The Flatiron Building is at 23rd Street and Fifth Ave. in New York City. It’s shaped like a triangle, because Broadway cuts through that block at an acute angle. This sets up wind currents all around the building, which can sometimes lead to downdrafts and updrafts. Back at the turn of the 20th century, when women generally wore dresses while out on the street, updrafts could be rather embarrassing. Nearby policemen who saw men lollygagging around, trying to catch a glimpse of said dresses, would shout to those men, “23 skidoo!” Meaning, “Buddy, get a move on!”

That’s one, probably apocryphal, story explaining the genesis of the early 20th-century phrase, 23-skidoo. Everybody was saying it for the first few decades of the century. It meant “skedaddle” or “time to move on quickly, to reach a propitious destination.” But let’s be honest — it’s a bit dated. Nobody wants to bring back slang from that long ago. But you know what slang I do want to bring back? 1920’s slang. Jazz age. The Roaring Twenties. That stuff was awesome. Let me demonstrate.

In order to really speak in 1920’s slang, you need to know your onions. If you want to be a flapper, listen up. No applesauce here! No horsefeathers! Hey! Who here wants to be a dewdropper or a lollygagger? Fine. You go right ahead. Be a wet blanket, a fire extinguisher, an alarm clock. Move those gams right out of here. Look up Mrs. Grundy, and blouse. That’s all phonus balonus anyway.

Good, now that they’re gone, here’s what you do: get yourself some voot, some lettuce, some mazuma. Get dudded up, and find some whangdoodle. Got a goof? Bring him along. If not, go out with some friends and find one! But careful of the eggs and forty-niners. Be a sharpshooter, not a tomato. Now, both of you go and see a man about a dog. But don’t take any wooden nickels. If you get yourself ossified or spifflicated, you may find trouble. Don’t be a Dumb Dora! Don’t be afraid to tell him the bank’s closed. Doesn’t listen? Tell it to Sweeney. Now you’re on the trolley!

In conclusion, 1920’s slang was both the bee’s knees and the cat’s pajamas.

And the ant’s pants.

And the tiger’s spots.

The duck’s quack.

The caterpillar’s kimono.

The elephant’s manicure.

3 thoughts on “Twenty-Three

  1. All that and a bag of chips! The greatest thing since sliced bread man! Farout!
    I always wondered what 23-skidoo meant!
    Thanks for the smiles, I needed some today.


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