1930’s American word usage and slang dictionary (continuously updated)

Last update: 18th March 2015.

Work in progress. Only from sources published from 1930-1939. Currently my sources are just Hollywood movies because I haven’t found any interesting novels that you can download for free yet…

I started doing this because if you search online, often you find results that are incorrect, misleading, or simply “not enough”. People also seemed to be using the words they found from such sites entirely wrongly, so I decided to include examples.

If there are no quotes it means I haven’t found a good one yet. There are also a lot of terms that any native American-speaking person knows correctly already, but because this list is also intended to help foreigners and for writers to be more sure that the phrase they thought of is period-accurate, they are included.

They were much more fond of imagery slang compared to today, ex “lamp” for eye or lightbulb, “flying rings” for trapeze, “bird” for singer, and in general something what gives you a mental image of a physical object/event. Secondary to that, they were fond of calling things in general by a major brand name or their brand name (such as coats or guns), much as American still do today (such as Band-Aid, Jello and Styrofoam, the term for this is “generic trademarking”). Likewise, instead of set insults, usually context-based insults were made up. If you are inspired to make up your own slang or insults, keep it along those lines.

——————————————

Vocabulary:

Action, looking for action – “excitement”. Didn’t necessarily mean having sex, as it almost always means today.
“I’m looking for a little action tonight for myself, (name).” “Well don’t worry boy, you’ll get it.” (men talking in a barbershop about horse races) [Smart Money, 1931]
“I’ve been wanting ta meetcha fer a long time.” “For a little action?” “How’dya guess.” (two gamblers, both men, talking to each other and wanting to gamble together) [Smart Money, 1931]

Ain’t – aren’t, haven’t, isn’t, am not. still used in some English dialects today.
ain’t you Buck Gerards’ girl?” (aren’t) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“why, i ain’t even got a gun” (haven’t) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“you ain’t never gonna get bargains like that again hun.” (aren’t) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“everybody who belongs there ain’t there, that’s where you’ll be someday Tom Powers.” “well i ain’t there yet.” (isn’t, am not. talking about going to jail) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Mr. (name) come in yet?” “No, no he ain’t come in yet.” [Jimmy the Gent, 1934]

Anyhow – often used instead of “anyway”.
— “don’t do this and don’t do that.  whatdoya want me ta do, anyhow?”
  [Taxi, 1932 movie]
anyhow i can’t see why a girl has to take that run-around from any guy. husband or no husband. Ya know what i’d tell ‘im? i’d tell ‘im if he wanted ta go gunning for people he could get along without you.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“[I could put in the money I was saving to bring my wife over to America]” “Oh, don’t do that.” “Well look, maybe I’m better off not sending her, so I don’t lose anything anyhow.” (talking about adding money to a betting pool) [Smart Money, 1931]

Ashcan – trashcan. source: Footlight Parade, 1933.

Back out – semi-insult. to run away from an agreed plan (impling that you are a coward). used the same today.
“look here, you can’t back out on me like that!” (someone said they’d do something then conveniently forgot they said it later) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Beat around the bush – avoid the subject (such as by changing the subject or making excuses). Used the same today.

Beat it – take off, leave quickly, run away fast. often used as a threat to mean “leave now or i’ll do something to you”.
“he’ll be back pretty soon.” “probably beat it with the dough.” “don’t be silly, Buck. he’s the one real friend you have. besides me.” (probably ran away as soon as he got the money) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“where’s Putty? we knocked off a –” “yeah, i know all about it. Putty Nose has beat it. You better lay low fer a while, the heat’s on.” (Putty Nose left town for some time) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Beef – argument, complain(t), quarrel sort of fuss.
“Leaving so soon?” “So soon? I’ve been here since yesterday night. There’s gonna be an awful beef out of the old lady when she sees me.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Chester, it’s like being in jail!” “Sorry dear, better get used to it.” … “What about our engagement ring?” “I’ll get it for you Saturday night.” “(3rd person) I wouldn’t beef about being locked up with the man I love.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Benny – type of coat (probably derived from a brand or name of a famous person who wore the same).
— “I don’t like that Benny on you. Put this little model on.” (removes the other guy’s coat and gives him another) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Big – like “big time”, used to mean something influential, dangerous and/or on a grand scale. also can mean fat/large/huge in general.
“i don’t need no punk like you tellin’ me nothin’. why? because i’m just as big as you ‘an bigger. When one man’s gonna run this town i’ll be him, see? so you tell ‘em up here i’m right.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “yer’s a good lookin’ dame, there’s a lotta guys who’d go fer you in a big way”
(a lot of guys would give up a lot for you / would really love you) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “she’ll stick her head it he big cat’s mouth? say, this is big. if she does that yer fortune’s as good as made! the big show’ll grab that act in a minute!”
(“stick her head in the lion’s mouth”, “this is big/important news”, “the large (other circus run by other people) circus will really enjoy/get a lot of use out of that”) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “the big show! playin’ the big cities! your name in thousand-watt Mazdas! no more worryin’!” “no more doublin’, all the clothes ya want!”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“what’s the idea of ringing my bell. i was asleep!” “get in there ya big smack or i’ll knock ya…” (telling an old man to go back to his room) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“He does not! You’re a big liar!” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“we ain’t never done nothin’ so big.” “big, big is right! i’m givin’ ya a break like i promised! Fur’s furs is worth plenty nowadays!” (talking about moving up from small thefts to breaking into a place to steal furs) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Now you listen ta me. This is yer big chance. Forty units in deluxe houses!” (40 units of film rolls in deluxe movie theatres) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Bimb – insult. bimbo, an empty-headed woman that’s good for looks and nothing else.
— “i’ll bet ya had ta marry the bimb.”
(a rude drunk guy who’s been making fun of a married couple all night)  [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Bird, canary – a singer or person. unisex.
“I’ll have that [much money] someday, and when I do, I’ll show those city birds somethin’.” (people telling him he should go to the city and gamble) [Smart Money, 1931]
— “Well you see how much singing that canary did.” (talking about a guy who wasn’t giving any info or answering their questions) [1936]

Bits – cents. Usually only said in the phrase “two bits”, which has a second meaning of “so cheap it’s worthless”.
— “hey, this is only two bits!” “yeah, and this is only a nickel.” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Block – head.
“c’mon, get going, don’t argue, i’ll knock yer block off.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
— “…leave me to the dear old sea lion, she can’t do any more than bite my block off.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Blow – leave
“hey, lay off, ain’t ya got no respect fer the dead? c’mon, let’s blow.” (talking about leaving a corpse before the police show up) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Blowout – “a large or lavish meal or social gathering.” (dictionary definition). Used the same today (but lesser-used, today it usually means when your vehicle tire pops).
“Say, I’m throwin’ a big party tonight…. Oh it’s gonna be a swell blow-out, with all the fancy trimmin’s, gonna make a speech too.” (says a guy who is going to leave for England soon) [Great Guy, 1936]

Blow-up, Blow-off – “the end”
“so you think the chair’ll be the blow-up for me?” – (possibly he said blow-off instead) the electric chair (death penalty) will be my death/end [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“so did he tell ya yet, he’s really quittin’ the racket?” “no… i guess he’s savin’ it fer the blow-off. certainly gettin’ a great break.” blow-off – send-off, leaving party, etc. but possibly means “the end of things”(?) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Blue – general insult, ex. “I don’t wanna look at your blue-nose anymore”.

The blue book – an information book.
“remind me ta tell (name) ta get that blue book in here, the 400 innit, so i can tell who’s who and what’s what in this town.” (unclear quote) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

To have a bone to pick with someone, to pick a bone – to want to talk about a disagreement, to have something to discuss. Typically one-sided. “to have reason to disagree or be annoyed with someone.” (dictionary definition)
“wait a minute, smart gal. i’ve got a bone ta pick with you.” “i’ve got nothing to talk with you about.” “what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya? ya made me look like a heel in fronta all those people, they been givin’ me the bird evah since.” (talking about a girl who gave a speech) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

The book, wrote the book – means “someone is an expert on this”. Used the same today, albeit seldomly.
“Listen you little baboon, who do you think you’re running around, some little pom(?) from the sticks? I wrote the book and I know all the answers.” (she is always fooling people and thinks someone is trying to fool her now) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Bootlegger – insult (to normal people anyway). someone who illegally smuggles alcohol from place to place (typically from a distribution center to a shop). They used to smuggle it in all sorts of ways, including in their boots or having false heels in their books (I think), hence the name. Used the same today.

Booze – alcohol. Used the same today, except today only an unsavoury person would use this (it reminds you of a dirty, crude, or homeless person).
— “Noo, you’d fall for anybody who spends jack on ya.” “Well he ain’t got no jack. He ain’t workin’.” “He ain’t workin’ but he’s peddling booze.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Boyfriend, girlfriend – Did refer to the person you were dating, but could also just mean a friend (girlfriend was used by other girls to mean “my friend who is a girl”, but guys didn’t use boyfriend that way). Older people still use it like this today, possibly some dialects also.

Bread, bread and butter – a way of earning a living, a person’s income or  job. still used today in “bread-winner” (the person bringing home income) or “that’s my bread and butter” (that’s  how i make my income), but not used  alone just as “bread” anymore.
“you can’t take a man’s bread away from him like that.” “alright, start a bread line on some other corner.” (being told to move to work at a different street corner) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

”Now we gotta show those dirty finks, that they can’t take the bread an’  buttah outta our mouths. i don’t want trouble, and i know you don’t want none. but if anybody’s gonna come lookin’ for it, i’m not gonna sit back and take their gaff.” (they can’t take our jobs away from us so easily like that) [Taxi, 1932  movie]

Break, give someone a break, get a break – used the same way today. in a general sense it means “take a rest”, but it’s also “take the easy way / lessen pressure on someone”. “interrupt (a continuity, sequence, or course)”, “make a pause in something”, “put an end to” (dictionary definitions). also can be used as “a good opportunity”.
“so did he tell ya yet, he’s really quittin’ the racket?” “no… i guess he’s savin’ it fer the blow-off. certainly gettin’ a great break.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“don’t ya realize you’d be a chump not ta cash in on it? give ya’self a break!” (telling a guy to tell the superiors about a good idea for a circus act) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“we ain’t never done nothin’ so big.” “big, big is right! i’m givin’ ya a break like i promised! Fur’s furs is worth plenty nowadays!” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

The breaks,  them’s/those are the breaks – “that’s just the way things end up”, “the way things are”, “the situation”. Also means when you “break” (divide) the deck during poker or other card games, I think.

