Jazz Age Wednesdays — The Cat’s Pajamas

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Lucille Ball teenaged 1
Lucille Ball as Pip

Sheiks and Shebas, it’s another Jazz Age Wednesday.  Today I’m here with a little trivia. If you’re a regular, then you know that I like to use Roaring Twenties slang in my replies to comments.  They had such fun with language back then.  

Twenties Tidbit

One of my favorite 1920s compliments is You’re the cat’s pajamas!  Which, of course, means something along the lines of “You’re terrific.”  It describes someone (or thing) who is the best at what they do, something highly sought after and desirable.

Doris Kenyon wearing pajamas in January 1920 Shadowland
Doris Kenyon wearing pajamas in January 1920 Shadowland

To break it down, a cat  was slang for a man, especially an unconventional man.  So we already know it means someone (or thing) cool.  However, there’s a little more to it than that.  Because of the “pajamas” it has a rather risque undertone.  

Yes, really.  Pajamas were something new, especially for women.  That automatically made them at least questionable, and therefore cool, just for being new.  Plus they were trousers, which were oh so risque for ladies.  There’s no wonder flappers thought they were, well… the cat’s pajamas!

The History Part

Not as exciting, but…  The term pajama comes to us from India, and words like “pae jama” and “pai jama,” meaning leg clothing.  Or “piejamah,” which described loose pants that were tied at the waist.  Pajamas as a word dates back to the Ottoman Empire.  

Folks in the Roaring Twenties were quite intrigued by that part of the world.  They were fascinated by celebrities from the area, such as Princess Dürrüşehvar Sultan.

During the early 1900s men began wearing pajamas instead of the usual nightshirts.  The trend didn’t catch on for women until the 1920s. 

Durrusehvar, daughter of the last Caliph of the Ottoman dynasty, circa 1920
Durrusehvar, daughter of the last Caliph of the Ottoman dynasty, circa 1920

Coming Up in the Real World

Artist and activist, Rob Goldstein is hosting me at his place.  Please click over and say hello!

Chris Graham (the Stroy Reading Ape) and I are currently collaborating on a short story.  We’re bringing back his character Artie for an all new adventure in the Pip-verse!  Watch for that on the next Jazz Age Wednesdays post!

October, 18th, I’ll be part of Teri Polen’s yearly October event, Bad Moon Rising!  We’ll be chatting about all sorts of Halloween-ish things, as well as my novella, Brother Love — a Crossroad I hope everyone will join us for the fun.

Thanks for visiting.  Ya’ll are pos-i-lutely the cat’s pajamas!

***

All the Pip stories by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All the Pip books by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene. Purchase links: The Three Things Serial Story, Murder at the Bijou, and A Ghost in the Kitchen

***

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright ©  2019 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this work may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

All images are either the property of the author or provided by free sources, unless stated otherwise.

 


77 thoughts on “Jazz Age Wednesdays — The Cat’s Pajamas

    1. Christoph, you are one lucky cat to go to that event. I’ve always loved the Mac. Just the idea of it gives me a natural zozzle. LOL. Thanks for taking a moment to visit here. You’re the caterpillar’s kimono! Now go back to bed. 😉 Hugs.

      Like

  1. Is there anything better than getting into your favorite pajamas and curling up with a good book, or movie, or just crawling into bed? There is, but you know what I mean. 😀 I have a few favorite jammies, and two pair I have the tops are so stylish I wear them with slacks and jeans and always get compliments from other women on them; no one knows they’re jammie tops!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy you enjoyed it, Rob. I had such a “duh moment” when I first learned that, and thought about the style of traditional clothing (or what they wore back then) of that part of the world. The Victorians were fascinated with anything to do with Egypt, Japan, the areas of the Ottoman Empire, and India. That seemed to carry over to people in the 1920s too.
      Thanks for hosting me at your art studio. You’re the cat’s pajamas for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ya know! Actually, Diana, I couldn’t get clarity on whether hers were the sleeping kind or daywear (although they are more skimpy, like the sleeping kind).

