Nov 13 2017 3:00pm

Jupiter! Why I Love 1900s Slang

I write the Anna Blanc mystery series about a saucebox socialite turned police matron turned gum shoer who takes on LA’s Chinatown. Famous for her beauty spot, Anna uses her killer mind to dope it out and catch criminals, but everybody treats her like a vampire. Then, there’s Joe Singer, a hawkshaw who just wants to hook up. He’d make a spanking fine husband, but Anna’s no dill pickle. She knows marriage means obedience. She’s not interested (though she’s curious about his cock stand). It’s bedoozling, and she’s reached a point of severe flummoxation. To make matters worse, Joe’s huffy about it.

Anna and Joe find a deado stuffed in a trunk in Chinatown, LA’s center for fan tan, benzene, and split-arse mechanics. They look from hell to breakfast for someone to jerk up, but they can’t make a collar. Also, Anna’s hunting for two missing singsong girls stolen from the tong, but then, Jupiter, Joe gets thrown in the hoosegow...

Slang delights me, especially when it comes out of Anna Blanc’s mouth. It helps define her youth and her desire to be anything but proper. I went to great pains to collect it.

Where did I learn how to talk like a 1900s hipster? First, there’s the Oxford Dictionary of American Slang, which I read for fun even though the author lost interest and quit at the letter O. It’s got 14 pages dedicated to the word “f#@k,” including “f#@kster,” one of my favorites. (For usage, see my first novel, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc).

I also read the 1900s LA newspapers, which were surprisingly slangy. I read novels written around the turn of the century just to harvest words. And, in one instance, I made a word up. (“Biscuits!” My secret is out!)

So if you like slang, read my new book, The Woman in the Camphor Trunk. (Also, read my first book, The Secret Life of Anna Blanc.) It’s a wee bit salty, but mostly it’s a lollapalooza.

Note: Unlike the first two paragraphs of this blog post, slang is used judiciously in the book and is always understandable in context.


  • Saucebox – Saucy person
  • Gum shoer – A plainclothes investigator
  • Beauty spot – Face
  • Killer – Excellent or outstanding
  • Dope it out – Figure it out
  • Vampire – Vamp. A woman who eats men for dinner.
  • Hawkshaw – A detective
  • Hook-up – To sign up for obedience (aka get married)
  • Spanking fine – See killer
  • Dill pickle – Fool
  • Cock-stand – I think you know
  • Bedoozle – Confuse, bewilder
  • Severe flummoxation – What you get when you’re severely flummoxed
  • Huffy about it – the red head effect
  • Deado - Corpse
  • Fan-tan – Chinese game of chance
  • Benzene – Cheap whiskey
  • Split-arse mechanic – Prostitute
  • Hell to breakfast – Everywhere
  • Jerk up – Arrest
  • Collar – See jerk up
  • Singsong girls – Chinese American slaves
  • Tong – Chinese gang
  • Jupiter – Anna’s favorite interjection. That and “biscuits!” of course
  • Salty – Risqué
  • Lollapalooza – Something excellent!!!!


To learn more or order a copy, visit:

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Jennifer Kincheloe is the author of The Secret Life of Anna Blanc and The Woman in the Camphor TrunkThe Secret Life of Anna Blanc is the winner of the Colorado Gold Award for mystery and the Mystery and Mayhem Award for historical mystery. The novel was also a finalist for the Macavity Sue Feder Historical Mystery award, Left Coast Crime “Lefty” Award, and Colorado Authors' League Award for genre fiction. Formerly, Dr. Kincheloe was the principal of a health consulting firm and a member of the research faculty for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. She currently does research on the jails in Denver, Colorado

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