‘Slanguage’ For the Ages


With each passing year, the creation of new and vivid slang terms evolves.  Now, there are even entire dictionaries that can be purchased on this subject.  However, the prolific use of slang words is not something new.  In the December 1931 issue of “Screen Play” there is an intriguing article written by Rosalind Shepard that explores this very topic, entitled “Slanguage of the Stars.”  Personally, I find the prospect of hearing some of the most glamorous figures of their time using this form of language rather entertaining.


Within the article, several rules are outlined in order to help the reader become a master of the latest slang.  The most important aspect, the author specifies is, “Do everything in a large way!  If you can be simple and bit at the same time, so much the better.”  When trying to specify that something is ultra ritzy, it states, “Phillips Holmes achieves it.  His ‘simply stupendous,’ used on all occasions is the epitome of correctness. Or as Helen Twelvetrees would say, ‘very what-what.”  And yes, Twelvetrees (pictured above) was the legitimate name of a popular actress in the 1930s.


The second rule of thumb is to determine which of the slag cliques you would like to become a part of.  Apparently, there are different styles.  “You can go so refined that your original, elegant phrases hardly come under the head of slang at all.”  The author stipulates that some of the popular screen stars that follow this form include Norma Shearer, Ann Harding, and Kay Francis (pictured above)to list just a few.  “You can turn gangster, talk like a bum or a moll and you’ll still be right in the best of society with Wallace Beery as the chief.”  “Or you can be collegiate, younger-generationish and perhaps the most colorful of all.”


If something occurs that impresses you in either a positive or negative way, “it will ‘put you away for the day’.”

When you become very angry, you “do a burn-up,” and if you are angry enough to maintain that attitude for a long portion of time you, “go off in a huff and six or eight.” One should stick with the six unless you are the angriest you have ever been, then an eight might be a better choice.

If you are “given a canvass,” it means that “you have scored, flirtatiously speaking, and that someone is giving you a rush.”


Evalyn Knapp (pictured above) came up with an entirely unique phrase to describe her extreme moments of surprise.  “Well I’m just a plate of plums!”


Now that we have learned some of the basic components, the author puts everything we have learned into a nice summary.  Imagine that you are Jean Harlow at a party and you stole the attentions of the best looking guy (who happened to be William Powell) there away from another woman.  When I saw that the author wrote about stealing the affections of a man named Bill, I could not help but add specific names to this scenario.  🙂  This is how you might explain the events. “Marge was there last night with Bill, but he gave me such a large canvass I was simply put away for the day.  So she did a burn-up and went off in a huff and six.  Just one of those things that come under the head of ‘I’m sorry,’ I guess.  I certainly go for him in a large way.  So whatda ya think of them apples?  Simply terrific, what?”

Phew! I hope you got that all!


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