Before flappers were the “nouveau riche” they were considered “the poor.” The term is derived from the French word parcès meaning “poor,” but later came to mean “suckers,” “stray children,” or “fools” according to Charles Bukowski’s novel, Bukowski’s Mother. It can also be considered a pun on the “peech words” used by the aristocracy – the term means “poor mouth” – a description that would soon become part of the slang lexicon.
The earliest written evidence of the term comes from the memoirs of “John Henry” F. Hodge, son of John Henry Hodge. He wrote the book in 1846 as a personal statement.
“When I was a boy I always was called ‘the poor flapper.’ At that time it meant a poor man, because I was very poor. But it was always used that way, as a good or bad person, and nobody wanted to hurt my feelings when I said it, and I never complained. I know how hard and how bitter life is.”
Flappers have continued to use the term through the early 20th century. For example, “Nancy of Flapperland” (1933), by Charles S. Miller, is still widely available in online literature.
In the 1920s the term “flapper queen” became a slang term for a female flapper. In 1930, it was used as a pejorative when a flapper called herself “that woman with the dirty face” was described in the newspaper. By the 1960s it was understood the term was pejorative, as were flappers themselves.
In 1966 a group of twenty-five men created a flapper-style show, “Flappers: Flappers Unite,” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The group was intended to spread the term, in a bid to “dumb it down” and put the flapper name into everyday use as a joke. The word “flapper” was used to refer to a variety of clothing, shoes, and accessories, as well as as to describe a woman who was “too big for the skirt.” The word was removed from the show the following year.
In the 1970s “Flapper Queen” became synonymous with the word “flamingame” referring to women who were excessively flirty, and “flamingame” was also commonly said when a man complained about
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