While 1950s mainstream culture in the United States usually shunned slang used by the youth, among the rising subcultures of the Beatniks, hot rodders or jazz musicians, a number of interesting “code words” flourished.
Some of the words dating from the period have survived to this day, while others were lost and replaced by a new generation’s words.
Their role was to differentiate the “hip” from the “square” ― and even though it started out just among the chosen few, as the decade progressed it changed the way teenagers talk around the U.S.
Whether it was the smooth Beatniks who themselves dwelt in new forms of poetry, or those youths obsessed with cars and motorcycles who naturally adopted a lingo with more mechanical traits, the American variant of the English language was constantly growing.
While mainstream culture representatives like magazines and TV shows promoted a more preppy, conservative and conformist way of life, these words alone opposed such a vision and offered a hedonistic, renegade image with “passion” written all over it.
At the time when rock ‘n’ roll was taking its baby steps, and the generation gap was becoming a serious issue, such usage of language was part of the rebellious spirit which spearheaded the American youth into the 1960s, giving birth to yet another slang powerhouse ― the hippie counterculture.
The funny thing is that you will recognize a great number of these and understand them without a problem. These retro-slang words have, in fact, influenced the contemporary lexicon so much that they are no longer considered as slang ― i.e. an informal register of words and phrases ― but more of a casual vocabulary used and understood by everyone.
On the other hand, a lot of these have lost their usage, but we somehow feel that they deserve a comeback.