wasn't anything special--I can only imagine their standards for underwear.
Yes. My parents grew up in an era when plumbing consisted of a cistern in the front yard and an outhouse in the back yard. Bathing was once a week--Saturday night, so you would be fresh when you went to church on Sunday morning. After WW2, when indoor plumbing became readily available, Mom became a neat freak. The postwar economic boom enabled them to move from poverty to middle class, and Mom spent the 50s and 60s trying to emulate June Lockhart and Harriet Nelson.

Also, I think she was subconsciously "in denial" about the possibility of injury and death. The threat of being ridiculed by the neighborhood gossips, however, was a threat she was willing to worry about.

mlees
08-07-2008, 02:49 PM
The local morning commute DJ's on 101.5FM have a running gag where they use the "Jimmy Cagney" voice-puppet.

"Yeah! That's right... seee?"

(They call their short voice impersonations "puppets". They have a "voice in the head" puppet, a "Hedgecock" puppet, and so on... http://www.dscshow.com/pages/puppetbracket08.html?_show : Is "puppets" an actual radio industry term?)

Spoons
08-07-2008, 02:49 PM
And in the late 60s early 70s I heard lots of people say things like "far out" and other stuff I'm embarrassed to recall. But never me. ;)Me neither. But years later, I had a good laugh at Greg Brady's sure-fire pickup line in The Brady Bunch Movie: "Hey there, groovy chick. You're really happening in a far-out kind of way." I also had a good laugh at the reactions it got from the young ladies of the 1990s whom Greg was trying to pick up.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
08-07-2008, 03:21 PM
. I can remember people wearing outer clothing two or three days in a row, in warm weather, like it wasn't anything special--I can only imagine their standards for underwear.



Probably not as bad as you imagine. It's exactly because a person puts on fresh underwear daily that they can wear clothes more than once. On the other hand, the (in)frequency of bathing could have been an issue, too.

I wear a pair of jeans two or three days running and I'm fine. Of course, I'm not doing strenuous work in them, and we don't ever get the upper-Midwest summer hothouse humidity, either.

As for the snappy dialog, I imagine the film producers exaggerated it. It might have been true for a small percentage of actual people. It's almost like the characters who talked that way were meant to be stock depictions of urban working class humanity, like the Three Stooges.

At the other end of the class spectrum, the heroine/female lead/good girl often spoke in that horrible "Locust Valley Lockjaw" that represented the way rich people were supposed to talk. For some reason I have this image of a pretty young woman frantically trying to get somebody back on the phone who's just hung up on her. "Helleow!! Helleow!!" (repeatedly clicks the hook frantically) "Helleoww! Operator!!". I'm sure I've seen that in more than one movie, since phone calls were such a useful plot pivot.

The same accent was heard from upper class older people of both genders.

Interestingly I noticed in Bringing Up Baby, Katharine Hepburn speaks a version of the Lockjaw dialect, yet her rich elderly aunt spoke a broad, flat Midwestern.

BMalion
08-07-2008, 03:58 PM
Just rent the movie The Front Page, mentally add a lot of cursing, and you've got it.

Gorgon Heap
08-07-2008, 04:02 PM
Radishes! Radishes, I say!

3acresandatruck
08-07-2008, 04:12 PM
It's the ginchiest.A bobbie soxer, eh? I'll bet you're the cat's meow!

sqweels
08-07-2008, 04:20 PM
I grew up in the 1950s. My grandparents and older teachers used to say things like "make it snappy," "don't be such a wise guy," and "Say, sonny boy."

I'm 44 and I can easily see myself using phrases like that. The line between parodying old-school slang and normal speech patterns become quite blurry.

And I often refer to dames as broads, as in "Broad Judi Dench". ;)

sqweels
08-07-2008, 04:22 PM
Me neither. But years later, I had a good laugh at Greg Brady's sure-fire pickup line in The Brady Bunch Movie: "Hey there, groovy chick. You're really happening in a far-out kind of way." I also had a good laugh at the reactions it got from the young ladies of the 1990s whom Greg was trying to pick up.

Groovy is Right Out, but Far Out is Right On. :cool:

Bryan Ekers
08-07-2008, 04:54 PM
Just rent the movie The Front Page, mentally add a lot of cursing, and you've got it.
Now you're on the trolley!

gallows fodder
08-07-2008, 07:22 PM
In October 1944, J.R.R. Tolkien wrote that he received a letter from "John Barrow 12 yrs. West town School, West town, Pa." It included this: "Gee Whiz, I'm surprised that [The Hobbit]'s not more popular."

Whoa, I grew up ~5 miles from there! Radical, dude!

(And it's Westtown.)

Koxinga
08-07-2008, 11:31 PM
Also see Walter Winchell (http://www.museum.tv/rhofsection.php?page=268). I imagine he had an influence on how people talked as well.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
08-07-2008, 11:32 PM
One of my favorite novels is The Caine Mutiny, but I only read it around 1990 or later. I do like to read novels multiple times, and in this case I knew how it turns out from the movie anyhow.

