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Archaic Expressions in Films

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'Bowery Boys' movies. excellent source of slang; as well as any Phil Harris appearance on any show ever

'tuck your chest up to the wood' --i love this expression issued by Cagney to the Dead-End kids in 'Angels with Dirty Faces', the scene where he treats them to a feed. Telling them to sit down at the table.

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On 2/9/2019 at 8:21 AM, Sgt_Markoff said:

That's a good question Jim. I'll have to give it some thought.

Off-the-top-of-my-head, I would just say that a professional writer must be able to wear many different-types-of-hat :D ...depending on the writing assignment they're undertaking.

For instance, there are clearly defined rules for any kind of 'technical writing'; there are slang phrases and expressions you would never use if writing a legal document, or business correspondence.

Despite the fact that today, many of us use a keyboard or a keypad to 'jaw' with each other over the internet or via texts, these very informal and casual communiques ought not make us forget what formal writing demands.

It takes discipline to write well; one must be keenly mindful that phrases (such as, 'yoh dude')  are inappropriate in 'adult speech'. A job applicant (for example) who submits a 'casual' resume or cover letter will not be hired, at least in any industry I have ever worked in.

I'm not a professional writer myself but being a competent writer, certainly helped make my career happen. I'm sure TopBilled can probably say the same. His film reviews are an example of the pleasure that this skill gives others. He writes them for fun, but look at the command of language he demonstrates. Its a very fine thing to see.

Thanks. What a nice thing to say.


A few examples come to mind, that haven't been mentioned yet:

Like cheap chiseler. The WB crime films with Jimmy Cagney and Humphrey Bogart use this expression a lot. 

Another one is put the feedbag on. Uttered by hungry characters in a lot of classic films.

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On 2/8/2019 at 9:16 PM, cigarjoe said:

I enjoy hearing archaic expressions in films of the past, some are decipherable some to me at least are not. 

If you are old enough you'll know the origins of these two:

"I kick started the jalopy", or "I stepped on the starter."

I heard one character telling another that "I'll do him like Dempsey." If you didn't know who Dempsey was you may not get the reference. 

"Jack" Dempsey, nicknamed "Kid ****" and "The Manassa Mauler", was an American professional boxer who competed from 1914 to 1927, and reigned as the world heavyweight champion from 1919 to 1926.

here are a few more:

double clutch

smoke wrench

ice box

now you're cooking with gas

dressed to the nines

no-talent hack


do a Brodie

I'll think of others and post them here.

Now how about the rest of you out there, got any?

I always got a kick out of the saying "It's better than sliced bread." Boy, that must be from way back. Great topic by the way.

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I've used these expressions for various characters I've met:

she's a "flibbertygibbet" (or)

he's a "hobbledehoy"

a guy with a wild reputation, I might call a "rakehell" or a "ne'er-do-well"

a country breakfast might include a serving of 'side-meat'

an old **** expression: s'alright

When you want to scoff: "rotsaruck" ..."Tell it to the Marines"..."Tell it to Hanoi" (Vietnam version)

Ahhh, your father's moustache!

Ahhh, your sister's out on patrol!

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"Cheese it"--not only means "let's get out of here" it can also mean "YOU get out of here, I don't want you here".

There's a race car movie with Tony Curtis and the usual triangle between the lead driver, Curtis (the navigator) and a girl mechanic on the team. One lunch, she brings sandwiches out to their car and she deliberately, specifically gives Curtis a cheese sandwich she chose for him. Ham for the guy she likes and cheese for him. Meaning, a snub. Telling him she doesn't want him. 'Cheese' was synonymous with 'aversion'.

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"Don't be redic" comes from "The Lost Weekend".  I thought the term "wolf" used by Kim Novak  in my favorite movie;  1959's "Middle Of The Night", was out of use by that year.

As for the above mentioned "cheese", how about the long ago expression "cheese champ" to identify a boxing title holder with little talent?


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1 minute ago, Sgt_Markoff said:

'Middle of the Night' --searing May/December romance written by Paddy Chayefsky starring Frederic March--is your all time favorite movie? I can only salute this. Commendable.

