Quiz about Vintage American Slang
Quiz about Vintage American Slang

Vintage American Slang Trivia Quiz


English is a beautiful language. There are so many ways of expressing yourself. Slang has been around since the language developed. See if you can figure out where some of it came from.

A multiple-choice quiz by Pick61. Estimated time: 5 mins.
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Author
Pick61
Time
5 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
352,590
Updated
Dec 03 21
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Tough
Avg Score
5 / 10
Plays
1460
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
Last 3 plays: chrissymc (10/10), Guest 172 (9/10), Guest 174 (3/10).
This quiz has 2 formats: you can play it as a or as shown below.
Scroll down to the bottom for the answer key.
1. When shifting responsibility for an action or event to another, you are said to "pass the buck". Among what group of people did the term originate? Hint

No one is really sure
Cowboys
Gamblers
Sailors

2. The term "OK" or "Okay" has been used to signify "alright" or "correct" in America for nearly 200 years. Any idea where it comes from? Hint

From the Scottish "Och Aye" (indeed)
No one is really certain
From the Choctaw-Chickasaw "Okah" (indeed)
From "aux quais" (French for "on the platform")

3. "Jump on the bandwagon" to signify enthusiastic committment to a popular cause. Do you know how it came into popular use during the 19th century? Hint

Military recruiting posters
The circus
Political campaign device
A religious phrase

4. To be caught "red-handed" is to say you've been caught in the act of committing some mis-deed. From where did "red-handed" spring? Hint

Stealing raspberries
Profound embarrassment that turned even the hands red.
Having committed a crime that left blood on one's hands
Using red paint for graffiti

5. If you look like someone, you may be said to be a "dead ringer". "Ringer?" "Dead?" Odd phrase, when you think of it. In what context did it come into use? Hint

The death of a renowned bell ringer
Horse racing
A ship's bell rung to indicate time
A fire alarm

6. If you are in an extremely difficult situation for which you imagine there is no solution, you may be "between a rock and a hard place". What brought this term into usage? Hint

Mountain climbing accidents
A copper mining labor dispute
Avalanches
Getting hit by an irate neighbor

7. If you are evaluating your assets and get too far ahead of yourself, you may be warned, "don't count your chickens before they're hatched". Wise advice, but where did it come from, originally? Hint

Poultry farmers
An old English Poem
A banking term
A children's rhyme

8. If you want to ward off bad luck or have good fortune continue, you might "knock on wood". Where did this tradition come from? Hint

Tapping a stick and throwing it to aid in finding water
Tapping on a wood door was thought to bring good luck
Tapping trees which were believed to contain good spirits
Tapping a baseball bat to make hits fall out

9. If a friend told you to "keep it under your hat", what would he be asking you to do? Hint

Hide his money under your stetson
It's raining, put your valuables in a dry place
You need a haircut, keep your hat on
Keep a secret

10. I asked a friend to go golfing with me and he replied, "I'll be there with bells on." Obviously, he was enthusiastic about the prospect of hitting the links. But why bells? Who came up with that? Hint

Colonial ladies, who often wore bells on their shoes
Conestoga wagonners
The custom of carrying a bell to announce your presence
The belling of a milk cow


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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. When shifting responsibility for an action or event to another, you are said to "pass the buck". Among what group of people did the term originate?

Answer: Gamblers

A buck knife, a knife with a buckhorn handle, or a piece of buckshot (stories vary) was placed in front of the next dealer. When the dealer changed, "the buck was passed". Later, a silver dollar was used for this purpose and this may be where "buck" came to be used to designate a dollar.
2. The term "OK" or "Okay" has been used to signify "alright" or "correct" in America for nearly 200 years. Any idea where it comes from?

Answer: No one is really certain

Theories abound. "Aux quais" was a marking stamped on cotton bales at some Mississippi riverports. For sure, "OK" was being used in newspapers as early as 1838. Martin Van Buren, candidate for president in 1840, had acquired the nickname "Old Kinderhook", and the "OK" was easier to use than his Dutch surname. But in the end, the true origin is still shrouded in mystery.
3. "Jump on the bandwagon" to signify enthusiastic committment to a popular cause. Do you know how it came into popular use during the 19th century?

Answer: Political campaign device

In the late 19th century, when the circus came to town, they would stage a parade to stir enthusiasm and generate business, complete with wagons, animals, clowns, etc. Upon one of these wagons was usually perched a brass band. Politicians took notice and were soon doing the same. President Theodore Roosevelt used the term "jump on the bandwagon" in some of his correspondence.
4. To be caught "red-handed" is to say you've been caught in the act of committing some mis-deed. From where did "red-handed" spring?

Answer: Having committed a crime that left blood on one's hands

In law, even in medieval times, there were instances where a conviction couldn't be obtained unless the perpetrator was caught with blood on his hands. "Red handed", so to speak.
5. If you look like someone, you may be said to be a "dead ringer". "Ringer?" "Dead?" Odd phrase, when you think of it. In what context did it come into use?

Answer: Horse racing

When no regulations existed for the sport, it was not unheard of to substitute one horse for another to increase the odds of winning. The horse was called a "ringer". An exact, or "dead on" lookalike horse was a "dead ringer".
6. If you are in an extremely difficult situation for which you imagine there is no solution, you may be "between a rock and a hard place". What brought this term into usage?

Answer: A copper mining labor dispute

This is a fairly recent addition to American English. In 1917, Colorado copper miners struck for better, safer working conditions. The mine owners refused, threatening to send the strike leaders to mines in New Mexico, which they eventually did. These leaders found themselves "between a rock and a hard place".
7. If you are evaluating your assets and get too far ahead of yourself, you may be warned, "don't count your chickens before they're hatched". Wise advice, but where did it come from, originally?

Answer: An old English Poem

This is one of the oldest bits of slang, originating from a poem published by one Thomas Howell, dated 1570. "Counte not thy chickens that vnhatched be, waye words as winde, till thou find certaintee". (Standardized spelling had not yet come into use).
8. If you want to ward off bad luck or have good fortune continue, you might "knock on wood". Where did this tradition come from?

Answer: Tapping trees which were believed to contain good spirits

In the middle ages, it was believed that benevolent spirits lived in the forests and dwelt in trees. Knocking on the trees was meant to assure the spirits of your good intentions, and result in good luck.
9. If a friend told you to "keep it under your hat", what would he be asking you to do?

Answer: Keep a secret

The derivation is pretty simple, really. If it's "kept under your hat", it stays in your head. In other words, think about it, but don't say it. This term did not come into use until the 20th century.
10. I asked a friend to go golfing with me and he replied, "I'll be there with bells on." Obviously, he was enthusiastic about the prospect of hitting the links. But why bells? Who came up with that?

Answer: Conestoga wagonners

Drivers decorated their harnesses with lots of bells, of which they were quite proud. If they broke down or got stuck during a trip, the teamster who came to help might ask for some bells as part of his payment. To arrive at a destination with "all your bells on" signified a successful trip.
Source: Author Pick61

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Nov 30 2022 : chrissymc: 10/10
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