My parents are only week apart in age, and a couple of years younger than Willie Keith in the novel. But it was only after two or three reads that I remembered they used to use some of the expressions in the novel, like "Ye Gods!". Another one I haven't seen mentioned is the sarcastic

"Hooray for [insert name of person you want to disdain]". Understandably, in my early teenage years our parents were terrified we'd get into drugs, so rock and roll icons were automatically suspect. Thankfully they got over that.

Me, early 1970s: I hear Mick Jagger runs a couple of miles a day.
Dad: Well hooray for Mick Jagger.

Wendell Wagner
08-08-2008, 05:13 AM
elmwood writes:

> You know, regularly telling people to "make it snappy!", addressing someone by
> saying "Say there sonny boy", calling women "broads" and "dames" to their
> face, telling people "don't be such a wise guy!" and "why, I oughtta' pop you
> one!", and so on.

Let me go through these phrases one by one:

"Wise guy": Is this really old-fashioned? It sounds modern to me. I can easily imagine saying it and hearing it today.

"Make it snappy": I don't say it myself, but I've certainly heard it used. Perhaps it's a little old-fashioned, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear somone use it today.

"Say there, sonny boy": That's mostly movie talk for me. I've rarely heard anyone use it in real life.

"I ought to pop you one": That's strictly movie talk for me. Perhaps it was once used in real life, but I've never heard it myself.

"Broads": This is typical of just how sexist those times were. A guy could say this and not be perceived as a sexist pig but as a hip guy with wide sexual experience. This term was how a man referred to a woman who he was willing to sleep with but wouldn't marry. This is how a man showed that he despised the women he slept with while insisting that he didn't actually dislike all women.

"Dames": Not quite as insulting. Sometimes used like "broads" but sometimes just referring to women in general.

One thing you ought to understand is that there was always a certain amount of artificiality in movie and TV conversation. Yes, some of the strangeness you find in movie talk is old-fashioned slang, but some of it arises from the fact that screenwriters make characters talk in ways that real people never speak. Movies and TV (especially American movies and TV) are not real life. A lot of odd movie conversations have always slipped past viewers because they were willing to accept them as movie and TV conventions.

panache45
08-08-2008, 09:39 AM
Whenever I hear about "broads" or "dames," I immediately think of Frank Sinatra. It was considered "hip" to use those terms, and I don't think they always had the same negative connotation they have today. How about "chick" or "gal"? The fact is, we really don't have a word for the female equivalent of "guy." It's hard to come up with a term that isn't sexist, or at least condescending.

ntcrawler
08-08-2008, 10:45 AM
Hot diggity dog, we have some cool cats in this thread! Straight dope thread, that is!

BMalion
08-08-2008, 10:58 AM
Look you swells, this is one swanky joint, very hotsy-totsy. I may not be hard-boiled but I anin't no pushover, see? So don't crowd me and I don't have to drill ya'.Who's the big cheese around here? Some kinda bluenose?

You play you cards right sister, and I'll be your swooner-dreamboat-loverboy.

msmith537
08-08-2008, 11:04 AM
You know, regularly telling people to "make it snappy!", addressing someone by saying "Say there sonny boy", calling women "broads" and "dames" to their face, telling people "don't be such a wise guy!" and "why, I oughtta' pop you one!", and so on.



That's some smooth talkin' jive you cats got there yourselves! Real swell I tell ya! You know, regularly telling squares to "hurry your shit up!", addressing someone by saying "yo brah!", calling dames "bitches" and "hos" to their face, telling people "don't be such a punk!" and "I'm gonna pop a cap in yo ass!", and so on."

Wendell Wagner
08-08-2008, 11:16 AM
panache45 writes:

> Whenever I hear about "broads" or "dames," I immediately think of Frank
> Sinatra. It was considered "hip" to use those terms, and I don't think they
> always had the same negative connotation they have today. How about "chick"
> or "gal"? The fact is, we really don't have a word for the female equivalent
> of "guy." It's hard to come up with a term that isn't sexist, or at least
> condescending.

Frank Sinatra is exactly who I was thinking of too, and he really was rather sexist. He is the primary model in the late 1940's and the 1950's of what it meant to be a hip guy, and the sexism was part of the hipness. "Chick" and "gal" are from a little later and were like "dame" rather than like "broad" in not necessarily being as sexist.

Can Handle the Truth
08-08-2008, 11:29 AM
When my grandpa (b. 1913) got mad at me he would say, "Why you little so-and-so!" I did not realise that "so-and-so" stood for something like "bastard", I thought he was calling me a sewing machine or something. He also referred to women as "dames".