— “it’s too bad this here swell kid like you’s in this racket. why don’t ya get out of it while the brakes are in your favor.” (…while the situation is in your favour) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “You always did get all the breaks.” (talking about how his older brother makes less money than him and can’t take care of their mom as well.) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
— “Well, Nick, looks like the luck’s runnin’ against ya tonight.” “Well, yeah.. I always suggest the manner of the breaks. Don’t worry about me, boys.” (they’re gambling with cards) [Smart Money, 1931]

Break it up, break up – to stop something (typically a fight), modernly also used to mean to stop dating someone. typically still seen in someone shouting for a crowd of people to “break it up! (dispel)”
“hey, whaddya say, break up and lemme outta here will ya?” (telling some cars to move so he can get out of  the parking spot) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya?” (ending the meeting) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“I’m here to talk to (name).” “Oh you can’t come in here and break up my rehearsal this way!” (lady came in and interrupted a performance rehearsal) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Bucks, smacks, spot, note(s) – dollars. one buck/spot is “one dollar (bill)”. 1 G = 1 grand = 1,000 dollars. 1 C-note = 1 century note = a 100 dollar bill.
“the money that was in that box. i had a hundred bucks in there and it’s gone. all but ten bucks.” “it is?” “c’mon, cut out the clownin’, what’d you do with it?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“so you gave the money ta Ruby, huh? what’d you do with my hundred bucks?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“whaddoya say ta… half a buck fer each of ’em.” “half a buck!” (selling something) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
— “And skip yer dinner, I gotta thousand bucks‘ worth of fancy grub commin’ up.” (talking about seeing him at his party later) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]
— “I got three million smacks in cash” [Great Guy, 1936]
— “i can’t change this, that’s a ten-spot – i can’t make change for a $10 bill [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Twenty-five G‘s. Twenty-five G‘s. Well here’s where I go to the cleaner’s.” “Well maybe I can do somethin’ about it.” “You mean raise that dough? What’re ya gonna do, print it?” (someone wants 25,000 dollars from him) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “….charge it to production costs, as usual. And take a century note for yourself, too.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“I’ll shoot tenna that.” “You’ll shoot alla that or nuthin’. You heard me, the c-note or nothing.” (guy just wanted to bet 10 dollars out of a 100 bill) [Smart Money, 1931]

Bull – short for “bullshit” or “bull-crap” but a little nicer wording. It is essentially a cruder way to say “lies”. Used the same today.
— “Why all the glad rags?” “Got a sick girlfriend, promised I’d drop over.” “Oh, all downed up for a sick girlfriend, don’t gimme that bull.” (talking about how she can’t go out for dinner with him) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

The bulls, the cops – the police, the feds, the people in charge etc.
“Well the bulls‘re sure ta slap it on me” (well the police are sure to blame it on me) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

To bunk together – share a room, bed, or bunk bed (typically a bed/bunk bed). used the same today.
“you know, just because you and Matt are gonna split up, i can’t see why you have to move way up to the Bronx ta live. hey hun, why don’t you and i bunk togetha’ upstairs, just like we used to?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Bunkaroo – nonsense.
— “Don’t forget to remember Boss, lucky with the cards, unlucky with the love!” “Aw, that’s a lotta bunkaroo.” [Smart Money, 1931]

Burg – town. Derives from German, Scandinavian, Dutch, Old English, etc.
“Nuts—I’ve been in this burg a week, and all I done is turn Two Dollar tricks, and split with you, and for what?” [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

To bury the hatchet – to get rid of any negative feelings/grudges and make peace with someone/something. used the same today, typically between two people who have long-standing grudges.
“So they’ve buried that hatchet, have  they? the burglarers. i’d like ta bury the hatchet. right in their thick skulls.”  (talking about a newspaper article that  says peace to some violence has  happened) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Button one’s lip – shut up, stop talking

”i once cried coming home with Fitzy,  you know the guy i used ta go with. Fitzy never got jealous or nothin’. he used ta say i was the nicest girl he ever went out with. he got mad once. a  salesman, Louie Ganzeldorf, another fella i used ta go with…” “oh, why don’t ya button yer lip.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Busted – broken, used the same today. Occasionally meant “fired”.
“There’s a couple’a busted machines in the joint there…” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “You gotta lot of crust pinchin’ me and breaking the law. I could get ya busted fer this.” (guy talking to a police office who took him to the station) [Great Guy, 1936]

Cab, street car – taxi cab. people seemed to have called them “cabs” in general conversation, but when calling out for one on the street they said “taxi”.

The can, the pen, the cooler, – jail. “a cage” meant “a jail cell”.
— “Sign or I’ll give ya time ta think it over in a cage.” (signing a fining ticket) [Great Guy, 1936]
— “…do me a favour will ya, when ya settle that guy in the can throw away the key!” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Call bets off, call off bets – to cancel/change plans, or for something to be very unpredictable. still seen sometimes today, often in the form “all bets are off”.
“i think we better call bets off before it’s too late.” (she means she wants to cancel their plans of getting married) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Cannon, cannons – semi-insult. Still seen today in the phrase “he’s a loose cannon”. Means a violent/reckless person, in some cases possibly used to mean mafia members in general. You get the feeling that anyone called a “cannon” is a little dangerous but still insignificant.
“of course most of you guys knew me when i was a kid in short pants. a runner for a tough mob of south-side cannons. a punk who knew how ta keep his mouth shut.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

To case the joint – to watch a place (keep it under surveillance) in order to figure out the layout, times the guards switch shifts, operation hours, etc. Used the same today.
“now, Dutch here knows the whole layout. we’ve been casin’ the joint fer a whole week.” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

cash in (on something) – to earn money from something, typically an idea or product. also “to use something to your advantage to earn money”. Used the same today.
if she does that yer fortune’s as good as made! the big show’ll grab that act in a minute! don’t ya realize you’d be a chump not to cash in on it?” (talking about making someone do a good circus act idea) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Well maybe I can do somethin’ about it.” “You mean raise that dough? What’re ya gonna do, print it?” “Nevermind, I’ve got an idea.” “Well keep it to yerself or the wife’ll cash in on it.” (his wife wants money from him) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Cat, cats – people, typically those aged 20-30’s is my guess. carnie-speak.
“I’ll work them cats like they’ve never been worked before.” (talking about putting a show on at a circus to get people to pay money to see them) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Tira can handle them cats like nobody else!” (talking about crowds at a circus) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

The chair, the hot seat – the electric chair used to kill people in jail and stuff
“so you think the chair’ll be the blow-up for me?” – (possibly he said blow-off instead) the electric chair (death penalty) will be my death/end [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“how do ya think you’ll like the hot sea?” (badly-pronounced “hot seat – electric chair” is my guess? a policeguy talking to a criminal) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Cheat, cheating – to play against the rules, to “be sexually unfaithful” (dictionary definition. used the same today.

The chill, ice – frigid, a freeze/stop on something (usually someone’s emotions), “the cold shoulder”
“what are ya playin’ me the chill for all of a sudden, baby?” – (guy talking to his girl, who isn’t caring about him trying to kiss her) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“i see i’m gettin’ plentya ice.” “what’d you expect, a brass band?” “i suppose i am a sucker for coming back for more punishment.” (his girlfriend is trying to ignore him and not look at him) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Chiseller – general insult.
— “Don’t tell me you married that chizler!” (guy married an idiot, backstabbing, gold-digging woman) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Chucklehead – insult, meaning a clown/jokester (which thus means “an idiot”).

Chump – a stupid fool, used same as today. “an easily deceived person; a sucker.” (dictionary definition)
— “i’ve weighed out bigger chumps than you, ya mug.” (questionable quote) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“don’t ya realize you’d be a chump not to cash in on it?” (talking about making someone do a good circus act idea) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Chunk of change, piece of change – amount of money, typically a large amount, you can still see this today but usually it’s in a phrase like “it’s no small chunk of change”.
“It’ll take a nice piece of change to square up everything”
(“it’ll take a lot of money to fix this”) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Cinch – used in the same way today except with a little wording difference. means “it’s simple/easy to understand/obvious”.
“so you think the chair’ll be the blow-up for me?” “It’s a cinch.” – “it’s obvious” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“the big show! playin’ the big cities! your name in thousand-watt Mazdas! no more worryin’!” “no more doublin’, all the clothes ya want!” … “it’s a cinch for ya, Tira!” (talking about doing something to make a lot of money)[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

(The whole) circuit – “an established itinerary of events or venues used for a particular activity” (dictionary definition)
“This is yer big chance. Forty units in deluxe houses! The whole Apollo circuit!” (40 units of film rolls in deluxe movie theatres, aka 40 Apollo theatres will show their “unit”) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

to clean (someone out), the cleaner’s – short for the dry-cleaners. “Take someone to the cleaner’s” and “clean someone out” are slang for “take all someone’s money or possessions; a crushing defeat on someone” (dictionary definition). Tends to mean — “after that I’ll have nothing left and be in a hopeless or depressing situation”.
“Twenty-five G’s. Twenty-five G’s. Well here’s where I go to the cleaner’s.” (needing 25,000 dollars which I can’t get, I’m screwed) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Well, that cleans me.” (said just after losing 100 dollars in gambling) [Smart Money, 1931]
— “Eh? Well that cleans me out, boys.” “Looks like I’m on the way to the cleaner’s too.” “Never say die.” (they’re gambling) [Smart Money, 1931]

Clean up – “get rid of”, ex. take them into the police or kill them
“If you clean up Rocko’s gang for me…” (questionable quote, a criminal talking to a policeguy, “if you arrest them all for me…”) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Clock (verb) – to hit
“…i wanna clock ‘im on the knob.” (I want to hit him in the nose) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Coin, dough, jack – money.
— “I’m quittin’. I beat’cha to that one by two seconds didn’t I.” “And you don’t get any coin either, get that.” “I ain’t got any coin comin’.” “What’dya mean?” “I took it when you wasn’t lookin’ and I beat ya to that by several hours, handsome.” (talking about getting a salary) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Bill, you gotta let me have some dough right away. … Ya fix me up with dough before morning or I gotta get outta town. … I want the dough and I’ll pay ya back as soon as I can.” (asking a guy for money to pay for a lawyer) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“You’re crazy if ya don’t grab this chance, it means a fortune to ya! Think of it, all the dough you can use!” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“i haven’t got the money on me right now, but i’ll tell ya what i’ll do. i’ll run a ride home and get the dough and, uh, bring it back with me.” (questionable quote) [Taxi, 1932  movie]

”he’ll be back pretty soon.” “probably beat it with the dough.” “don’t be silly, Buck. he’s the one real friend you have. besides me.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“This grease joint gets all my dough.” (eating hot-dogs at a hotdog fast-food place.) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“He offered me a job … on the government’s staff, lots more dough.” [Great Guy, 1936]
“Twenty-five G‘s. Twenty-five G‘s. Well here’s where I go to the cleaner’s.” “Well maybe I can do somethin’ about it.” “You mean raise that dough? What’re ya gonna do, print it?” (someone wants 25,000 dollars from him) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “Noo, you’d fall for anybody who spends jack on ya.” “Well he ain’t got no jack. He ain’t workin’.” “He ain’t workin’ but he’s peddling booze.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“That means ya won’t get a cent’a her jack. And if she’s worth what Joe thinks she is, yer passin’ up about thirty grand.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Clouds, handful of cloud – gun smoke (implying you’ll be shot to pieces). Also the novel title that the movie “The Doorway to Hell” (1930) is based on.
“if you don’t watch yer step, you’re gonna find a way ta treat yerself to a handful of clouds. … i mean the kind that comes outta a ‘38 automatic.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“Rocko and what’s left of Midget’s gang are waitin’ for you outside with a handful of cloud.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“That doesn’t sound so good. What’s the rap this time?” “A handful’a clouds. Pop, pop, pop.” “You don’t mean me, I got’a alibi.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Say… you don’t think that I handed Mitch that handful’a clouds, do ya?” (one guy is asking the other guy where he put the gun he lent him, after Mitch was killed) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Clowning around, clown around, clown, monkey around, kidding, kid, kidder – slight insult. joking or messing around.
— “the money that was in that box. i had  a hundred bucks in there and it’s gone. all but ten bucks.” “it is?” “c’mon, cut out the clownin‘, what’d you do with it?”
[Taxi, 1932 movie]
— “tell ‘im you were only kidding, Tom!”
(tell him you weren’t serious) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
— “Hmpf. I never monkey with kids.” (they’re asking him if he beat up this guy earlier in the day) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Come clean – not only used to tell someone to tell secrets/something they’re hiding, but also used like “stop beating around the bush”, “why don’t you just tell me what’s going on”.
Come clean. If yer in a jam, let me help ya. Ain’t I always been yer pal?” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Cops, the cops – police, policemen. Used the same as today.
cops just picked up Slick fer knockin’ over a guy and liftin’ his diamond ring.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“how ’bout the cops?” “you ain’t afraid of cops! there ain’t gonna be no trouble!” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“But as one little pal to another, I oughta warn ya I’ve got a couple’a other cops trailing us all set and ready to start pumpin’ you full of slugs if you make a move.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Waitaminute. Here’s a pass for the cop at the gate. Wouldn’t want you to have any trouble getting out.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Copper(s) – pennies.
— “Hey, you. Take this and go around the joint and see if you can get me some small change, I’m runnin’ short.” “Alright, Ma’.” …. “…Gimme all the coppers ya got.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Crack – used basically the same way as today, generally means a mean-spirited joke but can mean an insult/ “attack”. you can also modernly say “take a crack at something” to mean “try your hand at something / try a new thing (typically a skill)”
“what a fine lot’a yellow mutts you are!” “i didn’t get that last crack.” “didn’t ya?” “you mind letting me have it again?” “i’ll put it in writing if ya like.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Creep joint – illegal or shady business
“If I find yer steerin’ fer Mitch McCain’s speakeasy or any other creep joint, you’ll find yerself out on yer ear!” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Croaked, to be sauced, to get sauced – (to be/get) dead or killed.
“oh, yeah? he ain’t doin’ so good, you bettah look ‘im over.” “i think he’s croaked.” (talking about a guy he hit on the head with a full wine bottle) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“He’s dead, he’s croaked, he’s been sauced!” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Crook – a thief.
“I took it when you wasn’t lookin’ and I beat ya to that by several hours, handsome.” “Aw, once a crook always a crook.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Crust – nerve, guts, courage.
“You gotta lot of crust pinchin’ me and breaking the law.” (guy talking to a police office who took him to the station) [Great Guy, 1936]

