Talk Like Frank Sinatra

by Brett and Kate McKay on February 11, 2008 · 68 comments

in Manly Skills

frank.jpg

Old Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra was the epitome of American male coolness. When he walked into any room, his confident swagger created an electric charge. Women wanted to be with him and men wanted to be him.

Part of Sinatra’s manly and cool presence came from the way he talked. See, Frank had a way of livening up every part of life, even the English language. He peppered casual conversations with phrases and words that to the uninitiated sounded like a bunch of gibberish. Yet it left people intrigued, and wanting to be part of the seemingly exclusive fraternity that used this secret lingo. It not only created a magnetic attraction, but simply sounded damn cool.

Below is a dictionary of the secret man language of Frank Sinatra. Throw a few of these words into your conversations among friends. You’ll probably get a few raised eyebrows but like Frank, you’ll add spark to even the most mundane interactions.

  • Bag — As in “my bag,” a person’s particular interest.
  • Barn burner — A very stylish, classy woman.
  • Beard — A male friend who acts as a “cover,” usually for extramarital affairs.
  • Beetle — A girl who dresses in flashy clothes.
  • Big-leaguer — A resourceful man who can handle any situation.
  • Bird — A euphemism sometimes used in reference to the pelvic section.
  • Bombsvillle — Any kind of failure in life.
  • Broad — Affectionate term for a girl or woman with sex appeal.
  • Bum — A person who is despised, most frequently linked to people in the media.
  • Bunter — A man who fails in almost everything he does, the opposite of gasser.
  • Charley — A general term for anyone whose name has been forgotten. See also Sam.
  • Chick — A young and invariably pretty girl.
  • Clam-bake — A party or get-together.
  • Clyde — A word used to cover a multitude of personal observations: viz, “I don’t like her clyde,” means, “I don’t like her voice,” etc.
  • Cool — A term of admiration for a person or place. An alternative word meaning the same thing is crazy.
  • Creep — A man who is disliked for any reason whatsoever.
  • Crumb — Someone for whom it is impossible to show respect.
  • Dame — A generally derogatory term for a probably unattractive woman. The word dog is also sometimes substituted.
  • Dig — A term of appreciation for a person or thing, as in “I dig her.”
  • Dying — As in, “I’m dying,” which means, “I’m slightly upset.”
  • End — A word to signify that someone or something is the very best.
  • Endsville — A term to express total failure, and similar to bombsville. See ville.
  • Fink — A man who cannot be relied upon, whose loyalties are suspect.
  • First base — The start of something, usually applied in terms of failure when someone has failed to reach it.
  • Fracture — As in, “That fractures me,” meaning, “That’s an amusing joke.”
  • Gas — A great situation as in, “The day was a gas.”
  • Gasoline — A term for alcohol, more specifically, Frank’s favorite drink, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whisky.
  • Gasser — A man or woman highly admired, considered to be the best or, “The End!”
  • Gofer — Someone who does menial jobs or runs errands, as in, “go for drinks,” etc.
  • Good night all — A term of invective to change the subject of conversation.
  • Groove — As in “in the groove,” a term of admiration or approval.
  • Harvey — A man or woman who acts in a stupid or naive fashion; sometimes shortened to a “Harve.”
  • Hacked — A word used to describe someone who is angry, as in, “He’s hacked off.”
  • Hello! — A cry of surprise to no one in particular when a beautiful woman is seen.
  • Hunker — A jack-of-all-trades rather like the gofer.
  • Jokes — A term used to describe an actor’s lines in a film script.
  • Let’s lose Charley — A term used among intimates who want to get rid of a bore in their company.
  • Locked-up — As in “all locked-up,” a term for a forthcoming date or engagement, private or public.
  • Loser — Anyone who has made a mess of their life, drinks too much, makes enemies, etc.
  • Mish-mash — Similar to loser but refers specifically to a woman who is mixed up.
  • Mouse — Usually a small, very feminine girl who invites being cuddled.
  • Nowhere — A term of failure, usually applied to a person, viz, “He’s nowhere.”
  • Odds — Used in connection with important decisions, as in, “The odds aren’t right,” meaning not to go somewhere, accept anything, or buy something.
  • Original loser — A man or woman without talent; sometimes more fully expressed as, “He (she) is the original Major Bowes Amateur Hour loser.”
  • Platinum — Having a big heart, generous. “You’re platinum, pussycat!”
  • Player — Term for a man who is a gambler by nature, who makes friends easily, and never gives up trying.
  • Punks — Any undesirable person, in particular mobsters, gangsters, or criminals.
  • Quin — Derisive term for any girl or woman who is an easy pick-up.
  • Rain — As in, “I think it’s going to rain,” indicating that it is time to leave a dull gathering or party.
  • Ring-a-ding — A term of approval for a beautiful girl, viz, “What a ring-a-ding broad!”
  • Sam — Used in the same way as Charley for a person whose name has been forgotten, most often applied to females.
  • Scam — To cheat at gambling, as in, “Hey, what’s the scam?”
  • Scramsville — To run off.
  • Sharp — A person who dresses well and with style.
  • Smashed — A word used to describe someone who is drunk. On occasions it has been replaced with “pissed.”
  • Square — A person of limited character, not unlike a Harvey.
  • Swing — To hang out and drink, smoke, sing, generally get real loose.
  • Tomato — As in “a ripe tomato,” a woman ready for seduction or even marriage.
  • Twirl — A girl who loves dancing. An alternative word with the same meaning is a “Twist.”
  • Ville — A suffix used to indicate changes in any given situation. See endsville, etc.
  • Wow-ee wow wow — An expression of glee, joyful anticipation, and a euphemism for lubricious fun.

