Words For Women: Get the Hang of 30s Slang

One of the things I love about old movies, old songs, and detective novels from the likes of Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and Raymond Chandler, is the great slang. It further adds to the feel that the 30s and 40s is this cool, arcane world with its own reality, its own set of rules, and a vernacular all its own.

Take Minnie the Moocher (please). In the first three lines of the song we learn Minnie is not only a moocher, but also a “lowdown hoochie-coocher” and “the roughest and toughest frail.” In other words, Minnie was infamous for taking all she could get away with taking, as well as rough, tough and pretty slutty. You see, a moocher* is someone who gloms on to whatever he or she can get, hoochie-coocher means sexually promiscuous, a frail is a woman, and lowdown means, well, not so nice. (She also liked to “kick the gong around”; in other words, Minnie hearts opium.)

You see, “dame” is only one of many terms folks in the Great Depression had for the chromosomally Y-challenged half of the population. Here are some other words meaning female:Cab Calloway

Ace of Spades (widow)

Anchor (wife)

Babe or Baby

Baggage (wife)

Ball and Chain (wife…hmmm, sensing a pattern here)

Better Half (wife…that’s better)

Bats (prostitute)

Biddy (oddly enough, a young woman)

Bim or Bimbo

Blimp (stout woman)

Blister (Ugly or old woman)


Bundle of Rags (wife…sheesh)

Canary (singer)



Cookie Pusher (wealthy young woman)

Cuddle Cutie (prostitute)

Dawn Patrol (restaurant lingo for a young woman who regularly patronizes the joint very early in the morning)

Demi-Tasse or Demi-Rep (prostitute)


Doll or Dolly


Fever (girlfriend)

Filly (young woman)

Floozie (not a compliment)


Frau (wife)


Frump (sloppy or critical woman)


Gid (young woman)

Gilly (prostitute)


Golddigger (woman only after dough)

Grouse (prostitute)

Hash-Slinger (waitress)

Herring (an incorruptible girl — Herring was the brand of safe that couldn’t be dynamited open )

High Jumper (young woman fond of liquor)

Iron Pants (chaste woman)

Jailbait (teenage girls)


Jennie (waitress)

Jizzie (unattractive woman)

Kelsey (young woman)


Knockout (gorgeous woman)

Left-Handed Wife (kept woman)

Loud Speaker (wife)

Lousyliz (cheap prostitute)

Looker (knockout)

Lynx (woman who snitches to the boss)

Main Squeeze (girlfriend or hostess)

Mama (not mom, the “red-hot” kind)


Moll (girlfriend, a Gun Moll is a gangster’s girlfriend)

Mugbug (girl who gives in easily, the opposite of a herring)


Paznazki (loose woman)

Pick Me Up (yep, another loose woman)

Pig (chorus girl)

Pigeon (girl who sits with the driver in the front seat of a rum-runner’s car or boat to give it an air of respectability)

Plugs (a man or a woman really)

Pro Skirt (prostitute)

Pullet (young woman)


Roundheels (kinda slutty)

Sidecar (wife)




Split (loose woman)

Strange (prostitute, or vagina)


Torcher (singer)

Tramp (not a compliment)


Weak Sister (pushover of any gender)

Whiz Bang (waitress easily dated by customers)

Worker (golddigger)


Wrong Number (a man or a woman)

Zoyneh (prostitute)

Of course, a woman can also be a snowbird who’s a chiseler prone to pulling the Gooseberry Lay, but that’s for another day.


* However, one early 30s glossary says a moocher is a “Single-handed thief, usually of low caste. Also a snooper or spy.”

Author: Dixie Laite

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