Can You Translate These Slang Words From the ’50s?


By: Heather Cahill

6 Min Quiz

Image: George Marks / Retrofile RF / Getty Images

About This Quiz

In the '50s, many people fought for not only their rights but the rights of others during the civil rights movement. Aside from this, a certain lingo was brought to life by the young people of the decade. Many of the terms from that era can still be heard today as well, proving just how much impact this decade had on everyone. This time in history truly showed how creative and passionate people were at the time, not just through their lingo but their actions as well.

Speaking with a child of the '50s, it's likely that you've heard your fair share of terms and expressions used back then. If you're from the generation, you've probably used a few of these terms as well. But to use them, you have to know their meanings, and to respond to them correctly is even more important! There's nothing worse than speaking with someone and not really understanding what they're saying. Thankfully, if you can pass this quiz, you'll never have to experience that feeling when speaking to a child of the '50s.

Do you think you're a dictionary that contains all of the slang words from the past? If you think you can talk the talk of this decade, then you'll have to take the quiz to prove yourself!

If you're going to "burn rubber" what are you going to do?

The tire marks left on the pavement after burning rubber are one reason this term might have come about. Whether you love the look of the marks or hate them, you know that they'll be gone if the road is repaved.


Although this is something you might still hear today, what is a "pad"?

After a great party, someone might say, "Let's go back to my pad." It's important to know that they're talking about their house, not a pad of paper. Today, someone might call their home a "crib."


A banana might come to mind when you hear this word. What does "split" mean?

When someone says that it's time to "split," then you had better leave and quickly. It might have been because the cops were on their way to a party, or maybe there was just a better one down the street. Either way, you knew what you had to do.


Almost everyone likes to get one of these once in a while. Do you know what a "wig chop" is?

Almost everyone goes for one of these every now and then, except for maybe Xie Qiuping who holds a record for having the longest hair in the world (as of 2004). Of course, you could always save a trip to the salon and cut it yourself.


The word "shades" was used to refer to what in the '50s?

This is one term that has had longevity throughout the years, as you've probably heard it once or twice in your day also. After all, it's a lot more fun to say "shades" than just plain "sunglasses."


One term that can still be heard today is "flick." Can you translate what it means?

Catching a flick is something that today's kids have in common with the young people of the '50s. While the popular genres were a little different than they are nowadays, everyone can appreciate a good flick.


Though it sounds like you could, you don't want to eat one of these. What is a "knuckle sandwich"?

It sounds like a meal, but a knuckle sandwich is a punch in the face. If your real sandwich is so good that it packs a punch, then maybe it could, in fact, be named a "knuckle sandwich."


There are many different types of these, but what does the term "cut the rug" mean?

Dancing has been a popular pastime since the beginning of time. Some of the most popular dances in the '50s were the Jive and the bunny hop. There was also nothing quite like grabbing your partner and breaking out into a line dance.


You may say that something was "no sweat" once you finish it. What did you mean?

If something was "no sweat" for someone, it means that it was no trouble and overall, pretty easy. In the case that it was difficult for them, maybe they would tell you that they're actually sweating.


If you're told to "cool it," what should you do?

Nobody likes it when someone is angry or agitated. Maybe they were acting up or maybe they were just freaking out over something. Either way, if someone says this to you, it's good to know what they want you to do.


The word "threads" was used for which of the following in the past?

Your threads were your clothes. If you had nice clothes, people might have told you that you had "cool threads." One look that was in style in the '50s was leather clothing, a trend that has come up a few times since.


Taking this term too literally could be bad news. Do you know what "hit the road" means?

This is one way to tell those around you that it's time to leave. It could be that you're trying to leave a party or even just a regular conversation that may have run on too long. Either way, your goal is to get out of there.


Nowadays, the meaning of this word is the complete opposite of what it was in the '50s. What does the word "drip" mean?

Saying that someone has "drip" today means that they're cool and most likely "iced out" in diamonds. In the past, it meant the exact opposite. Being called a "drip" meant that you were not cool at all.


When something is open, you close it. In that case, what does the phrase "put a lid on it" mean?

When you're done with something, you usually close it. That is exactly the meaning of "putting a lid on it," although this term was used specifically for when someone talked a little too much for everyone else's liking.


Everyone should take a spin in a "flip-top" at one point in their life. Do you know what it is?

A convertible is not just a popular car nowadays, it was also quite the hot car back in the '50s. It was the one all the coolest people had and everyone else wanted. There's nothing like driving with the top down.


This phrase is most commonly used as a question. What does "you dig" mean?

When someone asks you if "you dig" something, it's most commonly answered with "yes" or "no." If you're really feeling up to it, you can answer with "I dig it," which is another way to say "yes." It can also mean "Do you understand?" Someone might ask, "Do you dig what I'm saying?"