Music Suggestions

Need some more help capturing that Sinatra swagger? Listen to some tunes from Old Blue Eyes.
My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra
The Very Best of Frank Sinatra

______________________________

Sources
The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook: His Life and Times in Words and Pictures

Lee Press On and The Nails

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{ 61 comments… read them below or add one }

1 KrazyKorean February 11, 2008 at 12:14 pm

nice post

2 Sean Meyer February 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

Somehow, this seems pretentious. Clear and concise language can be used to great effect just as well as “gibberish”, but unlike gibberish it also epitomizes classiness.

3 Ian Millard February 11, 2008 at 7:29 pm

A good article.

Since clear & concise language is a lost art, we should put some art back in our language. Especially since the latest generation seems to be limited to tired old words like, Extreme, Awesome and Totally.

There’s only one point to question.
Beard — A male friend who acts as a ‘cover,’ usually for extramarital affairs.

In the Hollywood of old, a Beard was a wife or girlfriend that was taken on to cover an actor being gay. Rock Hudson’s wife Phyllis Gates and his friend Doris Day would fit the description of “Beards”.

4 Brett McKay February 11, 2008 at 8:54 pm

@Ian Millard:

Thanks for brining this up. It makes sense. Perhaps Frank and the boys took the word and put their own spin on it.

5 Peter Owens February 12, 2008 at 9:13 am

Maybe Frank’s was gay

6 Peter Owens February 12, 2008 at 9:14 am

Maybe Frank was gay?

7 Pissed February 12, 2008 at 9:18 am
8 CD February 12, 2008 at 9:20 am

Now all you need is a time machine so that you can travel back to the 1950′s to sound cool…because everyone from 2008 will think you’re a complete idiot.

9 clunkyrobot February 12, 2008 at 9:28 am

I especially appreciate the insight on the use of the word “scam.”

thanks guys.

10 Jim Rees February 12, 2008 at 9:33 am

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee whiskey, not a bourbon.

11 Old fogey February 12, 2008 at 9:35 am

Sorry, it’s plain that the poster wasn’t around during much of this period, as many of these definitions, while in the ballpark, just aren’t quite right.

