Advertisement

Pleasantries of the past

Pleasantries of the past
Getty Images

Language changes over the years and nowhere is it more apparent than looking at the slang that was popular in each era. While some words and phrases endure from generation to generation, more is lost—which means there are a lot of fun, cute, and sweet compliments gathering dust in old dictionaries. (What’s a dictionary, again?) So we rounded up some of our favourite praises from earlier days.

“He’s bang up to the elephant!”

“He’s bang up to the elephant!”
Getty Images

Victorians who wanted to say someone was so complete, so well-rounded, that they were almost perfect, would compare them to…an elephant. Elephants were still relatively rare and novel in Western society then and elephants are known for being very smart and thoughtful so we guess it makes sense? Just don’t suggest a person looks like an elephant.

“You’re butter upon bacon!”

“You’re butter upon bacon!”
Getty Images

Know what’s delicious? Butter. Knows what’s even better? Bacon. Apparently Victorians agreed with our modern-day low-carb love affair with the two foods because this was the ultimate compliment back then. (Personally, we’ve not tried cooking bacon in butter—but now we want to!)

“He’s cooking with helium!”

“He’s cooking with helium!”
Getty Images

Back when jitterbug, swing, and the Lindy Hop were all the rage, dancing was as much a display of skill as a chance to socialise. In the days before online chats and dating apps, heading out to the dance hall was one of the best (and only) ways to meet that someone special. One way to compliment someone’s dancing was to say this, implying they were lighter than air.

“The brightness of her cheek would shame the stars!”

“The brightness of her cheek would shame the stars!”

It seems the modern trend of having glowing skin and rosy cheeks extends back to the days of Shakespeare when Romeo said this about Juliet. Even 400 years later, this sweet compliment might make a girl blush.

“You’ve got it made in the shade!”

“You’ve got it made in the shade!”
Getty Images

While throwing shade today is slang for subtly insulting someone, back in the 1950s shade was a good thing. Telling someone they had it made in the shade meant they’d achieved a really nice, easy life—akin to living on a shady beach on a tropical island somewhere.

Advertisement

“He’s a truepenny, always straight-fingered!”

“He’s a truepenny, always straight-fingered!”
Getty Images

If this sounds a little Oliver Twist to you, then you know your Dickensian slang! In the Victorian era, honesty and integrity were prized above many other desirable traits. Telling someone this today is still a lovely testament to their strong character.

“She’s a brick house!”

“She’s a brick house!”
Getty Images

“She’s a brick house/ mighty, mighty, letting it all hang out.” When the Commodores sang in 1977 about a lady built like a brick house, it became an instant classic. This derivation of a slang phrase described a voluptuous woman who was also tough and strong, traits many modern ladies still strive for.

Take a look at these 12 funny words added to the dictionary in the last decade.

“He’s such a dreamboat!

“He’s such a dreamboat!
Getty Images

Dreamboats—hunky men and beautiful ladies—were staples in classic movies from the 1950s. Can’t you see Doris Day or Marilyn Monroe gushing over Rock Hudson or Cary Grant? Telling someone they’re “dreamy” is a sweet now as it was then.

“Jeepers, ain’t she a swell bird?”

“Jeepers, ain’t she a swell bird?”
Getty Images

The 1940s were prime time for fun slang and this World War II-era compliment is calling out an amazing girl. Birds are cute and fun and swell, which definitely sounds like a good thing. Bonus points if you can exclaim “jeepers” while whistling through your teeth.

Never miss a deal again - sign up now!

Connect with us:

Reader’s Digest Magazine delayed due to coronavirus
Please be advised that due to the current lockdown in Malaysia and the Philippines, Reader’s Digest magazine will not be available at its regular on-sale date to our subscribers or through our retail channels in these regions. We hope to have the issues available around 15 April in Malaysia and around 24 April in the Philippines, but this is dependent on when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience.
Thank you and stay safe!
– The Reader’s Digest team