Cab’s Dictionary of Jive

Bobby White, an excellent writer, leader, and P90X follower, alerted me to Cab Calloway’s Dictionary of Jive. I realize that I say a few of these things anyways and feel like I should adopt a few more of these and see if I can influence my students to pick up some of the words/phrases as well. Here’s a list of the one’s I’ll try and focus on for the next few months (and please click here and see the entire list).


* A hummer (n.) — exceptionally good. Ex., “Man, that boy is a hummer.”
* Alligator (n.) — jitterbug.
* Barbecue (n.) — the girl friend, a beauty
* Battle (n.) — a very homely girl, a crone.
* Beat (adj.) — (1) tired, exhausted. Ex., “You look beat” or “I feel beat.” (2) lacking anything. Ex, “I am beat for my cash”, “I am beat to my socks” (lacking everything).
* Beat it out (v.) — play it hot, emphasize the rhythym.
* Beat up (adj.) — sad, uncomplimentary, tired.
* Bible (n.) — the gospel truth. Ex., “It’s the bible!”
* Blow the top (v.) — to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”
* Bring down ((1) n. (2) v.) — (1) something depressing. Ex., “That’s a bring down.” (2) Ex., “That brings me down.”
* Cat (n.) — musician in swing band.
* Chick (n.) — girl.
* Chime (n.) — hour. Ex., “I got in at six chimes.”
* Cogs (n.) — sun glasses.
* Collar (v.) — to get, to obtain, to comprehend. Ex., “I gotta collar me some food”; “Do you collar this jive?”
* Come again (v.) — try it over, do better than you are doing, I don’t understand you.
* Comes on like gangbusters (or like test pilot) (v.) — plays, sings, or dances in a terrific manner, par excellence in any department. Sometimes abbr. to “That singer really comes on!”
* Cups (n.) — sleep. Ex., “I gotta catch some cups.”
* Cut out (v.) — to leave, to depart. Ex., “It’s time to cut out”; “I cut out from the joint in early bright.”
* Dig (v.) — (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you later.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) comprehend, understand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”
* Dime note (n.) — ten-dollar bill.
* Have a ball (v.) — to enjoy yourself, stage a celebration. Ex., “I had myself a ball last night.”
* Hep cat (n.) — a guy who knows all the answers, understands jive.
* Jitterbug (n.) — a swing fan.
* Jive (n.) — Harlemese speech.
* Joint is jumping — the place is lively, the club is leaping with fun.
* Killer-diller (n.) — a great thrill.
* Knock (v.) — give. Ex., “Knock me a kiss.”
* Mezz (n.) — anything supreme, genuine. Ex., “this is really the mezz.”
* Pecking (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1937.
* Rug cutter (n.) — a very good dancer, an active jitterbug.
* Salty (adj.) — angry, ill-tempered.
* Sky piece (n.) — hat.
* Solid (adj.) — great, swell, okay.
* Susie-Q (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1936.
* Timber (n.) — toothipick.
* Togged to the bricks — dressed to kill, from head to toe.
* Truck (v.) — to go somewhere. Ex., “I think I’ll truck on down to the ginmill (bar).”
* Trucking (n.) — a dance introduced at the Cotton Club in 1933.
* Whipped up (adj.) — worn out, exhausted, beat for your everything.
* Wren (n.) — a chick, a queen.
* Zoot (adj.) — overexaggerated as applied to clothes.
* Zoot suit (n.) — overexaggerated clothes.

10 thoughts on “Cab’s Dictionary of Jive

  1. Cecil Schaack says:

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  2. Amelia says:

    I spent high school trying to get everyone to adopt these as well. It failed, but I still use a lot of them subconsciously. Another good “dictionary” to check out is Slim Gaillard’s Vout-O-Reenee Dictionary. Granted, it was probably put together by a record label, but it’s still pretty grand.

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