12 Ansem February 12, 2008 at 9:38 am

ehhh, I’m sorry but seeing him pause while singing to smoke a cigarette didn’t appeal to me. Smoking in any form is not very “cool” to me.

13 Matt February 12, 2008 at 9:44 am

I disagree with the article … Sinatra _was_ a bad-ass, but it wasn’t just using slang on a regular basis that made him cool. He had confidence, which extended to him apparently making up his own style of language. Back in his time, maybe that did make him ‘cool’.

Now, I’d have a hard time respecting someone that spoke like an idiot just to set him or herself apart (see Paris Hilton). Pretentiousness is _not_ sexy. Confidence, on the other hand, is.

Plus, if I threw ‘Bombsville’ or ‘anything-Ville’ into conversation, I’d expect a slap in the mouth. Matter of fact I’d welcome it to remind me I was retarded for saying it.

Office Space:
Peter Gibbons: When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?”
Lawrence: Shit, no man. I believe you’d get your ass kicked saying something like that, man.

14 Chili February 12, 2008 at 9:55 am

Ring a ding ding baby.

15 KRS February 12, 2008 at 9:59 am

Some of you really need to relax. This post is just meant for fun and enjoyment. Please remove the stick out of your butt.

16 rhyderstorm February 12, 2008 at 10:08 am

what do you have to substantiate any of these phrases?

17 Jon February 12, 2008 at 10:17 am

So to be a man we have to be “cool” and actually care what other people think of us?

18 Brett McKay February 12, 2008 at 10:20 am

@ pissed
actually that site ripped the list off from the “Frank Sinatra Scrapbook.” You can find many of the phrases with their meaning in there. I’ve put a link to the book at the bottom as a source. There are a few sites out there with the list. None of them actually say where they got it from. At least I did.

19 Brett McKay February 12, 2008 at 10:22 am

There’s a lot of negative comments here. Apparently a lot of people are taking this list serious. It’s all tongue and cheek. Lighten the hell up.

20 john February 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

George Orwell once wrote an essay on how to be a strong author. In the essay, he said that if you have seen a metaphor or simile in writing before, or it is commonly heard, don’t use it in your writing. Keeping this in mind, Sinatra did the same thing, he created his own thing with the english language. To emulate Sinatra would (a) be out of place in modern society and (b) make you a copycat. The coolest part of Sinatra is that he was the only Sinatra. Well, except for Nancy…

21 PeevedGuy February 12, 2008 at 10:27 am

The 50′s had Sinatra, and now we have…. Snoop-Dog. How sad is that?

22 Don't ask February 12, 2008 at 11:41 am

@PeevedGuy

Sinatra was no saint he carried money bags for the Mafia…. Snoop would look up to him

I’m not promoting either of them…

23 markus February 12, 2008 at 12:49 pm

I thought people liked Frank because he sang so well.

24 billy February 12, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Jack Daniel’s is Kentucky whiskey, not bourbon.

25 Brandon February 12, 2008 at 5:06 pm

Jack Daniels is a bourbon according to the main man:

“D: Is Jack Daniel’s whiskey a bourbon?

JB: It meets all the criteria for a bourbon, made with 80 percent corn, 125 proof or less, and aged in oak barrels, but we like to say that it’s more than bourbon.”

http://www.fiery-foods.com/dave/jackdaniels.asp

But seriously, you guys seem pretty serious here. Why not relax and regard the art of Sinatra’s language as an interesting historical linguistic adventure? Sure, it’s out-dated, but it was cool and cutting-edge at the time.

Maybe you could try a few weird words of your own that would describe what you’re thinking more concisely. It may not go over because you aren’t famous, but I have been fortunate to see a few of my “new” words come into regular use in my circle of friends.

26 DermDoc February 12, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Nice post. Frank has always been and will always be THE gasser.