A cut, to cut someone in – the amount of money/items that is rightfully yours because you did some of the work it took to get them. (verb) to include someone in on something good/exclusive (including “let me join this card game”).
“Oh, they ain’t gonna be so bad. And they won’t expect much of a cut.” (talking about enlisting the help of two guys to steal some furs so they can sell them) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“whaddoya want us for, Putty?” “somethin’ sweet. ‘member how i always said, when i got somethin’ good, i’d cut you in?” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Daffy, dizzy, nuts, screwy – crazy, going crazy. (still used today in “Daffy Duck”)
“I’m daffy tryin’ ta think up new ideas.” (complaining about being overworked) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “Do you know this dizzy dame?” “Yeah, I still have nightmares about her.” (talking about a woman who just burst in) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“i’m nuts about you, baby.” – “I really like you” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“What do you think I am, screwy? Stickin’ my head in a lion’s mouth!” (unclear quote) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Dame – a woman.
— “yer’s a good lookin’ dame, there’s a lotta guys who’s go fer you in a big way” (lady talking to another lady)
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “…dame sticks her beautiful head in a lion’s mouth!”
(talking about future ads for a circus) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “say listen, you. a better dame than you once called me a liar, and they had ta sew her up in twelve different places. you’re lucky i’m a little more refined than i used ta be. and if you was as much a lady as i am, you’d get outta here before i get real sore.”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Do you know this dizzy dame?” “Yeah, I still have nightmares about her.”
(talking about a woman who just burst in) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “When I get an idea, I do something about it.” “Hm. Most dames do.” (guy talking to a lady) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Deal – event, handover, used the same today in the second sense.
— “why do you know about that deal?” (this quote is talking about someone getting shot) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“who’s harassing who? i’m just askin’ for a square deal, that’s all.” (“i’m just asking for them to give me the truth about things”, about asking a witness questions and the witness lying) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“you all remember pop Riley and the dirty deal he got in the Consolidated.”  (pop Riley’s cab was smashed in when he refused to move to another place to do business) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Dick – detective.
— “Tell Harry to keep away from Mitch.” “Harry ain’t mixed up with Mitch. He ain’t got nothing to do with this booze racket.” “Well I ain’t sayin’ that he has. And I ain’t saying that he ain’t. ‘Cause I don’t know for sure. But the federal dicks have got McCain and the joint spotted. And somebody’s gonna take the rap.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Dirty – unfair, underhanded, (sometimes) not legal, corrupt, basically a type of person you hate. commonly seen today in something like “don’t play dirty, i want a clean game” (no tricks, no cheating)
“you all remember pop Riley and the dirty deal he got in the Consolidated.” (pop Riley’s cab was smashed in when he refused to move to another place to do business) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“A dirty rat kills Danny and you help him get away with it. You’re as bad as he is!” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Doc – Doctor

Doing time – spending time in jail as a criminal, used the same today.
“Well, baby, here I am.” “So I see. When’d they open the pearly gates for you?” “Yestaday. You glad ta see me?” “Sure, don’t I look it?” “And you ain’t sore?” “Why should I be? You done the time, not me.” (talking to a man who had been sent to prison) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Dope – information.
“Now get this. Somebody working among us has been giving Gladstone inside dope. Selling him my ideas. And for once I’m gonna put a stop to it.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Doubling, doubling up – to do two (or more, but heavily implied two) things at once.
“The big show! Playin’ the big cities! Your name in thousand-watt Mazdas! No more worryin’!” “No more doublin‘, all the clothes ya want!” (talking about “doubling up” on dates, meaning dating more than one person at a time to get lots of presents)[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Dovetail – watch over, coddle, etc.
“I can’t. I’ve gotta stay and dovetail all this catgirl stuff.” (talking about still having to manage performers at a theatre so he can’t go home yet) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Dry up – stop talking, as in “Dry up! – Be quiet!”. A little mean.

Drop (verb) – knock out, send unconscious
“As fast as you pick ’em up, I’ll drop ’em.” (talking about a guy he just knocked unconscious) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Drop in the bucket – a super tiny amount, insignificant
“I got the money ya wanted. And I mean a drop’in the bucket compared ta what yer gonna get.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Dump – “an unpleasant place”, typically dirty, with broken things, and not where a normal person would like to go. Used the same today.
— “Stood me up, didn’tcha. I parked outside that dump last night and thought my feet’d go up the sidewalk.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

What’s eating someone – What’s bothering someone. Used as in “Hey, what’s eatin’ you?” (What’s bothering you?).

Egg – a person. Still used the same today, in “he’s a bad egg”.

Egg someone on – to encourage someone to do something bad (ex. pick on someone, fight, or get revenge). used the same today.

”sure it’s swell for you to go on and egg people on ta break their necks. but wait ’til it hits home, then you’ll feel different!”  [Taxi, 1932 movie]

(time/number) even – o’clock, right on the hour.
Eleven even. C’mon, let’s roll.” [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Explain – tell. Or “explain to” but with “to” removed.
Explain him how it happened.” (tell the guy how it happened) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Fad – a thing that’s popular only for a short time. Used the same today.
“You remember when Majong was popular, don’tcha Harry?” “So what?” “It’s a fad.” (after seeing something about talking pictures verses silent films) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Fink – general insult. “an unpleasant or contemptible person, in particular a person who informs on people to the authorities”, “a strikebreaker” (dictionary meaning)
“you dirty, no-good fink, you crashed inta me on purpose!” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Now we gotta show those dirty finks, that they can’t take the bread an’ buttah outta our mouths. i don’t want trouble, and i know you don’t want none. but if anybody’s gonna come lookin’ for it, i’m not gonna sit back and take their gaff.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

To fire someone – to dismiss an employee from a job. Used the same today.
“There’s no use talkin’ Harry, Buck Rogers is washed up. When I fire a guy, he stays fired.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Firebug – an arsonist.
— “Firebug in a high hat.” (talking about a rich guy in a top-hat who he just caught setting some papers on fire) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Fizz water – seltzer or carbonated water, but at the same time it could be slang for alcohol. Generally when talking about alcohol they never actually mentioned the word, ex. they just called it something else (like “grapefruit water”) and you would infer what it actually was.

Flat – apartment. still used in some English dialects.
“say, whose flat is this?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Flatfoot – insult, refers to a policeman. [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Floozy – “A girl or a woman who has many casual sexual partners” (dictionary definition.)
“Was you out with that floozy?” “I don’t know what yer talkin’ about!” “I’m talking about her!” (mother speaking to her adult son). [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Frame (verb), frame-up – a set-up, “a conspiracy to falsely incriminate someone.” (dictionary definition). “to frame someone” is used the same today.
“I didn’t understand it myself until i found out it was all a big frame-up; keep me from leavin’ the show.” (talking about how someone came into her room and convinced her man she didn’t want to marry, without her knowledge) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Fresh – can mean “young”.
— “That’s how I manage. Of course, you won’t have to do that—you’re too fresh looking—they’ll go for you like a Texas hog goes for swill.” (two prostitutes talking, one old, one young) [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

Friends – Sometimes used to mean “bodyguards”.
“i don’t carry a gun, i’ve got friends”. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Frisk (verb) – to search a person/thing for an object they’re not supposed to have, ex. a gun or stolen item. Used the same way today, only today it’s only used for people.
“yeah, go ahead and frisk ‘im.” (police searching a suspect for a stolen ring) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Well anyway I’ve got his apartment address, we’ll haveta give it a quick frisk.” [Great Guy, 1936]

A front – probably short for “false front”, as in the kinds that used to be on businesses to make them look different/bigger than they actually were inside. means “a person or organization serving as a cover for subversive or illegal activities” (dictionary definition).
“why do ya wanna front fer us? we ain’t never done nothin’ fer you.” (in response to a guy who says he’ll help them out if they get into trouble) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Fuddle! – fiddlesticks, darn, “my plans are ruined”, that kind of thing.
“Tanglefoot’s watchin’, you’d betta order something before he starts ta bleat.” “Oh, fuddle.” (talking about how her manager is looking at them so they can’t talk properly) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Gaff – 
”rough treatment; criticism” (dictionary definition)
“i don’t want trouble, and i know you don’t want none. but if anybody’s gonna come lookin’ for it, i’m not gonna sit back and take their gaff.” [Taxi, 1932  movie]

Game, the game – the business/mafia. It’s the older word for “racket”.
“i’m quitting the game.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Well you jumped ship, now what’s yer game?” “Oh, just lookin’ fer a dame.” (saying he quit being a sailor, now what is he doing?) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Gate – door.
“The gate’s open” (then proceeds to open the indoor office door for him) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Gee! – exclamation. (not used extremely frequently, but common). meaning is like wow and geeze (in some cases). More often used by women and children, apparently not used by old people.
“Ooh gee, Tira, they’re beautiful!” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Hello, Tira! Gee, this is the first chance I’ve had ta talk to ya.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
Gee, that was a great idea you got.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Ohh, gee I gotta headache. … Gee, honey, darling, i hope yer father gets well.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

”Gee, doesn’t he know how ta make love?” (talking about a guy in a movie they’re watching) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Aww, gee, Sue, I can’t do that. i don’t wanna go against Matt. You know how he is. i don’t want him ta get sore at me.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
gee, i’m scared stiff.” “aw c’mon, ain’t nothin’ ta be scared of.” “that so, yer shakin’ yerself!” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Get this, Get a load of this/that – look at/pay attention to this.
“Gee, doesn’t he know how ta make love?” “you think he’s so hot? get a load’a this.” (then this guy kisses his girl) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

”hey. getta load’a that!” (someone handing someone else a newspaper so they can read the headline)  [Taxi, 1932 movie]
get this – Slacks comes ta me and tells me that Buck is in town.” (unclear quote) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Get even, getting even – to get revenge  for something. used the same today.

Gyp, gippery, gipped – can be spelled with either a y or i. Means “swindled, tricked” (not necessarily in a big way), and is most commonly encountered in modern times in the phrase “I got gypped!”. Usually refers to having paid money or done another service in exchange for something, when the payment ended up being unnecessary, the item received wasn’t what was expected in some way, or for example you bought a pizza to share with your friends but they sent you on an errand and then ate it all before you had a chance to have some. It probably derives from the word “gypsy”, which is the normal American word for Romani.
“Say, Ev, did you have to get a permit when you came to this town, before you could hustle on this side?” “Hell, no, that’s a lot of dirty gippery.” [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

To give someone the bird – “to flip a birdie”, to stick out your middle finger at someone (which is very offensive), to ignore someone because you’re angry at them or think they’re rude/bad. used the same today except “flip” is used instead of “give”.
“what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya? ya made me look like a heel in fronta all those people, they been givin’ me the bird evah since.” (talking about a girl who gave a speech) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Glad rags – fancy clothes.
— “Why all the glad rags?” “Got a sick girlfriend, promised I’d drop over.” “Oh, all downed up for a sick girlfriend, don’t gimme that bull.” (talking about how she can’t go out for dinner with him) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Burton’s goin’ ta Riley’s party?” “Says he’s got an invite.” “So have I. Just got enough time ta get my glad-rags on myself.” [Great Guy, 1936]

Go with – go out with, to date someone.
“i once cried coming home with Fitzy,  you know the guy i used ta go with.  Fitzy never got jealous or nothin’. He used ta say i was the nicest girl he ever went out with. he got mad once. a salesman, Louie Ganzeldorf, another fella i used ta go with…” [Taxi, 1932  movie]

Go up – go to jail, get arrested, go to court
“If Slick goes up he’s gonna drag me with him.” (talking about how they were witness to a robbery) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

To get someone’s goat – to irritate someone.