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
08-08-2008, 03:25 PM
How about "chick" or "gal"? The fact is, we really don't have a word for the female equivalent of "guy." It's hard to come up with a term that isn't sexist, or at least condescending. And to me, "gal" has always sounded as is the speaker works on a ranch and attends rodeos regularly.

accidentalyuppie
08-08-2008, 04:10 PM
elmwood writes:

"Broads": This is typical of just how sexist those times were. A guy could say this and not be perceived as a sexist pig but as a hip guy with wide sexual experience. This term was how a man referred to a woman who he was willing to sleep with but wouldn't marry. This is how a man showed that he despised the women he slept with while insisting that he didn't actually dislike all women.

.

I don't know that this is any less enlightened than "bitch" or "ho", which seem to be used frequently by some of today's popular musicians.

sqweels
08-08-2008, 04:33 PM
Hot diggity dog, we have some cool cats in this thread! Straight dope thread, that is!

I'm tellin' ya, Toots, the phrase "straight dope" is right up that ol' alley.

Wendell Wagner
08-08-2008, 07:17 PM
accidentalyuppie writes:

> I don't know that this is any less enlightened than "bitch" or "ho", which seem
> to be used frequently by some of today's popular musicians.

I think that "broad" is approximately equal to "bitch" in its nastiness toward women, but it's not quite as bad as "ho." In criticizing Sinatra, I wasn't letting present-day musicians off. Sinatra was a brilliant musician (which isn't true of certain modern ones), but he wasn't a wonderful person.

Monstera deliciosa
08-08-2008, 09:16 PM
"Broads": This is typical of just how sexist those times were. A guy could say this and not be perceived as a sexist pig but as a hip guy with wide sexual experience. This term was how a man referred to a woman who he was willing to sleep with but wouldn't marry. This is how a man showed that he despised the women he slept with while insisting that he didn't actually dislike all women.

:eek: I sure hope not! My grandfather referred to me as a "good-looking broad" when I was 19.

Whenever I hear about "broads" or "dames," I immediately think of Frank Sinatra.

Well, that might explain it. Grandpa loved him some Frank.

elmwood
08-09-2008, 09:39 AM
What about other ways to tell people to hurry up before they even started they even started some task at hand; for instance, after dictating an order to a waitress, telling her "and put some pep in your step, missy!" or "Chop chop!" It's the same context I usually heard "make it snappy" in; "Gimme' two eggs over easy, some bacon, and a cup of coffee, and make it snappy!"

A lot of it might seem like movie-speak, but it seems that with the exception of certain cult films like Juno and Swingers, the use of oddball slang one would encounter mostly in cinema isn't as common now as in the 1940s. Also, FWIW, while we certainly said "Awesome!" quite a bit in the 1980s, I've never heard the youth of today use "Extreme!" in the same context, even though such usage is implied in a lot of contemporary marketing.

Spectre of Pithecanthropus
08-17-2008, 11:04 PM
Also, FWIW, while we certainly said "Awesome!" quite a bit in the 1980s, I've never heard the youth of today use "Extreme!" in the same context, even though such usage is implied in a lot of contemporary marketing.
A few years before that we used to say "mega", meaning "very" or "to a great extent". Although come to think of it it was only within my fraternity that I heard and used it--was that just "frat slang" in the late 1970s?

Zoe
08-18-2008, 02:47 AM
I lost half of my vocabulary when "far out" and "right on" and "bummer" were lost to me. Those phrases, a little love and some weed were all I needed to get by.

My last name at that time sounded a little bit like "Groovy" to some of my students and that's what they called me -- Ms. Groovy.

I grew up saying "Boy hi-dey!," but outgrew it by the time I was dating at fourteen. I also remember saying, "I'll swan!" and "I'm tellin' you!"

"Cool" came into use sometime in the Fifties, I think, fell from grace and then was redeemed fifteen or twenty years ago. "Cool" doesn't even seem like a slang term to me anymore.

I never did use "keen." I did hear Judge Marilyn Millian say "peachy keen" the other day. It hurt my ears!

By the time I was a senior, we said, "I kid you not" a lot. That was because of Jack Parr.

Speaking of movies, no one in real life ever called me "Darling." Major disappointment.

To Zeldar: Dig me, Daddy! Eight to the bar!

TheLoadedDog
08-18-2008, 03:02 AM
Speaking of movies, no one in real life ever called me "Darling." Major disappointment.

Not even an older storekeeper? That happens here all the time. I've even caught myself calling girls (strangers in any sort of stranger-type interaction) "love". I couldn't have imagined myself doing that when I was younger, but as I approach forty, it just slips out before I realise I've said it.

I know some women find this offensive, but others seem to like it, and most seem not to notice. So it's just another boulder in the obstacle course of being a guy these days. Also, a lot of women do it themselves. We have one at work who takes it to extremes: she's a very jolly, funny type, and the rougher, hairier, and more covered in tattoos a guy is (we work with truckers), the more likely it is she'll call them "petal" or "blossom". I'm still only worth a "sweetie" from her - I aspire to "blossom". :D