27 azazel February 13, 2008 at 9:25 am

Jack Daniels is a Tennessee whiskey because it is charcoal filtered, which is why it is not a bourbon. There was a show on last night that said that, on Discovery

28 Bill February 13, 2008 at 12:22 pm

I think the point is that if you step outside the box, you may get noticed more often. After that you need something more to maintain your cool facade. :-)

Rappers are the latest to run this game, but it’s been done countless times by countless groups or individuals. Moreover industries, professions, trades, even crafts have their own vernacular. Some slang is clumsy or non-intuitive and so gets dropped quickly. Other words are clever or recognizable enough to become mainstream, causing the originator to cast ever further for new slang (e.g. dizzle…jeezus).

I’m wondering if Frank ever coined any of these terms? My guess is he didn’t. He probably just used what was going around in various circles at the time. In any case the formula works. Hell you can shoot entire movies around guys spouting the latest slang like they did with the Wayne’s World series.

29 Brett McKay February 13, 2008 at 2:20 pm

@Bill:

I don’t think Frank coined any of these terms. From what I’ve heard from my parents and grandparents they were pretty common.

I agree that Frank’s slang was a way to step outside of the box. I think it’s great when a person throws in a few exciting new words. But you’re right. If you don’t have something to back up your “cool” front, people will start to think you’re just using a gimmick.

30 Funny about Money February 14, 2008 at 2:14 am

Dude! A “dame” is NOT “a generally derogatory term for a probably unattractive woman.” It’s just a synonym for “woman.”

There is nothin’ like a dame,
Nothin’ in the world,
There is nothin’ you can name
That is anythin’ like a dame!

Guess you have to have been there during the fifties… ;-)

31 Doctorsoul February 14, 2008 at 2:52 am

That is one awesome post. Finally a Frank Sinatra dictionary. I’ve been craving for that my whole life!

32 fdw February 14, 2008 at 12:42 pm

http://h9nuhnn.myminicity.com/

visit this site the more visits the bigger it gets

33 DanielD February 15, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I don’t think the explanation for -ville is right. It’s most often used as a suffix for something bad in general and privincial in specific (squaresville, drabsville), as “a location where you don’t want to be”. City is occasionally used as the opposite, e.g. Hep City.Neither describes an actual location, these terms are applied to situations.

34 Jizzle February 22, 2008 at 7:31 pm

that’s not my bag, baby.

austin powers. rock on.

35 Billy Roles March 8, 2008 at 6:17 am

Great article. Not to split hairs here, but I thought it is worth mentioning on this manliest of websites: Jack Daniel’s is not Bourbon, but Tennessee whiskey (whisky, without the “e” is reserved for scotch). Tennessee whiskey is simular to bourbon, but goes through an extra process of filtration through maple charcoal, known as the “Lincoln County Process”.

Know your whisk(e)y gentlemen!

36 Hamilton March 24, 2008 at 9:33 pm

Cool article! I think the reason Frank sent a spark into a room was because he lived life well and let his natural gifts shine.

37 BA March 27, 2008 at 8:34 am

Billy > Tennessee whiskey is a marketing term. The Lincoln county process is filtration, which is allowed in the production of bourbon. Sure, it changes the flavour, but so does all filtration.

Bourbon producers would rather not see JD as a bourbon – then bars that go out of their way to stock bourbon will just use JD – and JD is perfectly happy as a whole different ‘kind’ of whiskey.

38 Dorf April 14, 2008 at 4:23 pm

Frank visited my city and I sent him a kangaroo. I’ll send you one too.

http://dorf-racer.myminicity.com/ind

39 Mackenzie May 8, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Er…might want to avoid the “beard” one. Nowadays, a beard is the girl you hang out with to keep anyone from suspecting you’re gay.

40 Mark May 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm

For what it’s worth, I’ll throw in my 2 cents:

This post is just a fun way to note Frank’s display of being a man.

It does show one thing about a real confident and respected man: Once such status is attained, you can roll by your own drumbeat and people will listen and try to learn your rhythm. First Frank was confident (and a respected celebrity) and only then could he pull off inventing new meanings for words and people would follow… Not the other way around.

