Alan Axelrod packs a lot of info into this digest-sized 200 page trade pb, The Cheaper The Crook, The Gaudier The Patter: Forgotten Hipster Lines, Tough Guy Talk, And Jive Gents. The title comes from the 1941 Warner Brothers proto-noir classic The Maltese Falcon. I’d have to get out of my comfy chair to rifle through my bookshelves to see if it’s in Dashiell Hammett’s novel (which I’m not going to do, sorry). Humphrey Bogart’s Sam Spade gets this particular gem, spoken in reply to weasel of a gunsel Wilbur Cook’s idle threats.
This isn’t a dictionary or laundry list of period slang so much as an light-hearted but still detailed etymology of 1930s through 1950’s expressions, phrases and buzzwords. And if you’re a writer working in period settings, books like this one are as useful as your thesaurus when the dialog starts to feel bland, or worse, a little too ‘now’. If you’re not, it’s still fun, so you can sprinkle period slang into your own words an see if anyone knows what the hell you’re talking about.