Those Flappers of the 20's

What is the origin of “flapper,” referring to a convention-defying
young woman of the '20s?
From Brewer’s Dictionary of 20th-Century Phrase and Fable:

“In the early years of the 20th century a term applied to a girl in her teens, now called a teenager, from her plaited pigtail tied at the end with a large bow. When stepping along the pigtail flapped her back. Subsequently her hair was ‘put up’ in a ‘bun’ or other hairstyle. By the 1920s the name was commonly applied to a young woman, or ‘bright young thing’.”

But this website says something about the reason they flapped was because they were hiding liquor:

Which is it?

Way older. And British.


And see also “Flappers” Origin Discussion/Nov 1997 for other documented earlier uses.

However, it is very possible that the American usage “rediscovered” the word and applied it given the then current flapping galoshes and dances.

That 1997 discussion of “flappers” would get their asses handed to them if they tried to push that stuff off on the SDMB. I’ve never seen more wild guesses and false etymologies in my life.

If anyone can cite me a “flapping galoshes” in print before 1920, I’d love to see it.

And the “flapping pigtail”…puleeze! :frowning:

I’d love to see the source of this bit of info.

What I should have said was, I’d love to see the original sources of info upon which the writer assumed all those “facts.”

The replies toward the end correct some of the nonsense promulgated in the beginning, I thought. And they did provide some credible cites.

Better than the ones in the OP, at the very least.

Now that you’re done being indignant, what are your early cites? :slight_smile:

Exapno. No doubt we are both right here. I do get indignant, don’t I.

Brewer and his flapping pigtail in the OP got me going. There’s no evidence for that.

As you so wisely criticized, the link in the OP said, among other rediculous things:

I just love how they couch their assertions: “Some people say…”

And after they assert it, people just remember that they read it and it’s true.
But of course it isn’t. No proof for it.

What would be an example of a credible, in print from the time, cite?

I have problems even with my cites. Jon Lighter, the editor of the Random House Dictionary of Historical American Slang, lists a plethora of cites. And, in MY MIND, many of them which supposedly show that a flapper was a an independent, high-minded young lady, merely show that the term was still aimed toward very young girls and prostitutes through much of the 10’s and teens. Better to characterize it as there may have been a bi-level of understanding of the terms.

By the 20’s, we tend to get the “flapper” sense that both you and I know as the independent, assertive, hedonistic young lady.

But believe me, the transition from the very young teen girl of the 1900 era, to the sophisticated young lady of the 1920’s is rather open to interpretation of cites.

I’ll be glad to send you cites from RHDAS, and other sources.

Just for my future information, you don’t consider Stuart Flexner’s I Hear America Talking to be a legit source?

And the quote from Back to Home and Duty by Deirdre Beddoe looked solid, though it would be nice to know what that footnote referred to.

Exapno. I don’t have an opinion on Flexner. I’ll try to ask one or two people in the group whom I respect if they think his work is good.

As for Ms. Beddoe–I went to the Akron U. library tonight because I couldn’t sleep thinking about that footnote.

That (23) wasn’t a footnote. It was merely the page number of her book which had that cite contributed by the poster to the group discussion. The cite is worthless for our purposes.

email me if I forget to get back to you about Flexner.