Nostalgically, there are few decades more embedded into our collective consciousness than the 1950s. From the ever-memorable fashion, classic cars and pin-up culture to the revolutionary civil rights movement, the decade of the 1950s was a remarkable era of history.

Yet the 1950s were not only known for the incredible milestones achieved that changed the course of the world; it was also a decade full of wildly popular slang terms and phrases that lost their appeal over the years. Here we will take a look at some of those outdated slang terms that no one uses anymore.

What is Slang?

Slang is an informal language characterized by expressions which are commonly used by a particular group of people. Slang terms can often replace traditional words and phrases, although they may not always carry the same exact meaning. Slang started as a reflection of the culture of the day and was heavily influenced by the social and political movements of the time.

Slang in the 1950s

In the 1950s, slang evolved rapidly and took on several characteristics that were greatly different from the period prior. During this period, there were two phenomena taking place simultaneously: On the one hand, the civil rights movement was agitating for social justice and the removal of institutionalized oppression. On the other hand, the country was entering a decade of tremendous economic growth and opportunity.

Thus, we see a 1950s slang reflecting both a recognition of oppression, as well as a celebration of newfound prosperity. Here are a few of the top slang terms of the day:

  1. Swell — This popular phrase, originally used in the 1930s, refers to something that is cool or excellent.

  2. Daddy-O — A jazz-influenced phrase meaning “pal” or “friend.”

  3. Square — In the 1950s, to call someone “square” meant they were too conservative, either in behavior or attitude.

  4. Cat — A term of endearment used for a “cool” male, often given in the greeting “Whassup, cat?”

  5. Dig — To understand something, usually with comprehension and appreciation.

  6. Bop — A popular dance in the 1950s. It referred to any kind of wild dancing or movement.

  7. Bread — Money, or cash.

  8. All Show and No Go — This phrase really took off in the 1950s for flashy but low-performing cars.

  9. Brick House — A woman who was particularly curvy and strong was said to be a “brick house.”

  10. Turbo Fabulous — This phrase is used to describe something that is unbelievably wonderful.

Why Are These Terms Outdated?

Many of these terms saw their popularity spike during the 1950s due to their popularity with jazz-era music, and then they began to taper off as mainstream culture began to move in other directions. Technological advances made old slang obsolete and newer terms replaced the terms of the 50s.

Some of the terms, like “swell,” have remained in use in modern language, but with a completely different meaning. To call something “swell” today could be seen as overly nostalgic and almost quaint. In the 1950s it was seen as a cool, hip phrase.

Other terms, like “cat” and “dig,” were so heavily associated with the 1950s era that they’re not really used at all anymore. This can be seen in the fact that most teenagers today would look at you quizzically if you said either of these words.

Slang is an ever-evolving part of the English language, one that rapidly changes depending on the cultural and social influences of the day. The 1950s was a time of great progress and optimism—a time where people wanted to express their newfound freedom in an exciting and sometimes outrageous way.

That is why today, these terms remain a delightful reminder of the era of the 1950s, one of growing prosperity and optimism, as well as monumental civil rights achievements. Though these terms no longer hold the same resonance with the public as they did almost 70 years ago, they are still fun to remember and use when looking to evoke the nostalgia of a bygone era.