Greaseball – general insult to mean you’re a bad/slimy person (used the same way today). Although the dictionary says “a foreigner, esp. one of Mediterranean or Latin American origin”, I’ve never seen/heard it used like that.
“why you dirty greaseball…” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Grease joint – fast-food place.
“This greasejoint gets all my dough.” (eating hot-dogs at a hotdog fast-food place.) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Grub – food. Still used today but it feels like “your silly old dad’s speech” or speech for little kids.
“And skip yer dinner, I gotta thousand bucks’ worth of fancy grub commin’ up.” (talking about seeing him at his party later) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Gunning – to set one’s sights upon something, to aim at something. still used sometimes today.
“anyhow i can’t see why a girl has to take that run-around from any guy. husband or no husband. Ya know what i’d tell ‘im? i’d tell ‘im if he wanted ta go gunning for people he could get along without you.” (talking about how a guy is planning to kill someone) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Hack – “an inferior or worn-out horse”, “a horse rented out for riding”, “a taxicab” (dictionary definition)
“… they even offered ta buy our hacks from us.” “oh, yeah? well tell ’em ta rub it in their hair.” (two taxi drivers talking about a job offer from a different taxi group, assumably selling their old taxis to the company and getting better ones is the offer) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Hard – bad. can mean in a criminal sense or in a “bad feelings” sense. you can say “she’s gone hard” to mean she’s turned to a life of crime/turned into a criminal, or “hard feelings” to mean someone is upset/mad about something or someone. used the same today.
“…there’s no hard feelin’s.” “why, of course not. i shouldn’t want you to think unfriendly towards me.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Hardware, Gats, rods – guns. Doesn’t refer to any specific type.
“don’t bring any hardware.” “i don’t carry a gun, i’ve got friends”. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“About three months ago I got you a permit to keep a gun. You bought a thirty-eight, didn’tcha?” “Sure.” “Where is that gat now?” (asking him about a pistol) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Wouldn’t it be just too bad if you were found here stiff and cold, shot while committing burglary.” “You haven’t got nerve enough ta use that rod on me” [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Heat – guns, bullets, trouble. Modernly we still sometimes say “he’s packing heat” to mean “he’s carrying weapons”.
“how do ya like it, sucker. i outta give you a little’a that heat just fer luck.” (after pulling a trick on someone and revealing a gunman behind a previously-covered screen) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Heater (country slang) – cigar.
“I’d like a heater, Miss.” “Heater?” “Yeah, a cigar.” “Oh, haha. I’ve never heard them called that before.” (country guy talking to a city girl) [Smart Money, 1931]

The heat’s on – “the search is on for something”, people (particularly the authorities) are looking for something.
— “where’s Putty? we knocked off a –” “yeah, i know all about it. Putty Nose has beat it. You better lay low fer a while, the heat’s on.”
(they killed a police officer in the previous scene and now the police are looking for the criminals) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Heavy – important. used the same as “big”, only lesser used.
“i’ve got a heavy date” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

A heel – “an inconsiderate or untrustworthy person” (dictionary definition).
“i’ve got nothing to talk with you about.” “what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya? ya made me look like a heel in fronta all those people, they been givin’ me the bird evah since.” (talking about a girl who gave a speech) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Hit the hay – get into bed and sleep. Used the same today. “in the hay” means “in bed”.
“Where’ve you been?” “Oh, just foolin’ around.” “Well if yer not gonna hit the hay, go fool around somewhere else. I’m gonna get some sleep.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“I was in the hay, right after closin’ time.” (same guy as the quote directly above) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

To hold out (on someone) – To hide something good from someone (it can be anything – money, a good idea, a nice date, general information, etc.) Used the same today.
“Were you on the level when you were saying that Fraser and Ghoul were holding out on Mr. Kent?” (the two were pretending they make less money than they do, and not sharing the profits with the third guy who deserves them) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Hold up! – Wait! Stop! (can also mean pause)

Hooker – A prostitute, seemingly exclusively used for females but with no definite proof. Used exactly the same today.

Hook shop – Short for “hooker shop”, meaning a brothel.
“Hello, Honey,’ came the friendly voice of a heavy-set woman of about thirty… who now had begun to show what the excess of Men, Beer and Hook Shops, too numerous to mention, can do to a woman who had sold herself to any man with the price…” [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

To hop something – to get on something (typically a vehicle that you yourself aren’t driving), to seize an opportunity. used the same way today. “Hop to it” means “get working/moving”.
“I’ll hop that first train in the mornin’.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“This is a large order. Three prologues in three nights. We’re gonna work yer heads off, curse you and break your hearts. But by Saturday night, we’ll have what we want. All right, hop to it. [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“I’ll tell ya what ta do. You wait here and I’ll go up and put the works on her, huh?” Hop to it. I’ll be waitin’ for you.” (talking about a problem, paraphrased) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Hot – “hot stuff”, special, good, fancy, interesting, attractive, popular
, in demand (in a good or bad way – ex. if you steal something, the items are hot because the police is looking for them to get them back). used basically the same today.
“Gee, doesn’t he know how ta make love?” “you think he’s so hot? get a load’a this.” (talking about a guy on a movie screen who just complimented a girl and then kissed her, then this guy kisses his girl) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“i dunno what i can do with ’em, they’re hot.” aw, quit stallin’ Putty Nose. you know how ta sell ’em.” (talking about selling some items they stole that day) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

House – alternate word for “building” but generally used for establishments/businesses. Also slang for a cinema.
“Now you listen ta me. This is yer big chance. Forty units in deluxe houses!” (40 units of film rolls in deluxe movie theatres) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Hun – “honey”. Used as a term of endearment for all ages/genders, but most commonly young women. Still used today in some places (mostly the Southern US), but now commonly only used between a married couple.
“ya know hun, i’m gettin’ to the point where i ain’t as particular as i used ta be. i’ll marry any guy that’s got a clean collar and shirt. and if it comes to a pinch, i’ll marry ’em without the shirt.” (woman talking to her female friend) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“you ain’t never gonna get bargains like that again hun.” (woman talking to her female friend) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Hustle – Refers to doing some sort of illegal activity, usually meaning prostitution. A prostitute referring to themselves can also use it. Modernly
— “I got my permit today from the Chief of Police of Juarez, to hustle all I want on the Mex side, and I’m doing it, starting tonight.” (a prostitute talking about her own work) [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

In the money – Used like “rolling in dough” or “bringing in the money” is today. Means “in a profitable business” or “getting rich” etc, even if you aren’t exactly getting rich.
“You heard I was in the money.” “Exactly.” “Well what took you so long?” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Jailbird – someone who has spent time in jail.
“now if any wise-thinkin’ man can believe what a crook and a jailbird will say, then there’s nothin’ i can say that’ll make any difference.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

in a jam – in a “tight spot”, a difficult situation, a time when you don’t seem to have any options left. used the same today.
“you might take ’em there. i’ll call up to say yer comin’. … waitaminute. if ya get in a jam, give me a ring.” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Come clean. If yer in a jam, let me help ya. Ain’t I always been yer pal?” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Is he in a jam?” “What else.” “What’s the rap this time?” “They trimmed a sucker over in his joint last night and then dropped him in the alley.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Don’t you read the papers? This guy’s in a jam!” [Great Guy, 1936]

Job, to pull a job – to do criminal work, to pull a heist/etc. (as well as the normal meaning of regular work).
“Cops just picked up Slick fer knockin’ over a guy and liftin’ his diamond ring.” “You don’t mean he pulled that job on the lot here?” “Don’t worry, you’re safe.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Joint – place (as in a building/establishment/room, not anything outdoors). Can basically always be a substitution for the word “place”, especially “establishment/business”.
“Where’m I gonna put a stiff in this joint?” (talking about moving a dead body in a hotel room) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“…he tells me what a swell joint ya got here. you’ve done pretty nice for yourself. from a tent to a penthouse, haha!” (talking about someone’s room) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Joss house – Chinese temple. (Apparently a derogatory term nowadays)
“I pray to Buddha in the joss house / and Buddha, he bring back my bill” [Footlight Parade, 1931]

Keen – good. Not used very often.
“i’ll bet when ya see it you’ll think it’s the finest sword ever made.” “gee, it’s a peach!” “i told ya so, didn’t i? take a good look at it.” “gosh, it certainly is keen.” ….“isn’t it a pip?” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Kid, kid brother, kid sister – Used to refer to someone (usually) younger than you but can also be a friendly term for your friends. “kid brother” means younger brother.
(a guy walks in and sees his two adult friends in the room and says “hey, kids.”) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“‘allo, Sue. Sue I wantcha ta meet my kid brother, this is Danny. And you know Skeet.” “Sure.” “Listen kid, ya got a date tomorra night, keep it open.” (talking to a waitress, he is telling her she needs to go to a meeting he’s organizing tomorrow, his brother is an adult) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
— (used all the time to refer to the dancers and singers who work in the theatre, by their bosses) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Knob, Button – nose
“…i wanna clock ‘im on the knob.” (I want to hit him in the nose) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“you alone?” “i’m always alone, when i’m with Matt.” “what, you lookin’ fer a sock on the button?”
[The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

To knock off someone, to trim someone – kill someone
“where’s Putty? we knocked off a –” “yeah, i know all about it. Putty Nose has beat it. You better lay low fer a while, the heat’s on.” (they killed a police officer in the previous scene) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Is he in a jam?” “What else.” “What’s the rap this time?” “They trimmed a sucker over in his joint last night and then dropped him in the alley.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Knock over – hit someone (most often on the head) and causing them to fall over, the degree of the injury is left to imagination. “collide with someone or something, giving them a hard blow”, ” injure or damage by striking” (dictionary definitions).
“Cops just picked up Slick fer knockin’ over a guy and liftin’ his diamond ring.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

knock someone cold – make someone unconscious.
“Well I don’t blame you for being floored Mrs. Delano, because if anyone was to tell me that me my daughter was gonna marry anybody like me, why, it’d knock me cold for a week.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Knock someone for a loop, floor someone – extremely surprise someone
“Well I don’t blame you for being floored Mrs. Delano, because if anyone was to tell me that me my daughter was gonna marry anybody like me, why, it’d knock me cold for a week.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Lam – escape, flee (usually from the police)
“I told ya those bar-room tricks of yours would get us in trouble.” “C’mon, we’ve gotta lam.” (talking about how they accidentally killed someone) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Lamp – eye, lightbulb

“I just don’t wanna burn out yer otha’ lamp, that’s all.” (the guy he was talking to was blind in one eye) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“(Name), ya old palooka! I ain’t put a lamp on you since we fought those fifteen rounds in Jersey City!” (met a guy for the first time in a long while) [Great Guy, 1936]

The laughing academy – the madhouse

A large order – something really big.
“This is a large order. Three prologues in three nights. We’re gonna work yer heads off, curse you and break your hearts. But by Saturday night, we’ll have what we want. All right, hop to it.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Lay low – keep quiet and hide somewhere, don’t draw attention to yourself, cease any activity that might cause someone to notice you. typically because you did something bad and need to wait until people aren’t actively looking for you.
“where’s Putty? we knocked off a –” “yeah, i know all about it. Putty Nose has beat it. You better lay low fer a while, the heat’s on.” (they killed a police officer in the previous scene) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Lay off, Let them alone – “leave it/them alone”, “stop it”.
“Hey, lay off, ain’t ya got no respect fer the dead?” (talking to a guy stealing a ring from a corpse) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Lay off, Mitch.” “But why?” “Because i don’t like it.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Leak – When information that is supposed to be secret is known by your competitors, it’s called a “leak”. Used the same today.

