Straight From The Fridge, Dad

straight from the fridge dad

Just about any book with a Richie Fahey cover illustration will make me pause for a second look, and the cover designed by Jesse Marinoff Reyes for the 2000 edition shown here of Straight From The Fridge, Dad – A Dictionary of Hipster Slang by Max Decharne features a terrific Fahey piece.

“Think of it as a sort of Thirty Days To A More Powerful Vocabulary for the beret-wearing, bongo-banging set” the back cover says, but it’s actually more than that.

I have several books on retro slang, most of them pretty slim things, written and published as novelty items, I suppose. But apparently it took someone who divides his time between London and Berlin to put together a more comprehensive and detailed book on mid-20th century American slang, digging deep not only into the 1950’s-60’s Beat Scene but further back into the Jazz era and reference works like Babs Gonzales’ Boptionary, Del Close and John Brent’s How To Speak Hip LP and hipster lingo dictionaries from Cab Calloway and Lavada Durst. Decharne’s Straight From The Fridge, Dad is nearly 200 pages of slick words and expressions that fit right in anywhere from a 1920’s speakeasy to a 1940’s crime novel and all the way up to a late 1950’s Greenwich Village coffee house. If you dig retro or just love words, you’ll love this book, and if you’re writing anything set in the 1920’s through 1960’s, you’ll find a word or phrase — or two or more — to slot in quite comfily in your own work. Though nearly twenty years old, the book’s been re-released in several editions (all with nifty cover art, though I’ll still go with the Fahey illustration) and is available new and used online and seen frequently in bookstores. Get yourself a copy, and then arrange that beret just-so atop your head, make yourself an espresso or pour a shot of MD 20-20 and settle in to a dictionary that’s actually fun to read.

The Cheaper The Crook, The Gaudier The Patter.

cheaper the crook

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.

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