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November 4, 2001 - Slangman: Old Slang ('Little Red Riding Hood') - 2002-01-30

MUSIC: "Syncopated Clocks"/Leroy Anderson

AA: I'm Avi Arditti with Rosanne Skirble, and this week on Wordmaster -- time for some slang!

This past week, the United States went off Daylight Savings Time and onto Standard Time for the next six months. So we turned our clocks back one hour.

RS: Well, this gave us an idea: why stop at just one hour? We decided to send our friend Slangman on a mission back in time to talk to us about some old American slang.

AA: And when Slangman -- the author whose real name is David Burke -- called in to report his findings, he presented them in the form of a famous children's story...


"Once upon a time there lived an 'able Grable,' which is a very pretty girl or woman. It comes from the '40s, the movie star Betty Grable, who was known for being very pretty. So our 'able Grable' -- her name was Little Red Riding Hood -- she loved to 'bop around.' Now to 'bop around,' which meant to walk around, to move around. She loved to bop around wearing a red hood -- and of course that's why she became known as Little Red Riding Hood.

"Well, one day, her 'old lady' -- which means mother or wife -- one day her old lady, who was a bit of a 'flat tire' -- that comes from the '20s, which means 'really dull,' a great expression -- she was a 'flat tire,' and she asked Little Red Riding Hood to take some 'eats' to her grandmother, who was sick in bed.

"Well, thought Little Red Riding Hood, 'heavy bummer,' which comes from the '70s, which means 'what a shame.' And Little Red Riding Hood quickly 'cut out' -- which means 'to leave' -- she cut out to her grandmother's house. As she was going through the woods she met with a 'hep cat' -- it means a very intelligent looking guy, a 'hep cat.' This hep cat was actually a wolf dressed like a man.

"The wolf would have 'bumped her off' -- which is slang from the '20s meaning 'to kill.' But there were a lot of other people around, and he thought he'd better leave her alone for the moment. He asked her where she was 'trucking to' -- now, in the '70s, to 'truck' meant to go somewhere, 'keep on trucking,' that means 'keep on moving.' 'I am going to see my grandmother to give her some food -- dig?' That was really popular in the '50s -- that meant 'you understand, you dig?' So she said to the wolf 'later gator.' short for 'see you later, alligator' -- 'later gator.' That's from the '40s where everything rhymed.

"When Little Red got to her grandmother's house she saw her grandmother in bed, but it was really the wolf who ran ahead of her. The grandmother said 'hey kiddo,' that's from the '20s meaning friend or any term of affection. 'How are you?' And Little Red Riding Hood replied 'everything is Jake.' 'Jake' was really popular in the '20s; it meant 'great.' And she told her grandmother 'I brought you some grub.' We still say 'grub' too even today.

"But Little Red Riding Hood was getting 'bad vibes,' very popular from the '70s, it meant a bad feeling. Little Red Riding Hood was no 'dumb Dora' -- which means she wasn't stupid, that's from the '20s also -- and noticed that something was wrong. 'Grandma, you have such big peepers,' that meant 'eyes,' 'and really big choppers' -- that meant teeth, that came from the '50s. And the wolf said 'all the better to eat you with.'

"Luckily the wolf was a little bit 'spifflicated' -- which is a great word from the '20s meaning 'drunk' -- because he accidentally drank some 'giggle water.' 'Giggle water' was from the '20s, it meant alcohol. He saw it sitting on the grandmother's table. He thought it was regular water and drank the whole thing.

"Well, when the wolf got up, he tripped and fell, and Little Red 'boogied' -- that's from the '70s, it meant 'left really fast' -- she 'boogied' home. The moral of the story? Don't 'rap' -- which is from the '70s, meaning to talk -- with talking wolves. And, by the way, today to 'rap' does not mean to have a conversation; it means to do music where you talk instead of sing."

AA: Slangman David Burke, proving once again that he's no "flat tire."

RS: Now, if modern American slang is what you're interested in, David has samples from his teaching books posted online at You can also e-mail him your questions: that address is

AA: Ours here at Wordmaster is With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.

MUSIC: "Little Red Riding Hood"/Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs