Baby Boomer Slang

Posted on April 27th, 2011 in 1950s,1960s,1970s,1980s,Fads & Toys,Pop Culture by Terry Hamburg

Bag, as a particular interest or area of expertise, appeared around 1964 and derived from black jazz terminology. It’s based on the notion of putting something in a bag, thus possessing it. “Jazz is my bag, man.” Widely spoken by early baby boomers but came to be a “weekend hipster” word whose use declined in the 1970s.

Beehive (hair style) was a hot pop culture fad for high school baby boomers from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s. Hair was piled up and up and secured by gels. Some wearers tried to keep the “Do” intact for days or weeks on end. It’s resemblance to a beehive inspired the word. Also known as a “beehive nest,” connoting a long-lasting hair project that might hold any number of critters or things in the labyrinth.

Singer Dusty Springfield’s “Do” inspired a generation

Daddy-O comes from be-bop talk, the language associated with 1940s improvisational jazz, first attested in 1949. Quickly picked-up by Beatniks, it was already regarded as archaic by the late 1960s. Even Maynard G. Krebs wouldn’t have used it then.

Duck’s Ass (hair style): A barber from Philadelphia claims to have invented the Duck’s Ass in 1940. It was already a popular style with the Mexican-American street Pauchucos of Los Angeles, who made the Zoot Suit famous. By the 1950′s, it became the symbol of baby boomer teen rebellion, especially among working class kids, often referred to as “greasers.” Hair was combed (with lots of pomade) back around the sides of the head, and then the teeth edge of the comb used to create a part down the middle, running from the crown to the nape of the neck. It resembled a duck’s rear end. First in England and then here, some added the “elephant trunk” – curling pieces of hair down the front of the face. Elvis Presley was an inspiration. Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip also sported a version and was constantly combing it in place, leading to the hit song, Kookie, Kookie, Lend me Your Comb. The style largely disappeared by the late 1960s.

Freak, as an ironic term of endearment to describe a hippie, was likely picked up from its use in the 1940s to describe circus side-show people. Both groups looked different and were alienated from mainstream society. Perhaps the wild caricatures of Robert Crumb and other counterculture comic artists contributed to the popularity of the word, especially among baby boomers whose rebellion was more cultural than political. It’s not unlike the use of “queer” by gays to describe themselves, although in that case it’s also a reclamation of a once derisive term.

Hang 10, a surfer term from the 1950s, described a bold and thrilling move: to go to the front of the board and stick your toes off the nose, which lifts the board in the back so the wave propels you even faster. It was sometimes used to mean having a good time in general.

Like, as a free floating “accent” word, was part of hipster and teenage vocabulary in the 1950s. It was taken to new heights in baby boomer “valley girl” talk of the 1980s. “Like you can like use it, ya know, as often as like you want to. Like is like totally cool, fer sure.”

Mosh pit is the place where you mosh. It’s usually in front of the rock stage in the area where traditional stage show musicians sat – the orchestra pit. Moshing is a form of violent dancing, the word likely a variant of “mash,” as in crush. It was first recorded in the mid-1980s.

Preppy is a derivative of “prep” school, an abbreviation for a preparatory academy (usually east coast and upper crust). It was used over a century ago. In the 1970s, “preppy” came to describe those that attended such schools and/or attitudes and dress associated with the image: expensive traditional clothing, entitled demeanor, aristocratic speech, and at least superficial etiquette. Preferred sports were anything but football, baseball or basketball. Lacrosse, fencing, golf and swimming were favorites. The best-selling Official Preppy Handbook was intended as a parody but taken seriously by some.