PRATIE PLACE

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Cab Calloway's "Hepsters' Dictionary," c. 1944

The poster on the right was in the room where we played our Ben Franklin show at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich.

From Tonic Vocals and Swing Virginia, here are some entries from THE NEW CAB CALLOWAY'S HEPSTER'S DICTIONARY, Language of Jive (1944 edition). I see a song has been written with these words as lyrics but I haven't been able to buy a copy online. The authors wrote: "Cab coined the term "Jive" to describe it and he set out to create a dictionary to decode their phraseology."

Accordion
Squeeze-Box or Groan-Box
Ain't coming on that tab
won't accept the proposition. Usually abbr. to "I ain't coming."
Armstrongs
musical notes in the upper register, high trumpet notes.
Barbecue
the girl friend, a beauty
Battle
a very homely girl, a crone.
Beat
Lacking anything. Ex, "I am beat for my cash", "I am beat to my socks" (lacking everything).
Beat it out
play it hot, emphasize the rhythym.
Beat up the chops (or the gums)
to talk, converse, be loquacious.
Bible
the gospel truth. Ex., "It's the bible!"
Blew their wigs
excited with enthusiasm, gone crazy.
Blip
something very good. Ex., "That's a blip"; "She's a blip."
Blow your wig
get excited, enthusiastic
Boot
to give. Ex., "Boot me that glove."
Break it up
to win applause, to stop the show.
Bust your conk
apply yourself diligently, break your neck.
Canary
girl vocalist.
Capped
outdone, surpassed.
Chirp
female singer.
Clambake
ad lib session, every man for himself, a jam session not in the groove.
Clarinet
Licorice Stick or Gob Stick
Comes on like gangbusters
plays, sings, or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes abbr. to "That singer really comes on!"
Corny
old-fashioned, stale.
Creeps out like the shadow
"comes on," but in smooth, suave, sophisticated manner.
Crumb crushers
teeth.
Cups
sleep. Ex., "I gotta catch some cups."
Dicty
high-class, nifty, smart.
Dig
meet. Ex., "I'll plant you now and dig you later."
Doghouse
bass fiddle.
Doss
sleep. Ex., "I'm a little beat for my doss." [See dosshouse]
Down with it
through with it.
Drums
Suitcase, Hides, or Skins
Fall out
to be overcome with emotion. Ex., "The cats fell out when he took that solo."
Final
to leave, to go home. Ex., "I finaled to my pad" (went to bed); "We copped a final" (went home).
Fine dinner
a good-looking girl.
Fraughty issue
a very sad message, a deplorable state of affairs.
Freeby
no charge, gratis. Ex., "The meal was a freeby."
Frisking the whiskers
what the cats do when they are warming up for a swing session.
Frolic pad
place of entertainment, theater, nightclub
Fruiting
fickle, fooling around with no particular object.
Gabriels
trumpet players.
Get in there
go to work, get busy, make it hot, give all you've got.
Gimme some skin
shake hands.
Got your boots on
you know what it is all about, you are a hep cat, you are wise.
Got your glasses on
you are ritzy or snooty, you fail to recognize your friends, you are up-stage.
Gravy
profits.
Groovy
fine. Ex., "I feel groovy." [Didn't know it was such an old expression.]
Ground grippers
new shoes.
Gut-bucket
low-down music.
Hard
fine, good. Ex., "That's a hard tie you're wearing."
Hard spiel
interesting line of talk. [From Yiddish]
Hincty
conceited, snooty.
Hype
build up for a loan, wooing a girl, persuasive talk, cajole.
Ickaroo
someone who can't dance or dig the jive
Icky
one who is not hip, a stupid person, can't collar the jive.
Igg
to ignore someone. Ex., "Don't igg me!)
In the groove
perfect, no deviation, down the alley.
Jam
improvised swing music. Ex., "That's swell jam."
Jelly
anything free, on the house.
Joint is jumping
the place is lively, the club is leaping with fun.
Jumped in port
arrived in town.
Kill me
show me a good time, send me.
Killer-diller
a great thrill.
Knock
give. Ex., "Knock me a kiss."
Kopasetic
absolutely okay, the tops.