      I didn’t want to go “full-on history professor,” so I didn’t bring up the daywear aspect of early pajamas, as some of the “pajamas” for women in the early 1900s and 1920s actually were. Designs inspired by the clothes of India as well as the Ottoman Empire. The “pajamas” had more frills than a divided skirt Victorian ladies sometimes wore for horseback riding.
      This tangent of a reply is why I call myself a research geek. LOL. Oh, and you are certainly the cat’s pajamas. 🐱

      Liked by 3 people

        1. I always thought those were cool. Then didn’t catch on in my tiny town, so I don’t remember seeing anyone (who wasn’t on TV) wear them. I did luck out when I was about 13 and find a clearance sale that had some wide bellbottoms, that were split up the front to the thighs. I loved those pants. But as with most clothes that I liked, they somehow disappeared (aka were thrown out when I wasn’t looking). Fun fashion. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true, Michael. Since I’m a “research geek” I enjoy learning about that kind of thing. I’m glad to know you liked this too. A wonderful Wednesday to you as well. And of course, you’re the cat’s pajamas. 😀

      Like

  2. This is an expression I’ve seen you use dozens of times but admittedly I’ve never given it much thought. I guess I had thought of it from the perspective that getting a cat into pajamas would be a rare and unusual thing!
    The real history behind the expression is more interesting!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha. Getting a cat into pajamas would be… difficult to say the very least. Whether back then they meant a “cool cat” guy or an actual cat, the pajamas part was certainly about inhibition and risk taking — things on which flappers prided themselves. “Pajamas” were in daywear for women (very frilly pantsuits) in the late Edwardian era and in the 1920s, but women who wore them were very much “fashion risk takers.” Thanks for visiting, Joanne. You’re the cat’s pajamas for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice historical snipet. I have not worn pajamas since I was a kid. However, given the fact I have a pile of cats on my legs every night, it’s like having cat pajamas.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I understood the meaning of “the cat’s pajamas”, but I never bothered to find out the origin or the history of pajamas. Thanks for filling us in. Pajamas are probably the most popular piece of clothing ever. Good grief, people wear pajamas to go shopping!! 😳🙄
    🐾Ginger 🐾

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha. They do at that, Ginger. This tidbit only covered the highpoints of the history part. Some of the “pajamas” for women in the early 1900s and 1920s were in fact daywear outfits, designs inspired by the clothes of India as well as the Ottoman Empire. The “pajamas” had more frills than a divided skirt Victorian ladies wore for horseback riding. Here’s a very elaborate example:

      https://collectionapi.metmuseum.org/api/collection/v1/iiif/81781/261663/restricted

      You’re the berries!

      Like

  5. Thanks for the lesson, Teagan. I always understood the expression, but I had no idea where it came from. I’m heading over to Rob’s next. Looking forward to Artie making a return. Sounds like you have a lot going on.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed this 1920s tidbit, Dan. Yeah… it never seems like a lot until it suddenly comes together at once. Naturally some personal paperwork landed in my lap yesterday. (Sigh.)
      Anyhow, before that, I was thinking about content for my Wednesday posts, remembered the stories with Chris. Then I had an idea. Chris has a ton going on, but he still jumped right in with his part. With the addition of my “paperwork” I might be a week late finishing my part of this new collaboration with Chris. Anyhow, time for cup-of-coffee two. Thanks for visiting. You’re of course, the cat’s pajamas!

      Liked by 3 people

  6. You are smart to explain some of your expressions and those used in the stories. This will make younger readers more aware of what’s going on – just in case they never heard 1920’s lingo. They had ‘brassy’ women, stuffy old men who shook hands like a ‘wet-sock’ and socialized in the parlour. haha, I love some of the old terms, thanks for bringing them back, Teagan.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi GP. I’m happy you enjoyed this. When I use the slang in stories, I’m very careful to couch it in a context that makes it understandable.
      Research geek that I am, I thought it would be fun to share the background for this one. Thanks for visiting. You’re the bee’s knees!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Language is fun—especially from different eras. Now pardon me, but I have to “iron my shoelaces.” (I’m betting you know that one, but look it up if you don’t.)

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Thanks for the explanation, Teagan! It makes sense and it’s fun! Wow! You’re busy this month! I look forward to following your and your characters’ adventures!

    Liked by 2 people

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