Rockabilly Quotes and Retro Phrases of the 1950's
"Rockabilly" can refer to a musical style as well as a fashion sense. When it comes to men's fashion, rockabilly or greaser style is about as classic cool as it gets. A pair of jeans with rolled cuffs, striped shirt, black boots, chain wallet and of course the classic pompadour is all it takes to make the look. But to take your rockabilly lifestyle a step further, why not talk the talk too!
Where did this rockabilly slang come from?
The year is 1955. The movie Rebel Without a Cause (among others) and the beginnings of rock and roll music have inspired a whole generation of teen rebels. (If you've never seen Rebel Without a Cause or listened to Rockabilly music, how did you even find this page?) James Dean's demeanor, knife fights, and fast cars is about as cool as it gets. Throw in some beatnik jazz inspired slang of the day and you have what becomes a subculture that speaks its own language.
Through several '50s revivals (think bands like The Stray Cats and movies like The Outsiders from the '80s) this language has stayed firmly in use and even evolved. Much of the rockabilly slang has been absorbed by mainstream culture. And while of the vocabulary overlaps, some terms are fairly specific to the beatniks (think pre-hippies) and the greasers (think hot-rodders - You may notice there are a lot of car references!)
Some of our favorite rockabilly quotes
This is nowhere near a definitive list, just some of our very favorites that have a place in our Rockabilly vocabulary already!
Are you writing a book? - You're asking too many questions
Baby - Cute girl, term of address for either sex
Back seat bingo - Necking in a car
Bad news - Depressing person
Bash - Great party
Betty - a person of the female persuasion
Bit - An act
Blast - "That party was a real blast." - A good time
Boss - Great
Bread - Money
Bug - "You bug me" - to bother someone
Burn rubber - To accelerate hard and fast (hot-rodders)
Cat - A hip person (Beats)
Cherry - Originally, an unaltered car. Later, anything attractive (hot-rodders, originally)
Classy chassis - Great body
Cloud 9 - Really happy
Clyde - Term of address, usually for a normal person (Beats)
Cook, cookin' - Doing it well
Cool - Indefinable quality that makes something or someone extraordinary
Cool it - Relax, settle down
Crazy - Implies an especially good thing - "Like crazy, man"
Cream - Originally, to dent a car. Later, to badly damage (hot-rodders, originally)
Cruisin' for a bruisin' - Looking for trouble
Daddy-O - Term of address (beatnik)
Dibs - A claim - as in "got dibs" on that seat
Dig - To understand; to approve
Drag - (greaser) A short car race; (beatnik) A bore
Eyeball - Look around
Fast - Someone who was sexually active
Fire Up - Start your engine (greaser)
Flat out - Fast as you can
Flick - A movie
Flip - To get excited - "He's gonna flip when he hears the news."
Floor it - Push the accelerator to the floor (greaser)
Get Bent! - Disparaging remark as in "drop dead"
Get with it - Understand
Gig - Work, job (beatnik)
Go ape - Get very excited
Goof - Someone who makes mistakes
Goose it - Accelerate the car fully (greaser)
Greaser - A guy with tons of grease in his hair, which later came to describe an entire group of people. Yes, John Travolta in Grease.
Grody - Sloppy, messy or dirty
Hang - As in "hang out" which means to do very little
Haul ass - Drive very fast (hot-rodders)
Heat - Police (beatnik)
Hep - With it, cool. Someone who knows the situation.
Hip - Someone who is cool, in the know. Very good.
Horn - Telephone
Kick - A fun or good thing; Also, a fad
Kill - To really impress
Knuckle sandwich - A fist in the face
Kookie - Nuts, in the nicest possible way
Later, also later, gator - Goodbye. See ya later, alligator. Response: after while crocodile.
Lay a patch - To accelerate so rapidly that you leave a patch of rubber on the road.
Lay on - To give (beatnik)
Made in the shade - Success guaranteed
Make out - A kissing session
Make the scene - To attend an event or activity
Meanwhile, back at the ranch - From TV Westerns. Usually used to get a storyteller back on track.
Most - A in "the most" - high praise usually of the opposite sex
Nerd - Same as now. Bill Gates without the money.
Nod - Drift off to sleep
No sweat - No problem
Nowhere - Opposite of cool. Nowheresville was a boring, bad place to be. (beatnik)
Odd ball - Someone a bit off the norm
Off the line - Start of a drag race (greaser)
Pad - Home
Party pooper - No fun at all
Peepers - Glasses
Pound - Beat up
Punch it - Step on the gas (greaser)
Put down - To say bad things about someone
Rag Top - A convertible car
Real gone - Very much in love. Also unstable. Hmm, there's a difference?
Righto - Okay
Rock - A diamond
Rocket - A car (greaser)
Rod - A car (greaser)
Royal shaft - Badly or unfairly treated
Scream - Go fast
Screamer - A hot rod
Shot down - Failed
Sides - Vinyl records
Sing - To tattle or inform on someone (beatnik)
Sounds - Music
Souped up - A car modified to go fast
Spaz - Someone who is uncoordinated. A clutz.
Split - Leave
Square - A regular, normal person. A conformist.
Stacked - A woman with large er, ah...you know, well endowed.
That's close - Something wrong or not true
Think Fast - Usually said right before someone threw something at you
Threads - Clothes
Tight - Good friends
Total - To completely destroy, most often in reference to a car
Unreal - Exceptional
Wet rag - Someone who's just no fun
What's buzzin, cuzzin - What's new?
What's you tale, nightingale - What's the story?
Wheelie - Left the car's front wheels off the ground by rapid acceleration
One final word -- if your neighbors have't raised an eyebrow at your style, or said anything about that classic car in your driveway, they may be scared off by use of this slang. For folks who aren't in the know, maybe ease this language into your everyday conversation slowly!
Update: Here is a related blog post -- If you lean more beatnick, here's how to speak hip!