Antiquated American Phrases and Sayings

Part of learning about your ancestors’ life and times is knowing more of the once common phrases and sayings they may have used. Many of them now are unknown to the present generations.

Here are a few samples of American phrases no longer used:

Happy cabbage – a large amount of available money to spend on one’s self. From the 1880s.  

See the elephant – it referred to seeing the sights of a city or scenic locations. It was also used by the military to describe going to war. From 1880s into 1890s.

Cop a mouse – getting a black eye. From the 1870s.

Lally-cooler – high successful events, show or business. From the 1890s.

Too high for his nut – requesting too much and beyond one’s reach. From the 1880s.

Some pumpkins – scoring a big trade deal. From the 1840s.

Tell a thumper – making up a very convincing lie. From the 1890s.

The bear got him – someone suffering from heatstroke. From the 1870s.

Being on a left-handed honeymoon – was when a married person was having an affair. From the 1890s.  

What can be strange for many people born during the late 20th century are the words and phrases which are disappearing. Such as:

Adjust the TV antenna – no more of moving the ‘rabbit ears’ or the roof antenna to get better television reception. 

Wait for a dial tone – you could not dial on a rotary phone a telephone number without first waiting to hear a dial tone. With landlines also disappearing, that truly means the end of a dial tone.

Ditto machine – what was used from 1920s to the early 1980s to make copies. 

Dial ‘411’ – those three numbers were dialed or pushed on a landline phone to get information. Not anymore.

Roll up the car windows – with power everything in a car, windows don’t need to be cranked up or rolled anymore.

Photos: Black eye, piles of money, having an affair, TV antenna, and a Ditto machine.

Related Blogs:

Familiar Sayings

Funny Sayings of Your Ancestors

Old Words — New Again

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