Land O'Darkness
Harlem
Lay some iron
to tap dance. Ex., "Jack, you really laid some iron that last show!"
Lay your racket
to jive, to sell an idea, to promote a proposition.
Lindy Crush
Girl or Guy you would just LOVE to dance with.
Line
cost, price, money. Ex., "What is the line on this drape" (how much does this suit cost)? "Have you got the line in the mouse" (do you have the cash in your pocket)? Also, in replying, all figures are doubled. Ex., "This drape is line forty" (this suit costs twenty dollars).Lock (v.): to acquire something
Lock up
to acquire something exclusively. Ex., "He's got that chick locked up"; "I'm gonna lock up that deal."
Melted out
broke.
Mess
something good. Ex., "That last drink was a mess."
Mitt pounding
applause.
Muggin'
making 'em laugh, putting on the jive.
Murder
something excellent or terrific. Ex., "That's solid murder, gate!"
Nix out
to eliminate, get rid of. Ex., "I nixed that chick out last week"; "I nixed my garments" (undressed).
Off-time jive
a sorry excuse, saying the wrong thing.
Off the cob
corny, out of date.
Out of the world
perfect rendition. Ex., "That sax chorus was out of the world."
Piano
Storehouse or Ivories
Ready
100 per cent in every way. Ex., "That fried chicken was ready."
Ride
to swing, to keep perfect tempo in playing or singing
Righteous
splendid, okay. Ex., "That was a righteous queen I dug you with last black."
Rock me
send me, kill me, move me with rhythym.
Sad
terrible. Ex., "That man is sadder than a map." "That was the saddest meal I ever collared."
Sam got you
you've been drafted into the army.
Saxophone
Plumbing or Reeds
Sky piece
hat.
Spoutin'
talking too much.
Stache
to file, to hide away, to secrete.
To dribble
to stutter. Ex., "He talked in dribbles."
Togged to the bricks
dressed to kill, from head to toe.
Trilly
to leave, to depart. Ex., "Well, I guess I'll trilly."
Trombone
Tram or Slush-Pump
Truck
to go somewhere. Ex., "I think I'll truck on down to the ginmill (bar)."
Tuba
Foghorn
Twister to the slammer
the key to the door.
V-8
a chick who spurns company, is independent, is not amenable.
Vibraphone
Ironworks
Violin
Squeak-Box
Wrong riff
the wrong thing said or done. Ex., "You're coming up on the wrong riff."
Xylophone
Woodpile
Yarddog
uncouth, badly attired, unattractive male or female.
Zoot suit
the ultimate in clothes. The only totally and truly American civilian suit



Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Labels:

5 Comments:

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Prisstopolis said...

He was an amazing performer.

Next time that I go out to the xylophone to get some firewood, I will think of Cab.

 
At 11:50 AM, Anonymous The Hi de Ho Man said...

Hi,
That's a helluva dictionary! Thank you for sharing this. If you're interested in Cab CALLOWAY stuff, feel free to visit my website about him : infos, anecdotes and surprises :
http://thehidehoblog.zumablog.com
It's in French, but still interesting!

 
At 5:27 AM, Blogger Clyde said...

Where can I get one of these dictionaries? was this the entire thing? I am a Hip-Hop enthusist and want to find out as much as I can about it's roots. Boy this terminology is incredible and just proves the arguement that this stuff has been in existance before the 60's. my website is www.chosendance.com drop me an email there, please. Glad to find ya!

Thanks in advance.

Respectfully,

Clyde

 
At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i found a mint copy in a box of old stuff. real hip. this cat knew what he was talking about. spoke the jive like a true master

 
At 6:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Do you know where I can find one of these dictionaries? I'm reseraching for
a thesis research paper/ art show. Please let me know if you know anyone willing
to sell theirs. Email me please masisme at gmail.com thanks!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Find me on Google+