Swing Jargon


Well-Known Member
Hey. I found this cool link which lists swing jargon of the 20's, 30's and 40's and today.


Does anybody actually use these terms anymore? I have a feeling there's this whole swing subculture out there. :shock: :lol:

Dave's Guide to the Lingo of the NeoSwing Era
The following is a compilation of jargon used by swingers, from the 1920s'/30s'/40s' Swing Era to the NeoSwing era today...

86 --vb., to stop or kill something ("Take care of the trouble maker, 86 him." "Ok boss!")
behind the eight ball --vb., to be in a troubled situation ("I don't have the money to go out tonight. I'm behind the 8 ball.")
bent --adj., drunk/intoxicated by any means
ball and chain --n., a girl (usually) who thinks she can dance but hasn't practiced much if at all. She can obviously be identified by the phrase "I can follow if a guy can lead" or "There aren't any good dancers where I live." Watch out for these bunters, as they make you do all the work!
bombshell --adj., a drop-dead gorgeous girl {I know a few of those!}
bunter --(uncommon) n., one who is a loser, who can't [swing!] dance
bust loose --vb., to loose one's inhibitions
charlie --n., a guy who is average, can/can't dance
cat --n., one who is cool, can/can't dance
chick --n., an attractive girl
daddy --n., a Boyfriend, or just a BOY that's a friend. It originated from a Boyfriend being "in control" like one's father (it was the 40s!)
daddy-o --n., a guy (usually!) who can swing dance, who is cool
dame --n., a gal, especially a woman/lady
dig --vb., to understand
doll --n., see dame
dough --n., money, of course!
fat cat --n., one who is rich
fly --vb., to leave/go ("I gotta fly, see ya later!")
fob --n., a chain that connects from a belt loop to a pocketwatch or keys that is kept in a pocket
fool --n., one who is in love
get loaded --vb., get drunk
hep --n., hippness, the "groove," "mojo," "The Force." It's kinda like charisma, some people have it, others don't. But you can get hep, by getting into swing dancing/lifestyle, "so reap this righteous riff!"
hepcat --n., another term for a swing dancer, especially an enthusiast!
hiposter --n., one who TRIES to act like a swing dancer but can't dance as such, doesn't talk as such, and is quite clueless about the subject {word formed from 'being HIP?' and 'IMPOSTER'}
hipster --n., someone who is 'hip' (don't confuse this with hiposter!)
ickaroo --n., someone who can't dance, who you wouldn't want to dance with anyway! "Ick!"
jive --n., a dance type AND vb., to joke/kid ("I'm not jivin' about that crash, the car DID flip!") AND vb., to be in accordance with AND see hep
kat --see cat
killer diller --n., a great thrill
kitten/kitty --n. (endearment), a cute girl who is cool and can dance
kooky --adj., wild
lid --n., a hat (fedora especially)
live it up --vb., to have fun
make a stain --vb., 'not gonna explain that one! :p
no dice --phr., a negative on something ("Did you ever get that CD?" "No dice.")
poppin' a cherry --vb., I'm not gonna say THAT one either! ;)
rug cutter --n., a good, active dancer: cutting up the rug with his shoes
scene --n., a situation, also a place
slick up to the nines --vb., {Honestly, I can't find the true meaning of this! It either means to have sex or go to a bar. What a choice! I've seen it in reference to both!! Please email me if you know the real meaning!}
smashed --adj., intoxicated/drunk
stray cat --n., a guy without a girl/Girlfriend
swank --adj., "dashing smartness," cool, stylish, impressive
swinging --vb., to be swing dancing AND adj., to be of a swing nature
wet --adj., in reference to a BAR it means it serves alcohol
whipped up --adj., dancing/caught up in a dance or caught up in doing something
zoot --adj., term for the fasion worn by swingers; anything fashionable pertaining to swing
zoot suit --n., a really swank suit worn by swingers!
Despite what the title suggests this is just a rehash of old slang from the 30s and 40s. Most people in the swing subculture never did and never will use any of these terms (unless they were also part of the common lexicon).

Now the swing subculture does have words that are particular to it, or words that have a different meaning, but not nearly as "colorful" or as extensive as that webpage lists.


...Or maybe we could say that there was never one group of people who used ALL of these terms, but I'll bet that many swing dancers used SOME of these terms. Agreed?

It IS a cool list and it's fun thinking of things to say. Many of these words were used in film, as well as by musicians.


Well-Known Member
Well, I know for suer there is SOME swing jargon being used, because the last time I heard the word hep was out of my granddad's mouth. Until I joined dance forums. Now I know a lot of hep cats! :lol: :lol:

Vince A

Active Member
It's amazing how some of those have totally different meanings today!

Bent . . . as in get bent.
Ball and chain . . . means married.
Charlie . . . as in VC.
Fat cat . . . is now phat.
Hep Cat . . . now hepcatBob :wink:
Get loaded . . . a drug term now.
Lid . . . the same as above.
Swinging . . . use your imagine for this!

Any others???
Vince A said:
Charlie . . . as in VC.
CHARLIE DON'T SURF!!! :lol: :lol: :lol:
Sorry, I couldn't resist that one.

Hep Cat . . . now hepcatBob :wink:
Thanks, Vince! :cheers:

There's one definition of 'jive' that's missing. Back in the early days, 'jive' was a slang term for marijuana.


Well-Known Member
Vince A said:
It's amazing how some of those have totally different meanings today!

Bent . . . as in get bent.
Ball and chain . . . means married.
Charlie . . . as in VC.
Fat cat . . . is now phat.
Hep Cat . . . now hepcatBob :wink:
Get loaded . . . a drug term now.
Lid . . . the same as above.
Swinging . . . use your imagine for this!

Any others???
There is the term for a performance known as a "gig" which I think originated among jazz musicians, but don't know what era or if it still refers to such.
Also I's say that the term 'gig' is used among performers other than musicians as well. Still has a conotation with showing up, doing your thing, then leaving (preferably with a check ;) )-- particularly in a less typical performance setting (bookstores, sidewalks, malls etc.)
Thank you for the link Pygmalion. :p

Funny, when I used to play Jazz in college...I picked up quite a few terms that I don't use anymore. Some of the better players we referred to as "cats", and we also used other terms that referred to a player who sounded like a particular artist.

For instance, I remember one Jazz theory class where we had to rearrange old standards and "spice them up". One student got up to play a song on the piano, and an older musician in the class said "boy, that's a Monkish tune you got there!"

I got accused of being too "Coltrane" when I played the sax...basically when I had a solo and just went off wildly...how could anyone not like Coltrane???

And "chops" could mean anything from ones embochure to overall musical skill. A horn player who had a really powerful tone usually was called "Iron Chops"...or a player who didn't have enough tunes memorized (like me) would be told "you need to work on your chops!"

Thanks again for some good memories. :)




Well-Known Member
Lindy bombing

All this talk of swing vernacular got me thinking about those terms I hear being thrown around that I have no idea about. What is "lindy bombing"? And what's that all about?
To lindy bomb is to arrive en masse at an event that has no stated lindy hop connection and to start dancing. If it's a jazz concert, the music is already happening. If it's holiday shoppers in San Francisco, the bombers also bring a boom box and CDs.

Now you know.


Well-Known Member
Thanks a lot suek!! :D

Looks similar to the IM idea where someone organizes a time/place/random activity and people suddenly appear en masse and do it. For instance, in the fall a huge group of people gathered at a plazea and huggede each other!

I guess I have seen attempts at lindy bombs in Ithaca, but haven't really seen it work well. And I haven't heard the term used in Ithaca. Probably because I don't hang with these people much, I guess.

Dance Ads