Get the order of development right :) And I think Brett’s way of portraying it was a fun approach. An effect of that is that mostly those with a clear and deep vision would get the real message under the surface, while the stick-up-arse readers would just ridicule the tongue-in-cheek surface of the delivery, ignoring the depths.

41 nick May 18, 2008 at 4:11 pm

god this is f-ing cool

42 Disciple of "Bob" May 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm

Here’s a secret:

Everyone over the age of, oh I’d say about 27 or so probably already uses many if not most of this slang. It’s not as though this is some obscure new discovery. Please go pry your kneecaps off with a rusty screwdriver, right now.

43 Lavan May 23, 2008 at 5:56 am

It’s pretty funny how over here in England those words aren’t that rare, hell I use words like “Chick” “Broad” and “Dig” on a regular basis. I’m 18 by the way. I agree with a lot of the comments on here that speaking like this isn’t gonna make you “cool” but by speaking a little different to everyone else, people are going to think you’re a little bit kooky, and most important of all, they’ll remember you. Just my thoughts.

44 Phil Garringer May 26, 2008 at 7:01 pm

Frank and his crew were thugs and reprobates. Cool? Maybe, 45 years ago, in Vegas, with a drink in your hands.

I still would recommend that young gentlemen learn to “Ride, shoot straight and speak the truth”.

Maybe you can post some thieve’s cant…

45 Frank Sinatra mp3 downloads June 2, 2008 at 5:09 pm

Frank Sinatra, my idol! No one could be better:)

46 conrad June 6, 2008 at 1:28 am

Yeah…the fact that he was a famous singer probably helped him to be cool…..

47 Mark June 6, 2008 at 6:43 pm

Punks – Any undesirable, in particular mobsters, gangsters or criminals.

I found the description of this one quite ironic, considering his obvious and open links to the Mafia. I wonder what he would have said to you had you described his mobster friends as ‘punks’.

48 Tim September 27, 2008 at 3:45 am

in my social circles some of these words still get used, they do sometimes have different meanings.
for example: a player is not someone who’s a good gambler, it’s a fella who likes to pick up chicks every night and not call them back. To some guys it’s cool to be a player, but it can also be used in a negative way.

Tim

49 Teed McFadden November 18, 2008 at 6:09 pm

Wow Wee Wow Wow! I love this post a real gasser! Nice job Charlie Blogman.

50 Julio Iglesias March 5, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Sure, try that “broad” term the next time you meet a classy, sophisticated lady you’re interested in and see how impressed she it.

51 Ralph Rolfonski March 6, 2009 at 8:08 am

Speaking of manliness, usually a man would know his ‘gasoline’. He does not have to be a Bourbon afficionado by any means, but at least know that Jack Daniel’s Whiskey is not Bourbon.

Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel are two examples of “Tennessee Whiskey”.

One should never call it “Bourbon”, both the Bourbon afficionados and the fans of Tennessee Whiskey would be more than happy to put any ‘man’ in his place who does not know the difference.

Also I find it amusing how some ‘Men’ prefer to consume Whiskey, any kind of whiskey.

Some want to be ‘macho’ and feel the only way to enjoy it is to shoot it. Then there are others in the D-Bag crowd who always have to order ‘Jack and Coke’.

The ‘Jack and Coke’ crowd annoys me more. First of all, if you are going to put hard liquor in coke, get the bourbon from the well, get the cheapest bourbon the bar has, and simply ask for bourbon and coke. You won’t know the difference and you’ll save a few dollars that way.

My suggestion – If you are going to pay top dollar for a mid-grade whiskey like Jack or a higher quality whiskey, KNOW HOW TO ENJOY IT and have the right kind of glass — nice ones can be attained for cheap or get free glasses at Christmas.