Let’s roll – “Let’s get going”, “time to leave” (implying doing it rather fast but not hurridly). Used the same today.
“Eleven even. C’mon, let’s roll.” [Great Guy, 1936]

The level, on the level – the truth. still seen today in “i’m gonna level with you” and “level with me”.
“that’s on the level – that’s the truth. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“you’re on the level with that one, ain’tcha?” “Sure.” – you’re being truthful about it, aren’t you? yeah. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“i’ve got the face of a saint, on the level it ain’t paint” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“I suppose someone just dragged you to Mitch’s party.” “No I didn’t go to the party, on the level. [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Were you on the level when you were saying that Fraser and Ghoul were holding out on Mr. Kent?” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“You ain’t kiddin’ me are ya?” “I’m on the level.” [Smart Money, 1931]

Liable (gangster slang) – probable, going to. Used a lot in threats of “if you don’t do this….”

“something’s liable ta happen if you don’t show up” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

To lift, to pinch – steal. “Lift” xan also mean picking someone up without consent (such as taking someone to the police office) but that is more uncommon.
“Cops just picked up Slick fer knockin’ over a guy and liftin‘ his diamond ring.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“You gotta lot of crust pinchin‘ me and breaking the law.” (guy talking to a police office who took him to the station) [Great Guy, 1936]

Light (noun) – fire for a cigarette/cigar, either from a lighter or matchstick. Probably derived from “to light (a fire)”.
— “Alright, alright, you win. Gimme a light.”
(right before the other guy lights a match for their cigarette) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Live – Generally speaking, refers to “a person whose interest can be caught or awakened (by something we are doing)”. Pronounced “lah-eev”, as in “live performance”, not as in “lih-v” as in “he wants to live”.
“The best time to pick a live guy is about an hour before the bridge closes to-night, that’s when they are looking for a girl to spend the night with, and they ain’t too particular.” (two prostitutes talking) [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

Lowdown (adjective) – insult, means “lowlife”. Often used in “that dirty, low-down….” etc.

To make love, making love – to whisper sweet nothings (compliments), possibly in general to hold hands or kiss. today it only means “to have sex” but back then it didn’t go that far.
“Gee, doesn’t he know how ta make love?” “you think he’s so hot? get a load’a this.” (talking about a guy on a movie screen who just complimented a girl and then kissed her, then this guy kisses his girl) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Mazda, Mazdas – type of lightbulb
— “The big show! Playin’ the big cities! Your name in thousand-watt Mazdas! No more worryin’!”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Memory book – brain, or “to remember something”.
“Mr. (so-and-so) wants to see Mr. (so-and-so)” “Oh, I’ll put that in my memory book.” (meaning “I’ll remember that”) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Mex – Mexico. Possibly only used close to the boarder.
— “I got my permit today from the Chief of Police of Juarez, to hustle all I want on the Mex side, and I’m doing it, starting tonight.”
[1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

The mint – the government place that prints money. Used the same today. “Mint” itself means brand-new money, typically coins.
“Well don’t worry about me boys, my brother works in the mint.” (talking about how he’s losing at gambling but it doesn’t matter since he’s rich) [Smart Money, 1931]

Mob – criminal group/gang/gang faction
“you tell that mob’a double-crossers if they can take me, ta come down and try it. tell ‘em that the first one that comes down here’ll get a load of Florida sunshine inside and out.” (questionable quote). threat – “load of Florida sunshine inside and out” (shoot them full of holes – the movie took place in Florida)” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“now we’re all in one racket or another and lately there’s been a lotta double-crossin’ going on, one mob crashin’ inta another mob’s territory.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Mug, pan – slight insult, meaning “face”. Mug is also used as “person”, and when someone uses it, it implies they think the person is lesser than them or a bad/insignificant person.
“any mug that don’t think so, will be treated ta the swellest funeral that ever stopped traffic.”  [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“get these mugs outta here and i’ll talk to you alone” (questionable quote) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Now, there’s a lotta you mugs i never met before, so i thought it was about time we got togetha. Seein’ that i’ve been taking the rap for all the suckers you guys been pushin’ around the country lately.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “You can’t get away with this. Listen, mug, yer in a tough spot.”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “I’ve weighed out bigger chumps than you, ya mug.”
(questionable quote) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Oh yeah? You’ll be turned int’a rug. … C’mon, yer holdin’ up the works, ya mug.” (questionable quote) (talking to a lion who isn’t acting like it should in the circus performance). [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “watch that mug’s pan when they hand us that cup.” “how do ya like that, wise guy?” “anotha’ crack like that and i’ll wrap it around yer neck, mug.”
(being a sore loser in a dance contest and starts a fight) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Don’t worry Red, that ain’t fer us. That’s fer some mug what’s breakin’ the law.” (guy held “hostage” by some gangsters is hearing a siren driving near). [Great Guy, 1936 movie]
“How can we look prosperity when he’s got depression all over that pan a’his!” (complaining about how they need more pep) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Mussed up – messed up (more common to use messed today)

Necking – “(of two people) kiss and caress amorously: we started necking on the sofa.” (dictionary definition)
— “You was out neckin‘ with that Myrtle again last night, wasn’t ya?” (after the other person had said they had spent the night at the beach with her) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Nervous fingers – “the five-finger discount”, a person with these is prone to stealing.
“Old trouble with you, you get nervous fingers.” “Oh, I’m all washed up with that.” … “Alright, I’ll do somethin’ fer ya if ya promise ta keep yer hands in yer own pockets from now on.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

No kidding – Used the same today. Is a replacement for “you don’t say”, “I’m telling the truth”, and “are you serious?”, depending on the context.
“Joel’s in the hospital.” “Joe?” “No, Joel. Joel Green.” … “No kiddin’.” [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

(The) old man, old woman, old lady – can refer to someone’s parent. also used today to mean someone’s wife/husband.
“what’s yer old man gonna say when he hears how you’ve been talkin’. he’ll be ashamed’a ya.” (talking about someone’s dad) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“So, do we step out?” “Sure, but I gotta check with the old lady first.” “Oh, Mama’s little boy, huh?”

On its heels – “on thin ice”, in dangerous ground, barely surviving.
“the show’s walkin’ on its heels in this town” – [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“you forgot to tell these good people the only time i ever gave ya  money was when you got outta jail, you was broke and walkin’ on yer heels.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Paint – make-up
“i’ve got the face of a saint, on the level it ain’t paint (truthfully, it’s not make-up) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Pal – friend. Often used sarcastically, but not always.
“But as one little pal to another, I oughta warn ya I’ve got a couple’a other cops trailing us all set and ready to start pumpin’ you full of slugs if you make a move.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Say, what’s this run-around yer givin’ my pal.” [Great Guy, 1936]
“What do I do with ‘im?” “Go up and get ‘im, like a pal. Study his movements.” (talking about babysitting a cat) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“But as one little pal to another, I oughta warn ya I’ve got a couple’a other cops trailing us all set and ready to start pumpin’ you full of slugs if you make a move.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“if you don’t stop lecturing me, pal, I’m not gonna come up here anymore. Why don’t you get smart.” (criminal talking to a policeguy) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Come clean. If yer in a jam, let me help ya. Ain’t I always been yer pal?” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Palooka – (friendly insult) a fool, clumsy person, bad fighter, etc. Still used sometimes today but it has a really comical and outdated feeling to it.
“(Name), ya old palooka! I ain’t put a lamp on you since we fought those fifteen rounds in Jersey City!” [Great Guy, 1936]

Pansy – homosexual, gay. Modernly this simply means “a male weakling” or “a male coward” almost all the time.

The papers – the newspaper(s). Used the same today, except we say “paper” instead of “papers”.
“Don’t you read the papers? This guy’s in a jam!” [Great Guy, 1936]

A peach, a pip – compliment. “a gem”, “excellent”, a fine specimen. “pip” is short for “pippin” and literally means a tiny seed, like for oranges or lemons.
“i’ll bet when ya see it you’ll think it’s the finest sword ever made.” “gee, it’s a peach!” “i told ya so, didn’t i? take a good look at it.” “gosh, it certainly is keen.” …. “isn’t it a pip?” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

The pearly gates – actually refers to “the gates of heaven”, but can refer to letting someone out of jail.
— “Well, baby, here I am.” “So I see. When’d they open the pearly gates for you?” “Yestaday. You glad ta see me?” “Sure, don’t I look it?” “And you ain’t sore?” “Why should I be? You done the time, not me.”
(talking to a man who had been sent to prison) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

A picture – a movie/film (short for moving picture). Also meant a photograph. Used with “motion picture(s)”, “silent picture(s)”, “funny pictures (comedy movies)”.
[Mothers Cry 1930 theatrical trailer]
“and ’til he died up there i always pretended he was comin’ back ta me, just like in this picture.” (talking about a movie they’re watching) [Taxi, 1932  movie]

”…i’m going to the Winter Garden. they gotta picture there of Lil Dagover. i like the sound of her name, it’s got sex appeal.” (Winter Garden – a movie theatre). [Taxi, 1932  movie]
“People ain’t payin’ for shows no more. Talkin’ pictures, that’s what they want.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Oh Mister Kent! Do you like to look at funny pictures?” “What do you mean?” (she bades him to listen at the door where they can hear someone laughing while having a tryst) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “Old Mister Rivers?” “The man himself. I’m not a motion picture, Rick, haha.” [Smart Money, 1931]

Pidgeon – sounds like a “slightly useful person that is still sort of disposable”, needs more research.
“How long’ll it take?” “Oh, I gotta get Charlie, Joe, a couple’a pidgeons, a car. All of, uh, twunny minutes.” (police officer talking about bringing someone into the police office) [Great Guy, 1936]

A pinch – a difficult and stressful spot/situation. “if absolutely necessary” (dictionary definition). Used the same today, most commonly “in a pinch”.
“ya know hun, i’m gettin’ to the point where i ain’t as particular as i used ta be. i’ll marry any guy that’s got a clean collar and shirt. and if it comes to a pinch, i’ll marry ’em without the shirt.” (woman talking to her female friend) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Pins – legs

”…anyway, she’s got a nice pair of pins.” “i wouldn’t go fer that dame if she were the last one on earth. and i just got outta the navy.” (looking at a girl walking up steps) [Taxi, 1932  movie]

To plant something – to put something somewhere on purpose as part of a trick. used the same today.
“(paraphrase) I ought ta know where I put it, seeing as I left it there on purpose.” “Ya mean ya planted that stick?” (talking about leaving a cane behind in someone’s room) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Playing, play someone – acting, performing, treating someone like they are (a specific type of person), trick someone
“what are ya playinme the chill for all of a sudden, baby?” (guy talking to his girl) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “the big show, playin‘ all the big cities!”
(talking about performing in a popular circus) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “What construction did you place upon this woman’s treatment of you?” “Well, in plain words, I felt she simply played me for a good thing.”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Postal cards – postcards

Prologue – The short play or musical done right before a movie (obviously also meant a book prologue or whatever else). In the very beginning of the 1930’s these were still done in-person by actors/singers, and the movie theatre was also actually a real stage (the movie was just shown on a screen in front of the stage curtain). Source: “Footlight Parade”, from 1933.

To pull a bone – “to make a bone-headed move”, to do something really stupid
“then what’s the idea? i can say i pulled a bone in callin’ you up here, you’re not with us. besides, it’s no place for a woman.” (he called a girl to give a speech and she gave the opposite of what he expected) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

To pull something – to do something, to make something happen, to get away with doing something, implied something bad/stupid/a trick.
“what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya? ya made me look like a heel in fronta all those people, they been givin’ me the bird evah since.” (a girl gave a speech and said something very unexpected) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Pull up! – used to tell someone to park a car or to drive up and wait (ex. by the curb/sidewalk) without turning the car off. Also used to mean “pull forward”, as in “drive forward a bit”.
“hey buddy, pull up and let me outta here, will ya?” (talking to a stranger who boxed him in at a parking space) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Pusscat – pussycats (female cats). Tomcats was the version for males. source: “Footlight Parade” 1933.

