Words and Phrases We Seldom Hear Anymore

August 11, 2016 8:18 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

By Ann Koppy, BHSoc Historian

Heavens to Murgatroyd, Don’t Touch That Dial!
Every generation has phrases and slang words that are popular for a few years, then disappear as language evolves. Their origins are often murky and imprecise. Each, however, tells a story and enriches the way we communicate. Here are a few gleaned from past Beaverton High School yearbooks, local newspaper archives and other historic texts

Bee’s Knees
Meaning awesome and sweet or new and stylish. It may come from the nectar that sticks to a bee when it flits from flower to flower. Or possibly an Irish phrase similar to the cat’s pajamas. In the Morning Oregonian newspaper in June of 1922, a popular English author/screenwriter and part-time Hollywood resident Elinor Glyn would write a column on what flappers wanted. Considered an authority on style and moral issues, her regular feature would appear in the Sunday paper and ask “It’s the bee’s knees?”

Jake Leg
This medical term describes a loss of voluntary movement and damage caused by drinking impure or contaminated alcohol. It originated in Oklahoma during the last days of Prohibition, circa 1930. Jamaica ginger extract was a patent medicine, also known as “jake”. Overindulgence caused a partial paralysis that resulted in the inability to walk normally.

23 Skidoo
American slang for leaving quickly, either on your own or being forced to go. Accounts of its origin vary and there seems to be no definitive answer. It may be dirived from the number 23 which was associated with bad luck and “skedaddle”, meaning to leave.

Zoot Suit
A man’s suit that has a high waist, wide legs, tight cuffs, a loose, knee-length coat with padded shoulders and wide lapels, it was popular in the United States in the late 1930s and 1940s. A broad-brimmed hat, adorned with a feather, and a key chain that reached to the knees completed the unmistakable look.
Don’t Touch That Dial
Uttered by an announcer just before a TV program took a commercial break, it reminds us of the early days of television before wireless remote controls were everyday items. The sentence has been reimagined in recent years to a song, collection of classic commercials, book, and a wide variety of other applications.

Marcel Wave
A women’s hairstyle popular from the 1870s – 1920s, named for its creator, French hair stylist and salon owner Francois Marcel (or possibly Marcel Grateau.) At first, specially-designed tongs were heated over a gas stove or kerosene lamp, but temperatures couldn’t be controlled accurately, resulting in scorched hair or curls that wouldn’t set. The 1918 invention of electric Marcelling irons produced a manageable way to create deep, regular waves. An ad in the May 20, 1927 issue of the Beaverton Enterprise informed readers, “The Beauty Box has put in a new line of cosmetics and on Mondays and Fridays they will give a free facial demonstration with each marcel, good only for the month of May.”

Heavens to Murgatroyd
The Hanna-Barbera cartoon studio created Snagglepuss in 1959, a character on TV’s The Yogi Bear Show. The pink mountain lion popularized this phrase, first voiced by Bert Lahr in the 1944 movie Meet The People.

snagglepuss (bw)

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This post was written by Michael Wong

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