A "square" can mean many things, but do you know what it meant in the '50s?

Living in the '50s, you would not want to be called a "square." It is the equivalent of being called "uncool" or "lame" in today's terms. So remember, always be anything but a square!


Hanging out at the beach meant you probably wanted to wear one of these. A "lid" is which of the following?

There's no other clothing that is perfect to be called a "lid" than the hat that sits on your head. One popular hat in this decade was the fedora, which was most commonly worn by men.


While this word could technically take on many meanings, in the '50s,​ "bash" only meant one thing. Do you know what it was?

There's nothing like attending a good birthday bash to celebrate a friend. While today we often get invitations to these events through Facebook, back in the day, they were sent through the mail in the form of cards. You would always have a memory of that good (or bad) bash!


Being "pinned" at this time meant that you were which of the following?

There are many different words you might have heard for this, such as "tied down," but in the '50s, it was all about being "pinned." It was an easy and quick way to say that you were taken or dating someone at the time. It was also the cool way to say it.


Hearing this word, you might think of an injury, but in the '50s, it took on a different meaning. The word "swell" means what?

In the '50s, "swell" was used as just another word for "great" and not much else. Nowadays, you'd probably be more likely to hear the words "sick" or "awesome" used in the same way.


The word "kind" might be said in front of this word. A "cookie" is which of the following?

A "cookie" is a word that was used as a substitute for "person." When used in a sentence, you might have heard someone say, "Have you met Sally? She's a really kind cookie." Of course, you could also use the term for someone who is sweet.


Though it sounds a bit like the name of a medicine, what does "copacetic" mean?

When someone says that everything is "copacetic," it means that all is good or fine. So, you've got nothing to worry about when you hear this word. It's like saying "Hakuna Matata" in the past!


Everyone has a bit of this laying around somewhere, but it was much more common in the '50s. "Nuggets" were what?

Before credit cards and debit cards, everyone had to carry around cash. While most of us still have some change in our pockets, it's safe to say that there was a whole lot more of it in the '50s. That's probably why they needed a name for it all!


Getting "shot down" means you've what?

Nobody ever wants to be shot down, but unfortunately, it happens to the best of us. Afterward, it's not uncommon to feel a little bad, but don't let it get you down for too long! Life is too short to feel sad.


Growing up in the '50s, you wouldn't want to be called this. What is a "dime dropper"?

Pay phones were a large part of communication in the '50s. Being called a "dime dropper" meant that you would go to pay phones to call the police on others who you had witnessed committing a crime.


Nobody wants to be stuck in one of these. Do you know what a "fake out" is?

Unfortunately, a person may go through a bad date at one point in their life. Sometimes there are warning signs, while in other cases, you may not realize how bad it might be until you get there. Luckily, there are many excuses you can use to save yourself the trouble of a "fake out."


Someone tells you to go "flat out." This meant what back in the '50s?

This term is one that could apply to many situations. Maybe you were going to race someone in a car and your friend tells you to go flat out. Or maybe you just really needed to get home as fast as you could.


It may not sound like it but this term is used affectionately. Do you know what an "ankle-biter" is?

What sounds like a mean term for a child is actually used in a more affectionate way. Children are small and often need things from their parents, hence the name "ankle-biter." It can also be used for puppies and dogs.


It's not what you think it is! Can you guess the definition of "lay dead"?

While it may sound violent, it truly isn't. If someone tells you to "lay dead," they just want you to wait there. If a dog heard this one, they might just play dead, which is almost the same thing!


Everyone has emotions, so if you're "cranked," what are you?

While nowadays we might say that we're "hyped" or "jacked," back in the day the word "cranked" was used. Going to hang out with a group of friends? Then you could say you're cranked for the day to come.


Maybe it's not wise to talk to this animal, but the expression is golden. Do you know what "word from the bird" means?

You've probably heard that "bird is the word," but in the '50s, you would have gotten "word from the bird." For example, you might have heard it in a sentence like, "It's raining; that's word from the bird."


"Sides" was a slang word during this time, but it had nothing to do with math. To what does the word refer?

Records are a thing of the past for the most part since the rise and fall of the CD and MP3 file. Nowadays, we're much more accustomed to streaming our music, meaning we no longer need to use the slang word "sides" as it was once used.


If you've got the "jets," you've got what?

Although it sounds a lot like a car term, "jets" is, in fact, another term for someone who is considered to be smart. Do you have a friend who is really great at math? Next time you see them, you can let them they've got the jets in mathematics.


It may sound like it, but you can't cover up with this one. A "blanket" is what?

A weird word for something you eat, a "blanket" is a sandwich. If you ever hear someone who lived in the '50s say "pass me a blanket," make sure you reach into the picnic box rather than for an actual blanket.


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