To put someone up the river, to send someone up, to pick someone up – to send someone to prison. Not necessarily meaning they personally sent them (as a policeman) but ex. it can be used to say that they orchestrated some events that forced someone to commit a crime (which landed them in jail)
“Oh, you’d like me ta get sent up though, so you can have a free hand with the boys.” (talking about how one of them doesn’t want to go to jail) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “After they send ‘im up, poor Fitz, he never came out again.
” (talking about a guy who died in prison) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“If they pick me up I want you ta run this joint ’til I get back, see?” (talking about how he’s in trouble and might get caught by the police and sent to jail.) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Racket, the racket (mafia and police slang) – business, “an illegal or dishonest scheme for obtaining money”, “a person’s line of business or way of life” (dictionary’s definition). “Game” was the older word for racket.
“listen ta me, you coppah-hearted mug. I’m no thief. My racket is beer and you know it, I’m in a legitimate business I am.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“it’s too bad this here swell kid like you’s in this racket. why don’t ya get out of it while the brakes are in your favor. the best you’ll get is the worst of it. why be a sap.”

“now we’re all in one racket or another and lately there’s been a lotta double-crossin’ going on, one mob crashin’ inta another mob’s territory.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“all his teachers tell me he’s the perfect little gentleman, the head of every racket in his class.” – what does racket mean in this case? [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

— “war is a grand racket. i mean, war is a grand business.” (questionable quote) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“so did he tell ya yet, he’s really quittin’ the racket?” “no… i guess he’s savin’ it fer the blow-off. certainly gettin’ a great break.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“do ya think yer doin’ wise?” “whaddya mean, wise?” “oh, quittin’ the racket just when it’s all set and runnin’ pretty.” “darling, i love ya enough to give up anything. and i want ta get ya as far away from this hoodlum life as possible.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“ever take a crack at show business?” “no, that’s one business I never tried.” “you’d do great in that racket, y’know? out in front’a the tent, the big boss?” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “I’m quittin’ the show.” “Quittin’?!” “Yeah, I’m sick’a this racket.”
(talking about quitting the circus) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Marriage is a new kind’a racket fer me.”
[I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Now listen. I putcha in this racket, you know all the ropes now.”
[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “What’s the game now?” “Game? Tut tut, Sikes. Don’t be old-fashioned, the word is racket.” “I’m waitin’, smart guy.” “I’m the head mechanic around here. It’s my passion for machinery.”
[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Installment plan? That’s a racket!” “With you, everything’s a racket! Everyone’s a burglar, everyone’s a crook.”
(installment plan referring to paying in installments, such as “pay $20 per month for x months instead of the $300 all at once”. They were brought to popularity during the Great Depression since people couldn’t afford anything anymore, still working the same as they do today except that more things could be bought in installments, such as dresses.) [Great Guy, 1936 movie – source of the installment plan info is an old teacher of mine]

Rap, taking the rap – Used the same way today. Means reputation, a criminal legal charge, or to take the blame for something.
“Now, there’s a lotta you mugs i never met before, so i thought it was about time we got togetha. Seein’ that i’ve been taking the rap for all the suckers you guys been pushin’ around the country lately.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “What, and leave him up here for the cops ta find? I ain’t takin’ any rap for something you’ve done.”
(talking about a dead body in someone’s room.) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Because he helped me beat one rap an’ he can do it again.”
(talking about calling up a lawyer or something) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “That doesn’t sound so good. What’s the rap this time?” “A handful’a clouds. Pop, pop, pop.” “You don’t mean me, I got’a alibi.”
[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Is he in a jam?” “What else.” “What’s the rap this time?” “They trimmed a sucker over in his joint last night and then dropped him in the alley.”
[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Rat, turned rat – general insult, sometimes means traitor but basically means an all-around no good person. “a person regarded as despicable, esp. a man who has been deceitful or disloyal” (dictionary definition)
rats never travel alone”. – traitors come in pairs
 (talking about two guys who tried to kidnap one guy’s kid brother) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“A dirty rat kills Danny and you help him get away with it. You’re as bad as he is!” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“your penalty’s too good for that rat.”  (talking about how he doesn’t want a guy who killed his brother and did a lot of other bad stuff, to simply go to jail) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
— “come out and take it ya dirty yellow-bellied rat or i’ll give it to ya through the door!” (saying to come out of the closet or he’ll shoot through the closed door) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“all i’ve got to say, Tom, is that you’ve got a good job now. you don’t need these rats yer runnin’ around with.” (talking about him possibly being friends with petty criminals) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“You dirty, double-crossin’ little rat.” “Why, what’s the matter?” “You know what’s the matter. Freddie’s been cuttin’ in on my hooch and you’re in with him. And you bought ‘im with money that you got from me.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Ring, call up – call on the phone (still used in some English dialects)
“alright, you’ll ring me?” (lady talking to an operator on the phone) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“you might take ’em there. i’ll call up to say yer comin’. … waitaminute. if ya get in a jam, give me a ring.” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

The ropes, show someone the ropes – the way things are done, how everything works (particularly when talking about a job, business, “new thing”, etc.). Used the same today, except we normally say the full phrase.
“Now listen. I putcha in this racket, you know all the ropes now.” (you know how the business works and how we do everything and are familiar with it.)[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“I’ll be glad to show you the ropes around here. Come on and let’s get off here at the Tivoli and snatch a couple of shots of whiskey, and see if there’s a dollar to be made here.” [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

The run-around – a trick or, basically, a long series of unnecessary stuff that you have to do in order to actually get something done.
“anyhow i can’t see why a girl has to take that run-around from any guy. husband or no husband. Ya know what i’d tell ‘im? i’d tell ‘im if he wanted ta go gunning for people he could get along without you.” (talking about how her guy is planning to kill someone even though she says not to) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Say, what’s this run-around yer givin’ my pal.” “Mr. Riley, I’m not giving anyone a run-around. Just sitting here minding my own business.” (talking to a girl who told her fiancé she broke up with him but then shows up at his friend’s party and is watching him dance) [Great Guy, 1936]
“Listen you little baboon, who do you think you’re running around, some little pom(?) from the sticks? I wrote the book and I know all the answers.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Runner, a runner (noun) – someone who “runs” (does) errands, ex. sends messages, buys groceries for someone, etc.
“of course most of you guys knew me when i was a kid in short pants. a runner for a tough mob of south-side cannons. a punk who knew how ta keep his mouth shut.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Sandy Claws – Santa Claus (still used sometimes as a joke)
“I got the money ya wanted. And I mean a drop’in the bucket compared ta what yer gonna get.” “Oh, there is a Sandy Claws but why the/no great joy?” (unclear quote) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Sap (noun) – a loser, a fool
“it’s too bad this here swell kid like you’s in this racket. why don’t ya get out of it while the brakes are in your favor. the best you’ll get is the worst of it. why be a sap.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

— “what’s all the stink about, weddin’?”  “yeah, my brother Matt got married  this mornin’.” “Sap.” [Taxi, 1932  movie]
“He was sprung this afternoon. A sap jury found him not-guilty.” (talking about how someone is getting out of jail). [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Scram – leave fast, get out of here before something happens, “scramble away”, used the same today.
“I’ll trouble ya ta scram.” (I’m telling you to leave now) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“C’mon, scram, don’t start anything like that around here.” (telling someone to stop picking a fight at a dance contest) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Now you scram before I wrap a chair around your neck.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Screw – leave, as in “Screw outta here!”. Modernly it either means to have sex, or as in the phrase “screw it!”, it means “forget about it.
“You lousy bastard, don’t you ever set foot in this room again. You sure got nerve…. Screw—get out of my sight.” [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

To sell someone, to be sold – convince someone of something, change someone’s mind (implied because they now see it as something desirable). used the same today.
“Boys, I think ya got me sold.” (being convinced to do something she didn’t want to earlier because now she wants the tons of money she’d get from doing it) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Tricks – slang for performance work (for example, being on stage in a circus), but just like today, it usually refers to being a prostitute.
“Nuts—I’ve been in this burg a week, and all I done is turn Two Dollar tricks, and split with you, and for what?” (she’s a prostitute who’s only managed to get people to buy the inexpensive kinds of sex) [1932, “Hookers”, by Ray Bourbon]

Short pants – either means “shorts”, knickerboxers or the like, or refers to being too poor to have properly-fitting clothes. (unsure of definition yet)
“of course most of you guys knew me when i was a kid in short pants. a runner for a tough mob of south-side cannons. a punk who knew how ta keep his mouth shut.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Side – refers to a part of town/city. Some people still use this today.
“of course most of you guys knew me when i was a kid in short pants. a runner for a tough mob of south-side cannons. a punk who knew how ta keep his mouth shut.” (south part of town) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“whadya know about that surprise party on the south side?” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Silk hats, high hats – silk top-hats, “rich/fancy people”. The adjective “high-hat” means “getting conceited, getting an inflated ego”.
— “Are ya in the mood?” “For what?” “Silk hats.” “Ooh, I can get that way.”
(talking about a group of upper-class people coming to visit.) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— “Firebug in a high hat.” (talking about a rich guy in a top-hat who he just caught setting some papers on fire) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]
High-hat – conceited, an inflated ego, thinking you’re better than the rest.
“gettin’ high-hat, huh?” (in response to a girl saying she’s not like the rest of the carnies and she’s going to stay at a hotel instead of the campgroud) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

To let something sink in – “let that sink into your brain”, think about it for a moment, remember it. used the same today.
— “now let that sink in.”
(think about  that) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Skip out of town – leave town. Skip out means “don’t go on purpose to something you should” today so possibly it was used the same then.

Slug – bullet
“if ya feel so tough about it, why don’t ya go put the slug on someone else.” if you feel so upset over it, why don’t you use your gun and kill someone…(?) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“But as one little pal to another, I oughta warn ya I’ve got a couple’a other cops trailing us all set and ready to start pumpin’ you full of slugs if you make a move.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Slugger – “a person who throws hard punches” (dictionary definition). a violent person, someone who starts something violent (ex. a fight).

Smart, get smart – ?? also used as “quick, easy”.
“if you don’t stop lecturing me, pal, I’m not gonna come up here anymore. Why don’t you get smart.” (criminal talking to a policeguy) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“The big show, playin’ all the big cities! The silk hats, the Rolls Royce, the cars, the clothes, the jewels, the smart money!”. [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
— The movie title “Smart Money” (1931), which is all about gambling to get money fast.

Smoke, Stink – hubbub, commotion
“what’s all this smoke about a jail-break?” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “what’s all the stink about, weddin’?”  “yeah, my brother Matt got married this mornin’.” “Sap.”
[Taxi, 1932  movie]

Smokeglasses, smoke-glasses – sunglasses(?)
“…you don’t see me with a pair of smoke-glasses, do you?” “But you’ve got one bad eye…” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Smokes – cigarettes or cigars, smoked food (but most likely refers to cigarettes).
“i was just savin’ some smokes fer you. someone sent them back. but Sue said chances are you wouldn’t want fish. i can appreciate that.” (later it’s shown to be talking about a smoked fish) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

Snappy (adjective) – quick/fast. You still see this today, but usually reserved for the phrase “make it snappy”.
“alright boys, make it snappy. got a little news fer you fella’s and only a little while to let ya have it.” (talking to a crowd of gang members that needs to quiet down so he can give some news) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“C’mon girls, hurry up! Snap it up!” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Sob, sob story – something that makes you pity a person so you help them (typically when the person doesn’t really deserve it). a sob story is usually fake or exaggerated and someone who gives in and helps someone with one is seen as a fool. used the same today.
“Yeah…? What do ya figurin’ on doin’ fer a livin’?” “Hm, I don’t know. I’m sorta up against it. I thought maybe you’d…” “Oh, hmm, pullin’ a sob on me, huh?” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Sock – a hard/strong punch/hit
“you alone?” “i’m always alone, when i’m with Matt.” “what, you lookin’ fer a sock on the button?” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Get back you big stiff, or I’ll sock you.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Soft – (about people) fat

To spill the dirt – to tell one’s secrets. Today we say “spill the beans” instead.

Stand by – wait until further orders, etc. Used the same today.

