Words No Longer With Us Part 2

After publishing Words No Longer With Us recently, I kept thinking of other words and expressions which were in use in Britain in the 50s and rarely heard now. So here are a few more!

Words connected to telephones in the 1950s.

Transfer charge call/ Party line/Crossed line/ Button A/ Button B – There is no such thing as a party line now and I don’t think anyone gets crossed lines any more. For those who don’t remember them, both involved another person coming in on your phone conversation. I don’t know if it’s still possible to make a transfer charge call but I used the system on several occasions when I needed to phone home from a call box and didn’t have the right coins.


This one came to mind the other day. Cradle is still in use as an adjective as in cradling someone or something in your arms. I remember my baby sister sleeping in a cradle when she was tiny, before she went into a cot. It was the word used in the expression ‘from the cradle to the grave’ and in nursery rhymes like Rock a Bye Baby. Now the little baskets are always called moses baskets, cribs or occasionally carry-cots.

Rock A Bye, Baby” – The Origin Stories | History Daily

Words to do with records

A side and B side/ 45/ 78/ LP/ Juke box –  Juke boxes could be found in cafes and pubs everywhere and were such fun to use. You could select a few songs if you had the right coins and then enjoy hearing them played when their turn came in the queue. Records (vinyl discs) were often known by their size. We referred to a 45, a 78 or an LP. Because records had two playable sides there was always the A side, which was the song you bought the record for, and the B side which was a less known, often inferior song. An afterthought – what is a juke?

Clothing words

Pullover/ jersey/ – We didn’t have sweaters back in the ‘old days’. The word jumper was used and still is but more commonly we called them pullovers or jerseys.

Coms/ Liberty Bodice/ Petticoat – These are underwear terms. Coms was short for combinations. The word referred to an item of male underwear which was a vest and long johns combined. In the 50s, when I was young, they were still worn by old men. Less so by younger men of my dad’s generation.

1940s Men's Underwear: Briefs, Boxers, Unions, & Socks

Young children often wore a special sort of vest in winter called a Liberty Bodice. Most people my age remember them. My mum didn’t make us wear them, I’m not sure why, but I don’t think we missed out as my friends all say they hated them. The photo will explain what they looked like.

The Liberty Bodice ~ Girl Museum

My mum wore a petticoat all her life. Now known as a slip or an underskirt, they are no longer an everyday item of underwear. My mum and other women of her generation would have felt undressed without one. She had summer ones and winter one and always favoured the full rather than the waist petticoat.

Pinny/ Mac/ Frock/ Sunday Best – Back in ‘the old days’ women always wore aprons in the kitchen. Back to my mum again – she wore one all her life and would put it on even if she was only going in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea and a sandwich. A dress was always known as a frock when I was little. You only ever hear it used now in a semi-serious way as in ‘I’m going to wear a posh frock’. I heard the expression Sunday Best used the other day and I realised that I hadn’t heard it in ages!


As always, my thanks and credit to Google, Google Images and Wikipedia. I make every effort not to infringe copyright but if anyone objects to my use of an image, contact me and I will remove it.

15 thoughts on “Words No Longer With Us Part 2

  1. It’s interesting to compare your no longer used words with comparable words in the US. I think your “transfer charge call” was our “collect call” or “reverse change call”? There were still party lines in my small home town in Vermont in the 1970s. We use “bassinet” now in place of “cradle.” Dare I ask what the “Liberty Bodice” was supposed to be liberating? Another phrase we used for “Sunday Best” was “Sunday Go to Meetin’ Clothes.” I still wear an apron when I cook.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the best things about writing this blog is hearing from readers about the similarities and differences between countries/ continents. Thanks for commenting. As to the liberty bodice – I believe they were anything but liberating!


  3. Great post on words of the past we never hear these days, one of the words in clothing here in the States you don’t here much of anymore is the cardin sweater! It was very polular in it’s day I wore one time to time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I still wear an apron, although mine go from neck to shin like the chefs wear and not the floral type worn by the women of my childhood! Neither of my daughters ever wears one. Maybe I am a messier cook?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Simply letting you all know..that the west coast..is in a nasty stage. As usual me n mine..are alive..avoiding the outside..and remaining..with our ‘go bags’..packed with meds, dog leash..and such. The nearest the total destrucktion fires came to us..was about 2 air miles..over the north ridge of the coburgs. Stay well..and never let anyone try to say..climate change is not happening. hugs and thanks, ina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ina, I am so relieved to hear from you! Although I only know you through this blog, I’m used to your prompt and interesting comments on every new post. When I hadn’t seen any comments and knowing you were in Oregon I was really worried about you. Thank you so much for letting me and readers know you’re OK. Keep us updated whenever you’re able to. Meryl


  6. Hello!
    I’m new to your blog, so excuse me if you’ve written about this before: What undergarments did women wear in winters to keep warm when they wore skirts and dresses?
    I suspect there were flannel/wool petticoats or knee-length long johns involved, or maybe breeches? Did women wear wool stockings? They seam to bare their calves in old photographs.
    I wear skirts a lot in cold days, so I’m curious to learn how women did it in the 50s and 60s, when it was fashionable to wear skirts in the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi. Welcome to my little blog! When I was a child, in the 50s, and a teenager in the 60s, old ladies wore long johns and thicker stockings. We younger ones just got used to the bare legs! In the fifties girls in winter would have normal white cotton pants on under their skirts with thicker dark coloured pants in a sort of sweatshirt fabric (although we didn’t call it that as the word sweatshirt didn’t exist) over the white pants. I didn’t wear those after about aged 12. Then in my teens the mini skirt and tights appeared. No long johns there! There was winter underwear (vests, pants, underskirts or petticoats as we called them) in thicker fabric like brushed cotton or cotton/ wool mix and summer underwear in thinner white cotton. There were also things children wore in the fifties in winter which were called Liberty Bodices. They were thick extra vests with short sleeves and some lacing up the front. Most kids hated them!
      I hope this helps.


  7. Hi from Australia, am enjoying your 50s & 60s clothing memories. It put me in mind of the liberty bodice I always wore as a small child in Essex, England in winter. Cosy but fiddly with those boilable rubber buttons! Fast forward to NZ in the 60s where teenage girls sported ‘witches britches’ made by Bonds. They were a bit like modern bike pants I guess, thigh length and made of nylon of course. Just the latest craze c1963 in NZ. My pair was red with black lace trim. Hideous really and prone to causing thrush I shouldn’t wonder. They were also sold in Australia but I wonder if they originated in the USA or UK. Anyone else wear them?

    Liked by 1 person

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