I personally like bourbon or Jack on the rocks. I usually put in three ice cubes or fill the glass 1/3 the way with ice, and then pour in the whiskey until it is 2/3 or even 3/4 full. Smaller glasses I just fill. Some like to add water, for me the ice does the work over time. Lemon twist is also acceptable.

One bourbon on the rocks that I pour ends up being a triple but lasts me quite a long time, as I take occasional sips. My pour is a helluva lot more generous than most bartenders.

I never get drunk, first because I have acquired the taste for straight bourbon, and secondly, one or two glasses is all I need.

So if you want to put Jack Daniels in Coke, the bartender would be glad to take your money.

52 Mark Elder April 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Sinatra was a thug…

53 Rob April 8, 2009 at 11:43 am

Love him or hate him, Frank was a man of his time, and to a certain degree, this time. He had qualities and a directness that a lot of men still aspire to have; some not too healthy or socially acceptable in today’s climate as a whole, but admired nevertheless. The thing about Frank’s methods was, if you pushed his buttons, he’d back his language up with actions….like a punch in the mouth. A lot of men today would say that’s barbaric and ungentlemanly, but to me, it makes a clear statement: “Go take you political-correctness and nambi-pambiness somewhere else, pal…I mean what I say and say what I mean, and if you don’t get off my case, I’m capable and willing to back it up.”

Characteristics and a directness that are sadly lacking in a lot of men today.

But hey, what do I know…I grew up in the 60′s and 70′s, when smoking, boozing and carousing was cool, and was part of the fabric of American life…
Rob

54 brian April 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Jack Daniels is not bourbon whiskey. jack daniels is whiskey. bourbon is whiskey that is made in kentucky. jack daniels is made in tennessee, which is very much NOT kentucky.

55 Jennifer May 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

Why is everyone freaking out about this post? It’s a list of old school lingo and definitions.

Take some Midol and chill.

56 Someone October 12, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Doesn’t it say Kentucky Bourbon right on the bottle?

Seems an odd thing to get so worked up about. Personally I find the stuff disgusting.

57 aion kinah October 13, 2009 at 6:27 am

I agree with this:
One should never call it “Bourbon”, both the Bourbon afficionados and the fans of Tennessee Whiskey would be more than happy to put any ‘man’ in his place who does not know the difference.

Also I find it amusing how some ‘Men’ prefer to consume Whiskey, any kind of whiskey.

58 musicguy April 16, 2010 at 5:42 pm

Actually, this is musician slang from WWII and earlier. Frank didn’t invent it, he just talked like a musician.

Also, Frank drank Jim Beam, which is a bourbon, not Jack Daniels. You can find him mentioning that fact in interviews in Esquire and Playboy back in the day.

59 Tennessee Squire April 18, 2010 at 12:45 am

Beg to differ with any and all those who aren’t getting it quite right.

Jack Daniel’s is a Tennessee Sipping Whiskey. It is not a bourbon. Bourbon is distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky. If it’s not from Bourbon County, Kentucky, it’s not a bourbon whiskey, just like if the champagne is not from the region of France it’s something other than champagne even if it’s got the bubbles.

And the Chairman’s main alcoholic drink was Jack Daniel’s. If an interview quotes him mentioning something else, go hit up the punk who penned it ’cause he sure wasn’t talking to Frank.

60 coachT February 26, 2014 at 1:54 pm

y’all do know that this is little more than occupational jargon from a couple of Frank’s preferred activities and not some secret code or outdated slang? Many of those expressions are still very common in music, theater, gambling/crime, and womanizing/swinger circles with very particular meanings the same now as they were then.

Within those environs they are appropriate and exacting communication – outside of their home they sound misplaced and misused. Outside of their natural context they sound more than a bit forced.

“Cool” happens better when your groove is your own and you’re not creeping in on someone elses bag. Dig?

61 Lou February 26, 2014 at 9:06 pm

I think the definitions for “broad” and “dame” should be swapped…but otherwise, I dig this article.

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