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Fresh, cheek/cheeky, saucy/sassy, flip/flippant

Created date

June 13th, 2018


To get “fresh” with someone is to talk back or get sassy. Still used today, the term first appeared in the U.S. as English slang in the late 1840s.

Etymologists believe it comes from the German word “frech,” which means insolent, rude, or disrespectful.

“Don’t get fresh with me, son!”

Cheek (cheeky)

“Cheek” (or “cheeky”) is Britain’s variation of “fresh.” Both words refer to impudence, sass, or backtalk.

Dating back at least to the 1850s, “cheek” comes from the realm of human physiology. That is, as a part of the face, “cheek” represents the act of speaking and, more precisely, speaking too freely.

A person who runs his mouth is likely to talk back or out of turn; hence, the idea of giving someone “cheek” or being “cheeky.”

“That’s enough cheek from you!”

Saucy (sassy)

“Saucy” is perhaps one of the earliest slang references to rude or insolent behavior. Dating back to the sixteenth century, the word borrows from the typical characteristics of cooking sauces—namely the zip, zest, and piquancy that a sauce imparts on a dish.

Backtalk, in many cases, possesses the same bold, sharp traits as a sauce, which makes “saucy” an apt slang alternative. In the 1830s, “saucy” gave way to “sassy,” and, in the 1850s, the verb form “to sass.”

“He was ousted from the dinner table after getting saucy with the duke.”

Flip (flippant)

In the 1600s, people used the word “flip” as an adjective, meaning nimble or spry. In time, English speakers expanded this description to include the dexterity of one’s mouth.

Someone who was too nimble with his mouth was libel to speak too readily and, therefore, was at risk of being rude or impudent. To actually behave this way was to be “flippant.”

“Never get flip with your teachers.”