Ever wonder what Bruce Springsteen meant when he referred
to a "deuce" in his hit song Blinded by the Light? Well,
you wouldn't be alone. But aficionados of 50's slang were
never puzzled. They had the answer all along.
Deuce is a 50's slang term for any of the Ford Model B
vehicles and most commonly used as a nickname for the 1934
coupe. Many know it best from the Beach Boys' 1963 hit
Little Deuce Coupe but the car was also featured years
later in George Lucas' film American Graffiti.
Even though Lucas' tag line for American Graffiti was
"Where were you in '62," the film was riddled with slang
that originated in the 50's. Not unlike the Beach Boys and
Lucas, most people held onto many of the colorful phrases
from the rock 'n' roll era and still use many of them
Calling a movie a "flick" is not at all uncommon. Saying
someone is going to "flip" when referring to a state of
over excitement is not used as often but is still
understood by most. But several other once commonplace
terms from the 50's are seldom recognized today.
The D.A. is a fine example of outmoded slang. But in the
1950's most everyone knew that the initials were a
reference to a then popular hairstyle. D.A. was a more
genteel way of saying "duck's…er, uh…posterior."
Also fallen by the wayside are phrases such as "got it
made in the shade" (referring to a guaranteed success and
later shortened to "got it made"). And when was the last
time you heard someone say, "What's buzzin', cuzzin'?"
(abandoned for the now common "What's happening?")?
Granted, there are also many bits of 50's slang that are
now scarcely heard but still easily understood when
spoken. Phrases like "rag top" (a convertible automobile)
and "hip" (cool) being two prime examples. But some of the
most colorful words and phrases of the era have all but
disappeared, just like the sources that spawned them.
In the 1950's, television played the most noticeable role
in affecting slang in everyday American life. And just
like today, as the shows faded away so did their figures
Just one example (and probably the most profound) of TV's
assault on the English language was the slang that
emanated from a weekly series on ABC television. 77 Sunset
Strip (1958-1964) featured detective drama, action and a
character named Gerald Lloyd Kookson III. Played by actor
Edd Byrnes, "Kookie" (as the character came to be known)
changed the speech patterns of American youth in a way
that wouldn't be matched until the 1970's when ABC
introduced another character called "Fonzie" on its hit
show Happy Days (1974-1984).
With terms like "ginchiest" (best, coolest) and "smog in
the noggin'" (muddled thinking), "Kookie" had a somewhat
brief but large impact on the slang of the country's
youth. But not surprisingly, the cancellation of shows
like 77 Sunset Strip also cancelled the use of their
slang, allowing everyone to move on to the next fad.
And what will the next trend in slang be? Only time (and
the media) will tell. But you can be sure that when the
next popular phrase does arrive, all the "hep cats" will
be using it.