Watch and Learn about "The Hepster's Dictionary"

Picture of Cab Calloway

Today video features the song "Hepster's Dictionary" by Cab Calloway.  The clip is from the movie "Sensations of 1945" released by United Artists in 1944. (I included an image of the movie poster at the end of this article.) The film also showcased the talents of other artists including Woody Herman, Dorothy Donegan, Gene Rodgers and Les Paul.

The song "Hepster's Dictionary" is a Cab Calloway classic.  Watching this clip you'll witness for yourself why Calloway was such a draw.  He was simply a top-shelf entertainer.  Have a look at this video and then learn more about his book that inspired this clip below...

Watch: "The Hepster's Dictionary" from the 1944 film "Sensation of 1945"

Picture of The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary: Language of Jive

The New Cab Calloway's Hepster's Dictionary: Language of Jive

Frist released in 1938, Cab Calloway's "Hepster's Dictionary" introduced the language of Jive to the masses.  This little eight page book was so popular it was published in many editions up to 1944.

Calloway summed up the book in his own words in the foreward of a later edition: 
“'Jive talk' is now an everyday part of the English language. Its usage is now accepted in the movies, on the stage, and in the song products of Tin Pan Alley. It is reasonable to assume that jive will find new avenues in such hitherto remote places as Australia, the South Pacific, North Africa, China, Italy, France, Sicily, and inevitably Germany and wherever our Armed Forces may serve.

I don’t want to lend the impression here that the many words contained in this edition are the figments of my imagination. They were gathered from every conceivable source."

The book has now been out of print for over 70 years now.  Used edition can be found on Ebay ranging between $3,000 to $4000!

Here is just a small sampling of some of the gems found in this book:

Blow the top (v.): to be overcome with emotion (delight). Ex., “You’ll blow your top when you hear this one.”

Dig (v.): (1) meet. Ex., “I’ll plant you now and dig you later.” (2) look, see. Ex., “Dig the chick on your left duke.” (3) comprehend, understand. Ex., “Do you dig this jive?”

Frisking the whiskers (v.): what the cats do when they are warming up for a swing session.

Lay your racket (v.): to jive, to sell an idea, to promote a proposition.

Set of seven brights (n.): one week.

All of the book's content is located on the web, you just have to look.  You'll be surprised to find out how many words stuck and are still used today.  I will be playing and discussing the song a little more in an upcoming episode of the podcast. 

Movie Poster

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