Speaking of outmoded expressions, recently I watched an episode of The Doctors classic soap opera from 1977. A character mentioned a couple with a significant age difference and referred to it as May-September instead of May-December. I'd never heard of May-September, which made me wonder if that's the original phrase, but it evolved to being May-December. 

I do have to wonder if January-December might be an 18 year old dating a 98 year old.

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I still hear phone recordings say, "Dial 9 now" like any phones still have dials!

There is a hilarious 2 minute video out there of 2 teens tasked with making a call on a dial phone. Clueless.

I have a 1940's heavy metal desk phone in use (of course) and LOVE when the operator asks why I didn't "press 9?"...and I'll then spin the rotary dial in response (if they're old enough to recognize the sound)

Anyone ever have a "party line"? What a great name for something so obnoxious. As a teen, our shared "party" would get angry at me for constantly blabbering AND for listening to them when I was bored. (what a jerk)

Oh yeah, calling someone a "jerk" is in reference to an entry level job: a soda "jerk".

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On 2/10/2019 at 1:49 PM, speedracer5 said:


In the I Love Lucy episode, "Lucy Has Her Eyes Examined," Lucy hires a dancer (Arthur "King Cat" Walsh) to teach her how to jitterbug.  He says things like "that coat's a gasser!" I assume "gasser," means "hilarious" in context of the rest of the scene in the episode. 

"Gasser" actually had(has) many different uses as slang.  In an old movie "trailer"( Pal Joey I think, but not sure) FRANK SINATRA uss the word to describe an attractive and sexy woman.  In the LUCY episode, MY money's on the term used in the man thinking favorably about Lucy's coat.   

The word's also been used to refer to:

An anesthesiologist ;  Someone who passes a lot of gas;  or a car( hot rod usually) that burns a lot of gasoline.  

And speaking of Lucy getting her eyes examined, did anyone refer to them as "peepers"?

THAT would have been "copacetic"!  ;)


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:unsure: Every workplace in America (nay even, the world) still has corded, wall-jacked, landline desk phones ...so 'Dial 9' and other voice-menus, are not at all strange to my ears. People can do what they want with their personal lifestyle --fads and trends galore--but you'll never see any kind of office building without reliable phone systems. It's a simple safety issue if nothing else.

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Do you take bicarbonate of soda for your lumbago or your rheumatism?  Or is it a tonic for a hotfoot or, perhaps, for a Mickey Finn?

Other words/phrases you don't hear much anymore:

Lookit instead of look (Ray Bolger's farmhand character in The Wizard of Oz says, "Now, lookit, Dorothy . . ." early in the film.)

Chum instead of friend or pal (Seems like Dana Andrews calls other guys "chum" in The Best Years of Our Lives.)

C-Note instead of hundred dollar bill

Mouthpiece instead of criminal lawyer




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8 hours ago, Wayne said:

Lookit instead of look (Ray Bolger's farmhand character in The Wizard of Oz says, "Now, lookit, Dorothy . . ." early in the film.)

Along with lookit there is also let's have a looksee. I've heard Henry Fonda say that in more than one film.


She's the cat's meow!

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or 'blow' --meaning, leave, go away. So there's a joke which goes, "Mabel, do you get a lot of men whistling at you?" (sad response) "No, they just blow"

In my town there's a once-famous but now very-little-used reference to "pulling a Crater". Joseph Crater was a NY state Supreme Court justice who vanished under mysterious circumstances in the 1930s and was never found; his disappearance never adequately explained.


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do a Brodie

Is a New York City original named after 

"Steve Brodie (December 25, 1861 – January 31, 1901) was an American from Manhattan, New York City who on July 23, 1886, jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge and survived. The supposed jump, of which the veracity was disputed, gave Brodie publicity, a thriving saloon and a career as a performer.

Brodie's fame persisted long past his death, with Brodie portrayed in films and with the slang term "Brodie"—as in to "do a Brodie"—entering the language, meaning to take a chance or a leap, specifically a suicidal one" (wiki. for what its worth)

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