The sticks – the countryside. Used the same today.
“Listen you little baboon, who do you think you’re running around, some little pom(?) from the sticks? I wrote the book and I know all the answers.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Squack, squacking – squealing. ?

Get spliced, make the leap – get married.
— “Say, you haven’t told me if our date is on or off.” “What date?” “Our date to get spliced!” (he was talking earlier about marrying her and settling down) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Sore – mad (still used today in some English dialects). we commonly still use this in the phrase “sore loser”.
“what are ya tryin’ ta do, get me sore so i’ll spill somethin¨?”- get me mad so i’ll confess to something. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Say listen, you. A better dame than you once called me a liar, and they had ta sew her up in twelve different places. You’re lucky I’m a little more refined than I used ta be. And if you was as much a lady as I am, you’d get outta here before I get real sore.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Well, baby, here I am.” “So I see. When’d they open the pearly gates for you?” “Yestaday. You glad ta see me?” “Sure, don’t I look it?” “And you ain’t sore?” “Why should I be? You done the time, not me.” (talking to a man who had been sent to prison) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“you ain’t sore ’cause ya wasn’t invited ta the weddin’, are ya?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“Aww, gee, Sue, I can’t do that. i don’t wanna go against Matt. You know how he is. i don’t want him ta get sore at me.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

the spot –  short for “in the spotlight”, meaning “to draw attention to” basically. Can also mean to interrogate.
“he isn’t gonna put me in the spot, is he?” – he’s not gotta call me out / do something to me / kill me, is he? [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“there isn’t enough money in the world to getcha off the spot you’re on right now.” to get you out of the trouble you’re in [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“I’m runnin’ this show, and if yer playin’ with me, find that skunk Harry and put ’em on the spot.” (talking about a guy he thinks has been stealing money) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

To get sprung – To get released from jail or a trap (with outside help). Still used the same today.
— “He was sprung this afternoon. A sap jury found him not-guilty.” (talking about how someone is getting out of jail). [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Let me use that phone and I’ll be sprung outta this trap in five minutes.” (a gangster talking about getting out of a police station) [Great Guy, 1936 movie]

Split up – break up, stop being together, stop being a couple/partnership/group. used the same today.
“you know, just because you and Matt are gonna split up, i can’t see why you have to move way up to the Bronx ta live. hey hun, why don’t you and i bunk togetha’ upstairs, just like we used to?” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

To stage – to put a play on stage (ex. help make or direct the play)
— “I’ve staged fifty musical comedies and I’ll stage fifty more.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

To stall, stalling for time – to do something unnecessary just because you are waiting for something (ex. a person to come in the door and save you, or you need time to think up an excuse). ” speak or act in a deliberately vague way in order to gain more time to deal with a question or issue; prevaricate” (dictionary definition.)
“aw, c’mon, quit stallin‘ Putty Nose.” (Putty Nose doesn’t want to give them money for something) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

To stand someone up, was stood up – You were supposed to meet (for a regular meeting or a date) and the other person didn’t show up and didn’t give any explanation or notice. Used the same today.
— “Stood me up, didn’tcha. I parked outside that dump last night and thought my feet’d go up the sidewalk.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Steamed, all steamed up – mad or excited (can include wildly in love, etc.)
“Any news?” “Nothin’ to get steamed up over.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“I understand you’re all steamed up about a Miss Vivian Rich.” (mentioning the girl he’s engaged to) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Stiff – insult, also “a dead body”. Sometimes means a body in general.
“Get back you big stiff, or I’ll sock you.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
Stir-stiff, stirstiff – insult. (unsure of definition)
“You dirty stirstiff, I oughta throw you fer that.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
“Well congratulations, ya lucky stiff!” (talking to an old friend who just said he’s gonna get married) [Great Guy, 1936]
“Oh, I’ve never seen such a lucky stiff.” (talking to a guy who just won at gambling) [Smart Money, 1931]
“Where’m I gonna put a stiff in this joint?” (talking about moving a dead body) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

To get something straight – To get something (typically a situation) correct (in your understanding of it), to clear up a misunderstanding. Used the same today.

Streetcar, street cars – trams, trolley cars
— “ain’t he workin’ on the street-cars, anymore?” “not sure. ya ding-ding in the daytime. goes ta school at night.” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Stroke – a one-time event or a small character trait in someone. still used today, but almost exclusively in “stroke of luck/fortune”.
“Done a good stroke‘a business!” (after they bought an item someone was selling) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Square, Square up, a square – fix a mess/misunderstanding, clean up, clean, a “clean person” who follows the rules/law. used the same today.
“It’ll take a nice chunk of change to square up everything” (talking about needing to pay money for services) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Who’s harassing who? I’m just askin’ for a square deal, that’s all.” (“i’m just asking for them to give me the truth about things”, about asking a witness questions and the witness lying) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“…and then you see you both owe me a month’s dues to the club, don’tcha?” “yeah, that’s right Tom!” “so we’re callin’ that square, see?” (they are selling something to him and he doesn’t give them the full amount because they owed him some money) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“oh, what do we want a couple’a young squares like them fer?” (why are you introducing me to young small-time criminals when i need ones capable of bigger stuff) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Oh, I can square that book. I’ve got the old lady eatin’ right outta me hand.” “I’ll tell ya what ta do. You wait here and I’ll go up and put the works on her, huh?” (talking about a problem, paraphrased) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Yer too square a guy ta do anything like that.” (talking about if he killed someone or not – it’s a compliment, not an insult). [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Sugar – money(??), excitement (as in “sweet things”)(??)
“I’m practically got that big-city sugar in my kick right now.” (everyone wishing him good luck at gambling in the city) [Smart Money, 1931]

Sweet – good, swell. used the same today (but used much more today).
“whaddoya want us for, Putty?” “somethin’ sweet. ‘member how i always said, when i got somethin’ good, i’d cut you in?” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Swell (adjective) – nice, good, great. not quite “fantastic”.
“any mug that don’t think so, will be treated ta the swellest funeral that ever stopped traffic.”  [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“it’s too bad this here swell kid like you’s in this racket. why don’t ya get out of it while the brakes are in your favor.”
swell person, isn’t she.” “rather.” “i’m so glad we met her.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“…he tells me what a swell joint ya got here. you’ve done pretty nice for yourself. from a tent to a penthouse, haha!” (talking about someone’s room) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“Say, I’m throwin’ a big party tonight…. Oh it’s gonna be a swell blow-out, with all the trimmin’s, gonna make a speech too.” (says a guy who is going to leave for England soon) [Great Guy, 1936]
“Frankenstein. Swell idea for a unit.” (good idea for an act that will be recorded onto film) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“I wouldn’t ask ya for it if I didn’t have ta have it. Gee you’re a swell fella.” “Glad ta do it baby, glad ta do it.” (guy just gave her some money) [Smart Money, 1931]

To stick around – used the exact same way today. “to stay”.
“i’d like ta stick around, but…” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Squirt – nickname for a young person (doesn’t have to be a child), used the same today except for the age difference. Possibly used only for men, but I’m not sure.

The trembles – “weak in the knees and trembling” due to love, to be in love with or have a crush on someone.
— “I suppose you’ve got the trembles for that Jenny dame.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Straight, get something straight – used exactly the same way as today as in “to clear something up”, “to clean up a mess”.
“Waitaminute, now waitaminute, let me get this straight!” (a guy didn’t know he was making out with someone’s wife and the husband came in and started accusing him of stuff) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Strand – beach. (probably a loanword from Germanic-Nordic languages, ex. beach is also “strand” in Swedish)
“Boys, yer names’ll be up in lights from the rock-bottom coats of Maine to the sunny strands of California!” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Strongarm, strong-arming – manhandling, “using or characterized by force or violence” (dictionary definition.)
“You don’t remember strongarming this fellow this afternoon and stealing his papers?” (the guy was picked up, flipped over, and his head was hit against the wall so he passed out and got really dizzy) [Great Guy, 1936]

Sucker – insult. Used the same way today, it’s a name to call someone who fell for a trap. “a gullible or easily deceived person.” (dictionary definition). In this time period it was also used to (meanly) refer to the customers who visited attractions such as circuses.
“how do ya like it, sucker. i outta give you a little’a that heat just fer luck.” (after deceiving someone to think he was unprotected/unarmed) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Now, there’s a lotta you mugs i never met before, so i thought it was about time we got togetha. Seein’ that i’ve been taking the rap for all the suckers you guys been pushin’ around the country lately.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“i see i’m gettin’ plentya ice.” “what’d you expect, a brass band?” “i suppose i am a sucker for coming back for more punishment.” (his girlfriend is trying to ignore him and not look at him) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
“you can’t make a sucker outta me, you or nobody else. for two cents i’d knock the ears offa ya.” (talking about how someone made him look like an inconsiderate fool) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
— “i was afraid you might’ve brought Mike with you.” “ah, that sucker. he’s too busy goin’ ta school. he’s learnin’ how ta be poor.”
[The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“Is he in a jam?” “What else.” “What’s the rap this time?” “They trimmed a sucker over in his joint last night and then dropped him in the alley.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Surprise party – surprise attack
“whadya know about that surprise party on the south side?” (what do you know about the drive-by shooting that happened on in the south part of town?) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Sweetheart – used between people you think kindly towards (same as “pal, buddy, kid”) such as someone you’re trying to hit on (pick up for a date) or someone you’re dating. even used between two male friends, but i’m not sure yet if that’s only in a joking manner.
“it’s a cinch. how do ya think you’ll like the hot sea?” “i don’t think i’ll mind, sweetheart, if i can have you sittin’ on my lap.” (a guy talking to a policeguy) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Oh, we’ll go into that later, sweetheart.” (male talking telling a male coworker not to worry right now) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Swig – a large mouthful of drink. used the same today.
“give us a swig.” (then they take a drink out of a milk pail) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Take someone along – take them away (ex. assumed to the police station/car/jail if it’s the police)
— “C’mon, c’mon, take him along.”
(policeguy talking to other policemen dragging away a criminal they just caught) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Tickled pink – pleased.
— “Gee, Mitch, I’m tickled pink.”
[Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]
— “Buck’ll be tickled pink. I’ll skip down and tell him right away.”
(about Buck getting his old job back) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Tin cans – slang for the containers that the reels of film come in.
— “They deliver the show in tin cans and we got nuthin’ ta worry about.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Tomate juice – (pronounced “tom8 juice”), tomato juice.

Tomcatting – trying to get dates with women, “strutting one’s stuff (if you’re male)”
— “C’mon, where was ya tomcattin‘ around last night? C’mon, c’mon, think fast.” “I wasn’t tomcattin‘ noplace.” “Was you out with that floozy?” (mother speaking to her adult son). [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Tough – upset, mad, difficult, bad (the last two meanings are used exactly the same way today). “Tough luck” also existed then (a little difficult to describe, “tough luck” doesn’t simply give the feeling of “bad luck” but also implies something like “bad luck that I can’t help you with and is your problem, I don’t care about it either”).
“if ya feel so tough about it, why don’t ya go put the slug on someone else.” if you feel so upset over it, why don’t you use your gun and kill someone(?) (advice to a guy wanting payback) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“You can’t get away with this. Listen, mug, yer in a tough spot.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

A train of thought – a series of ideas or flow of thinking, a thought pattern on a subject, sometimes the said to show beginning of one’s change of opinion or forgetting what you were planning to say. used the same today.
“You have started a new train of thought in my mind.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Trap – mouth.
“You keep yer trap shut!” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

The twenty-four sheets, the 24 sheets – paper for billboards, the overall size is about 9 by 20 feet and instead of one huge roll of paper/canvas it was printed on multiple panels, then stuck together to cover the billboard. Presumably named because it’s 24 times larger than a “one-sheet” (which is 27 inches wide by 41 tall – source is “collecting basics” one and two).
“Can’t ya just see it? The twenny-four sheets. Dame sticks her beautiful head in the lion’s mouth.” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Under one’s belt – in one’s experience, something you’ve done in the past. Used the same today.
“…that’s another performance under my belt and I’ve still got the face.” (just finished a circus performance and didn’t get eaten by a lion) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Under one’s hat – secretly.

