Flapper Satire: The Deb’s Dictionary
The Deb’s Dictionary (SOLD) is a charming satire of flapper life by Oliver Herford, the author of Sea Legs, a similar book recently featured in this blog. “Deb” was a 1920s slang term for “debutante”, and Herford’s dictionary skewers the pretensions and behavior of young upper-class men and women and the popular culture of the Jazz Age. Herford illustrated The Deb’s Dictionary himself, and the book is now uncommon in the colourful dust jacket that he designed.
Below, a selection of illustrated terms from the dictionary.
For another humorous dictionary see “The Original Slang Dictionary: Francis Grose’s Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” (SOLD)
Ambidextrous: Not letting your right hand know who is holding your left hand.
Beach: (Baileys) A place where the knee-plus-ultra of Society have their legs photographed for the Sunday papers. [Cataloguer’s note: Bailey’s is an elite private beach club in Newport, Rhode Island.]
Bloomers: A conspicuous item of feminine apparel. See also underskirt.
Chivalry: The High Resolve of every man to protect every woman against every other man.
Cinder: A mythical substance that gets into a Deb’s eye in a Pullman car and can only be removed with male assistance.
Cocktail: Prohibition’s most notable contribution to the Sophistication of America’s boys and girls.
Coyness: Provocative modesty. Go away closer. Pull it down higher.
Duel: The highest compliment possible for two men to pay one woman.
Heart: The organic ticker that registers the flurries and fluctuations of emotion in Love’s Stock Exchange.
Joint: A get-together place. A knee-joint. An elbow-joint. An uptown joint.
Melody: The Bogey of modern music.
Modesty: The gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.
Rag: A bit of gladsome chiffon doing its best to stick around a frisky sub-deb at a fraternity dance.
Television: An invention to prevent fibbing on the telephone.
Zephyr: A naughty, flirtatious breeze.