Charming, fun, and yet just the right amount of salty, curse words from the 1950s have a certain extra somethin' that many modern day insults seem to lack. Our four letter words and other caustic phrases get the point across, and they certainly have a place in our vocabulary. But it can be effective to throw in the occasional "get bent" or "oh, fudge" as well.
"When you say something unexpected, you will definitely throw someone off balance — and it can lighten the moment," relationship expert and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport, tells Bustle. This can come in handy during heated moments, when you want to change the direction of a heated conversation.
"A lot of these terms are definitely a lot less offensive in modern times and perhaps even endearing to a certain extent," Beverly Friedmann, writer and content manager for ReviewingThis, tells Bustle. "They also tend to catch people off-guard, can be fun to use, and may strike up a conversation." Because nothing will get people chatting quite like using the phrase "that's so Mickey Mouse."
Whatever your reason, if you'd like to bring back curse words from the '50s and other old-fashioned sayings, read on below for a few choice phrases, so you'll know just what to say the next time you're angry, annoyed, or surprised.
1. "Get Bent"
Back in the day, telling someone to "get bent" basically meant you wanted them to drop dead, Friedmann says. It was super popular in the 1950s, but isn't something you hear much today.
"One of the most interesting parts of this 1950s curse/slang term is how language has evolved throughout time," she says. "If you told someone to 'get bent' today on the street, you probably wouldn't have any problems." It does, however, have a certain flair to it. And may be something we want to bring back.
2. "Oh, Fudge"
Nothing sounds more old-school than saying "oh, fudge" instead of the usual four letter word, as was tradition back in the day. "Many people used to say, 'oh, fudge' because it was a bit more polite and in many cases, their intent would be known without causing offense," Rappaport says.
Back in the '50s, if someone was pushing your buttons, telling them to "scram" was a forceful, yet effective, way to get them out of your face.
"The word 'scram' was introduced in the late 1920s, but was very popular in the 1950s when teenagers used to tell their younger siblings or anyone they did not want having around to leave," Rappaport says.
4. "Make Like A Tree And Leave"
If you want someone to get out of your face, try saying "why don't you make like a tree and leave?" This fun play on words was meant as an insult back in the '50s, Rappaport says, but was just a little bit nicer than straight up telling someone to go.
5. "Knuckle Sandwich"
Telling someone you were going to give them a "knuckle sandwich" was a big threat back in the '50s. "A phrase that became popular in urban street movies like Bowery Boys in the 1950s, this term refers to a punch in the mouth or teeth like a lunch serving," Friedmann says. And while you don't want to mean it literally, obviously, it can still be a funny "threat."
"While it may not ring of the most class or elegance, in some settings we can all admit there's some fun and nostalgia involved with its use," Friedmann says, "and it beats a lot of modern day foul language and threats we may use now to describe similar intent. Plus, let's be honest, this term itself can't really be taken that seriously in modern days."
6. "Stuff It"
The term "stuff it" was used extensively in the 1950s when someone was mad, Rappaport says. Instead of telling them to f*ck off, they might have said "stuff it" instead. And since it has such an old school charm, it might be fun to say more often, today.
7. "Put A Lid On It"
This phrase may sound darling. But back in the '50s, it meant business. "When you wanted someone to stop talking about something or shut up, you used to tell them to 'put a lid on it' or 'can it,'" Rappaport says.
8. "That's So Mickey Mouse"
"When someone referred to doing something as being 'so Mickey Mouse,' they meant it was either so easy it required no effort, or it was dumb," Rappaport says. And that's likely because Mickey Mouse was typically reserved for kids.
"This originated around 1955 after Disneyland opened and when the Mickey Mouse Club was formed," she says. "This was probably originated by teenagers feeling they were too old for Disney or too hip."
This word, used to describe folks who were viewed as disreputable, was quite rude back in the '50s. "Its origins are from old French verbs rifler, to spoil or strip, and raffler, to carry off," Gabby Wallace, an expert on English language learning, tells Bustle. "Now its use is more humorous, but it should definitely be brought back as an insult."
10. "Heavens To Betsy"
"This all-American anachronistic phrase was used to show astonishment," Wallace says. "One theory is that it came from Betsy Ross, who stitched the first American flag."
Of course, it's always fine to use four letter words, if you so choose. But there's something fun about saying things like "heavens to Betsy," instead.
11. "Party Pooper"
To call someone a "party pooper" was to basically take away all their cool. And that was not cool back in the day.
As Friedmann says, "The term 'party pooper' started emerging around the 1950s to describe that 'wet blanket' friend [...] who wears out the party at the end of the night. Nowadays, we may use harsher language or bullying terms to make a person feel bad when they may just be tired. In modern times, the term 'party pooper' seems lighthearted, and like something you can call your friend in a joking manner without hurting any feelings."
That's the joy of old-fashioned language. While they can still have a powerful meaning, these words are officially too old to pack the sting they once had. And yet they still get the point across, in a fun and charming way.