20 Slang Terms Every 1980s Kid Will Remember
These tubular phrases are definitely best left in the past.
Even in the year 2021, there are plenty of reasons so many people are still nostalgic for the 1980s. The hair was bigger, the shoulder pads were broader, and when Frankie said relax, you obliged. And while everyone made their fair share of decisions that seem silly in retrospect (what were we thinking trying a home perm?!), there are few that seem quite as outlandish as the way people talked at the time. The era’s slang is so bizarre—and frankly, laughable—by today’s standards, but that's what makes it so memorable. So, if you've been longing for a time when there was no coronavirus and no subtle fashion trends, read on for the ‘80s slang terms you're sure to remember. And for more hilarious blast-from-the-past phrases, check out these 20 Slang Terms Every 1990s Kid Will Remember.
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"Not even" is a quick way of saying, "I think you're wrong, but I'm too lazy to get into a whole thing where I list the reasons why." If the person you're talking to retorts with "even," then the argument is officially over.
Example: "She's totally into you, dude." "Not even!" "Even."
And for the stars you loved growing up, check out The Biggest '80s Teen Idols, Then and Now.
Gag me with a spoon
"Gag me with a spoon" is an expression you can use when you want to show disgust or disappointment and it's not enough just to say, "I disapprove." Basically, you're so disturbed that you want to test your gag reflex.
Example: "I can't believe she wore those shoes. Gag me with a spoon!"
Have a cow
In the '80s, if you were getting overly emotional or upset about something, you were "having a cow." How exactly this cow was being had is open to interpretation—but really, there's no good literal or metaphorical way to have it.
Example: "I'm just teasing you. Don't have a cow, man!"
When someone utters something that is extremely obvious and apparent, there were a lot of "no duhs" in response in the '80s.
Example: "Do you think growing a rat tail was maybe not the best look for me?" "Um, no duh."
And for more slang from a different decade, 20 Slang Terms Every 1970s Kid Will Remember.
When something is gross but with a little extra je ne sais quoi, it's crossed over into grody territory. And when something is really grody, that's when it becomes grody to the max. You can't get any more disgusting than that.
Example: "You're eating so much nacho cheese. It's grody to the max!"
"Grindage" describes delicious food that you intend to chow down on with extreme enthusiasm. This slang was gifted to pop culture by Pauly Shore.
Example: "Mind if I help myself to the grindage in your fridge?"
"Cheeuh"—a slang term used to acknowledge that something is true—is not so much a word as it is an expulsion of random letters from your mouth. To pronounce it, pretend you're trying to say "cheetah" after consuming a bottle of vodka.
Example: "You wearing your Frankie Say Relax T-shirt tonight?" "Cheeuh!"
Just like the stuff you spread on your morning toast, something is "butter" if it's smooooth.
Example: "Naw, man, you gotta peg your pants. That's butter!"
And for more language gifts the '80s gave us, check out these 25 Common Words That Didn't Exist Until the 1980s.
As a gym rat in the '80s, it wasn't enough to have a nice body. You had to have a great bod.
Example: "You'd wear muscle tees all the time too if you had a bod like that."
When a geek has undeniable sex appeal, he or she is elevated to "zeek" status.
Example: "Don't tell anybody I said this, but I think Urkel is a total zeek."
We've reached the end. Time to leave—and by leave, we mean "bounce."
Example: "This list of '80s slang terms is totally over. Let's bounce!"
When surfers describe something as gnarly, they mean that it is especially difficult or even dangerous. However, in the '80s, "gnarly" became a shorthand for anything and everything considered cool and/or exciting.
Example: "That Bill Murray movie was so gnarly!"
To be tubular—or better still, totally tubular—is to be remarkable and breathtaking. This is yet another example of the surfer slang that dominated the '80s.
Example: "The way he looks in parachute pants is totally tubular!"
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Saying "word" is the equivalent of saying "I agree." Or, if you say the slang term with a questioning intonation, it can also be used to express doubt and disbelief in what someone is saying.
Example: "That movie was terrible." "Word?" "Word."
The slang term "choice" is a sign of approval and possibly even envy. If someone says that something of yours—like your look, your car, or your hair—is "choice," they're saying that you have made the right decision.
Example: "Your mullet is looking choice today, my man."
And for more fun from the era of big hair and Wham!, check out these 20 Funny Things People in the 1980s Were Totally Guilty of Doing.
The '80s slang term "phat" has nothing to do with being overweight. When "phat" is spelled with a ph, it's describing something as exceptional. Yes, oddly enough, being called "phat" is a compliment!
Example: "That velour sweatsuit is phat!"
Bag your face
If your facial appearance leaves something to be desired, perhaps you'd feel more comfortable with a brown paper bag on your head. This train of thought is precisely how hip folks in the '80s came up with the cruel slang phrase "bag your face."
Example: "I have so many zits—I should just bag my face."
Barf me out
What is it with the '80s and regurgitation slang metaphors? Evidently, "gag me with a spoon" wasn't enough to express contempt. In the '80s, if you really wanted people to know your level of physical revulsion, you used this puke-inducing phrase.
Example: "He's wearing jam shorts to church? Barf me out!"
If something was "bad" in the '80s, that meant it was good. However, "good" did not mean "bad." "Good" still meant "good," and "bad" just meant "really good."
Example: "Just saw the baddest Trans Am down the block."
What's your damage?
This is not a sincere question. Coined by the 1988 teen drama Heathers, it's a harsher way of saying, "What is the matter with you?"
Example: "You told Brenda what I said about her? What's your damage?"
And for more dated trends, check out these 25 Things Cool People Wore in the 1980s.