Unit – refers to something to do with the people who act in films (need to research)
“Frankenstein. Swell idea for a unit.” (good idea for an act that will be recorded onto film) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Now you listen ta me. This is yer big chance. Forty units in deluxe houses!” (40 units of recordings of an act, sent to deluxe movie theatres) [Footlight Parade, 1933]

Us – used by some low-class/ill-educated people to mean “me”
“give us a swig.” (give me a drink) [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
“give us a little kiss, huh?” [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]

Warm – has romantic feelings for someone
“you know, there never was a dame like you.” “aw, ferget that.” “okay. but I just want’cha ta know i’m still warm for ya, baby.” (guy talking to a girl he used to date) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

Washed up, all washed up – through with something, not good for anything anymore. Used the same today.
— “Old trouble with you, you’ve got nervous fingers.” “Oh, I’m all washed up with that.” “Yeah…? What do ya figure on doin’ fer a livin’?” (unclear quote) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
—”There’s no use talkin’ Harry, Buck Rogers is washed up. When I fire a guy, he stays fired.” [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

What’s the idea? – what’s the big idea / what’re you doing / why are you doing this.  [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“…nevermind what’s the idea” – nevermind why/what for [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“then what’s the idea? i can say i pulled a bone in callin’ you up here, you’re not with us. besides, it’s no place for a woman.” (“why are you doing this?” he called a girl to give a speech and she gave the opposite of what he expected) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
what was the idea pullin’ that line last night? you thought yer pretty smart breakin’ up the meetin’ like that didn’t ya? ya made me look like a heel in fronta all those people, they been givin’ me the bird evah since.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

What’s up? – “what is happening”, “what is going on”, used mostly the same today.
— “what’s the matter, ma? (he came home and his mom is crying, he turns to someone else in the room) what’s up?” “Mike enlisted (into the marines and the World War)”. [The Public Enemy, 1931 movie]
— “What’s the matter?” “I’ve got ta have some money right away, (name).” “Well, what’s up?” [Smart Money, 1931]

Wonderman, superman – a man who can make more things possible than normal men (ex. finishing something within an impossible time limit). “Wonderman” was more used as a general insult.

Work, work someone over – to do something to someone that requires effort and makes them change their mind about/do something, ex. interrogating/charming someone so they tell secrets or buy something for someone.
“I’ll work them cats like they’ve never been worked before.” (talking about putting a show on at a circus to get people to pay money to see them) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

The works – the operation, the run of things, how something is supposed to go. “give them the works” is like “give them the entire thing” and basically “give them all your attention” (in a good or bad way)
“C’mon, yer holdin’ up the works, ya mug.” (talking to a lion who isn’t acting like it should in the circus performance, so she has to waste time riling it up). [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]
“hey Tom, here’s one of ’em now, let’s give ’em the works.” (talking about driving up next to a taxi cab and smashing into it) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
give ’em the works, and if he squawks, say it was an accident.” (the guy is told to crush the car of the other guy) [Taxi, 1932 movie]
— “Oh, I can square that book. I’ve got the old lady eatin’ right outta me hand.” “I’ll tell ya what ta do. You wait here and I’ll go up and put the works on her, huh?” (talking about a problem, he’s going to convince his mom of something. Paraphrased) [Sinner’s Holiday, 1930 movie]

Yellow – insult. traitor, coward (today it’s a racist way to call someone Asian)
“what a fine lot’a yellow mutts you are!” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
(two men joke about giving yellow flowers to a traitor for his funeral.) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
— “come out and take it ya dirty yellow-bellied rat or i’ll give it to ya through the door!”
(saying to come out of the closet or he’ll shoot through the closed door) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

 

xxxxxxxxx

Phrases:
“how’s every little thing?” “how’re you gettin’ on/along?” / “well, yes and no…” “not so hot…” “okay” “just swell” (how’s it going, how are you? so-so, bad) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie] [Taxi, 1932 movie]

“i only know that (name) wasn’t much good” – wasn’t a good guy [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“who’s gonna make ‘em good? that’s what i wanna know.” good – pay / make it up. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

funeral that stops traffic – sometimes used as a threat.
“any mug that don’t think so, will be treated ta the swellest funeral that ever stopped traffic.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
(pic) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

 

xxxxxxxxxxxx

Slight wording differences:
there/that used more than here/this
“look right there! look at that! (at this tarot card right in front of us on the table) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Look here, you can’t back out on me like that!” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

“tell him i wanna see him a minute, will ya?” (for a minute) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Sue can i talk to ya a moment?” (for a moment) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

“roll” of bills/dough, instead of wad [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“i can hardly believe it.” – i can’t believe it. [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“I might’ve known it” – I should have known it [Footlight Parade, 1931]

sure (yes), grand (good), and so long (bye) used a lot more than we do today. so long isn’t necessarily like “farewell (won’t be seeing you for a while”) but is also used like that too.

“will ya have a cigarette?” instead of “would you like/do you want a cigarette” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“boys” used to mean “you guys” and “my gang” or a crowd of men, any group of men basically.
“the boys are outside”. (talking about friends from the mafia) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“you boys let me have this room to myself”. (policeguy talking to co-workers) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]
“Hiya Kent!” “Hello boys.” (guy coming into a room full of other older guys) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
— “Eh? Well that cleans me out, boys.” “Looks like I’m on the way to the cleaner’s too.” “Never say die.” (grown men are gambling) [Smart Money, 1931]

“no place” and “someplace” in some cases used where today we’d say “nowhere” and “somewhere”.
“what’d you come up here for?” “to say goodbye.” “where ya going?” “noplace. but you are.” [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

fudge-drunk – extremely drunk
 [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

“one flight up, in the front” – i’m on the second story (up one flight of stairs), facing the street(?) [The Doorway to Hell, 1930 movie]

Habit – “that guy’s a habit with you, honey.” – she sees him for no good reason, she just keeps seeing him because it’s a habit and not because she likes him. [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

“Never forget honey, don’t let one man worry your mind” – [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

“give it here” instead of “hand it over” [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

“Now listen honey, there’s a little somethin’ I wanna talk over wit’cha.” (I want to talk to you about) [I’m No Angel, 1933 movie]

awfully – used instead of “really”. “you’ve been an awfully good friend to me.” [Taxi, 1932 movie]

what for – used often instead of “why” in questions.
“hey guys, you can turn right around and bring that stuff right back up here again.” “what for?” (talking to moving men) [Taxi, 1932 movie]

“so what?” – used the same as today, just as sarcastically too.

“What’s that to you?” = how does that concern you, “how is that any of your business?”

 

threats
Ears used relatively a lot in threats where we use other body parts (neck, behind, etc.) today – such as “you’ll be out on your ear” (you’ll be out on the street), “I’ll stand him on his ear” (I’ll make him be out of a job), “another move outta you and I’ll pin yer ears back”.
“I’ll take care of you later.” (implying she’ll beat them up or something)
“Now you scram before I wrap a chair around your neck.”

 

insults:
“he’ll wind up jerking sodas when he runs out of ideas”
“hey Fanny” (said to a fat lady, but that wasn’t her name)
“Say, what’s the name of that guy who built the monster he couldn’t stop?” “Frankenstein.” “Shake friends with his Aunt Emma” (meaning ‘greet this one annoying guy’s annoying aunt named Emma’) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“I’ve thought of a thousand ideas, and every one’vem is moth-eaten.” (meaning his ideas are no good.) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Outside. As long as they’ve got sidewalks, you’ve got a job.” (spoken to a lady) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Is there anything I can do?” “Yeah. See that window over there?” “Yes.” “Take a running jump and I think you can make it.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“I don’t care if you wrote the doxology, Mr. Kent won’t see anyone till Monday.” (obviously they didn’t really write a doxology) [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Chester, it’s like being in jail!” “Sorry dear, better get used to it.” “She is used to it.” “What about our engagement ring?” “I’ll get it for you Saturday night.” “I wouldn’t beef about being locked up with the man I love.”
“Waitaminute. Here’s a pass for the cop at the gate. Wouldn’t want you to have any trouble getting out.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“Listen you little baboon, who do you think you’re running around, some little pom(?) from the sticks? I wrote the book and I know all the answers.” [Footlight Parade, 1933]
“C’mon, breeze! And when ya go out that door, take the welcome sign off it.” [Smart Money, 1931]

 

 

terms of endearment (or not) –
honey, dear, darling (unisex: could be used for friends or coworkers too), baby (unisex, didn’t necessarily mean that you liked them a lot but often did), handsome (for men, sometimes used as a joke between men), sister, papa (possibly just if he’s your boss)
“Say, yer a cute little trick. Anybody ever tell ya that?” “Not yet.” (guy hitting on a lady) [Smart Money, 1931]

Words for groups of people:
men: boys, fellas
women: girls, ladies, dames, sister, filly (only said when no women are around?), skirts (also a bit rude?), girlie
unisex: kids, gang, children

List of best movies to get a feel for the era:
– Great Guy (1936) – For background places – grocery store, gas station, etc. Also good for “gangsters who talk more normally” (not full of slang), so you can focus on the intonation and pronunciation of speech instead of the vocabulary.

– Footlight Parade (1933). It shows the inside of a movie theatre, various offices, an apotek/pharmacy, a normal bus, various performance costumes, etc. It’s also has less slang than gangster movies.

Misc. notes:
– Common quick breakfast or dessert: a grapefruit sliced in half, eaten with a spoon, held inside a sort of large wine-cup like dish and surrounded with ice to keep it cool.
– When they wore stockings it was about three layers of the same type of stocking, it wasn’t just one pair.
– A dress didn’t automatically make a woman feminine, but if it was a fashionable dress then it did.
– Tickets to a play were five dollars in the early 30’s, tickets to a movie were 25 or 50 cents. Movie theatres and tickets ranged from cheap to fancy, Apollo was fancy.
– You had to go to a pharmacy to get aspirin and it came in a little metal container about the size of a contact case. If you were taking some, people would probably joke that you had been drinking.
– When you picked up the phone there was always an operator and you told them who to call not based on a phone number but based on their physical location.
– People took cabs a LOT in Hollywood movies, almost none of them owned their own car (although they might take care of company cars) and those who did own their own were usually really rich (ex. doctors).
– They often showed foreigners as the management of restaurants, as investors, as rich people, and as composers.
– Yes, people knew that gay people existed and they would notice if something seemed “gay” (watch Footlight Parade for one example).
– They mixed up all sorts of stereotypes and cultures and didn’t care. Ex. playing Egyptian music when Chinese people are supposed to come on stage. It was just a form of entertainment, it wasn’t supposed to be correct in any way. They also didn’t see anything wrong with dressing up white people as black people (or slaves) for entertainment, ex. variety shows and dances.
– Everyone knew how to play some sort of instrument. Everyone. Most common seemed to be piano.
– Yes, girls did wear shorts. Especially performers. They almost never wore trousers though, especially if they were ex. going to work (since work required nice clothing from both genders in most cases).
– Some businesses kept clean spares of clothing for their workers in case they had to stay overnight.
– People would switch dialects (or “socialects”) depending on politeness level. The way you talked among friends was not normally the way you would talk when around strangers, when being polite, or when around rich people. Not just the words, but the actual pronunciation changed. Gangsters were less prone to switching than normal people, and just talked rudely everywhere (so I gather from movies anyway).
– Yes, there were escalators. There were even escalators in the 20’s, at least.
– Yes, there was waterproof lipstick.
– Bicarbonate (dissolved in water and drank) was used to try and help indigestion.

Dirty things were usually just alluded to, whether due to censoring or due to people just never talking so directly I don’t know:
While not mentioning anything about sex and acting like the couple is going straight to sleep, turning the light off and panning over to a picture of a baby.
Naughty book = pornography (but it probably didn’t have pictures, or many pictures, just like women’s romance novels today.)
“Seeing all these girls gives me a lotta ideas.” “Well don’t let them keep ya awake.” (guy talking to another guy)
“There’s a magic melody mother nature sings to me” (they kiss, then pan up to a bird, then some chicks appear – it’s part of a musical)