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.
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 payed 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?
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.
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.
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.