Things were very different in the 80s. We had a show business president, tensions with Russia, worries about nuclear war. Um… okay, maybe not so different. But the one thing that did set the 80s apart—other than shoulder pads, a winning Chicago Bears team, and smoking on airplanes—was the slang. It was such a rad, righteous time for language. You might even say that 80s slang was illin’.
Slip into your most comfortable pair of Zubaz pants and sneakers without laces, and let’s get totally tubular with the best of 80s slang. And while you’re feeling reflective, check out these 40 Things We Should All Be Thankful For in 2017.
Gag me with a spoon
We have the San Fernando Valley to thank for this gem. An expression for when you want to show disgust or disappointment and it’s not enough just to say “I disapprove.” You’re so disturbed that you literally want to test your gag reflex. It might have been cute then ladies, but this gets an honorary spot on the 40 Sayings Women Over 40 Should Stop Saying.
Example: “I can’t believe she wore those shoes. Gag me with a spoon!”
A sign of approval and possibly even envy. If something is “choice,” you have made the right decision. And for hilarious words no one uses from the 50s anymore, see here.
Example: “Your mullet is looking choice today, my man.”
It has nothing to do with being overweight. When phat is spelled with a “ph” in the beginning, it means something is exceptional. To be called phat is a compliment. And for more on things everyone used to say in the 1960s that are currently no longer phat, check out this list.
Example: “That velour sweatsuit is phat!”
It’s opposite day! But only with this one word. If something’s bad, that means it’s good. But, confusingly, good does not mean bad. Good still means good, but bad means really good.
Example: “Just saw the baddest Trans Am down the block”
Bag your face
If your facial appearance leads something to be desired, perhaps you’d feel more comfortable with a brown paper bag on your head. Another contribution from the California Valley, who somehow became linguistic leaders during the 80s. Make sure your face is looking its best, here are 5 New Skin Care Products You Need Now.
Example: “I have so many zits, my god I should just bag my face.”
When surfers describe something as gnarly, it means especially difficult or even dangerous. But in the 80s, gnarly became a shorthand for anything cool and exciting.
Example: “That Bill Murray movie was so gnarly!”
Have a cow
When you’re getting a little too emotional or upset about something, you’re having a cow. How exactly this cow is being had is open to interpretation. Are you giving birth to a cow? Well then, we would have to agree with Bart Simpson when he says, “Don’t have a cow.” Seriously. Don’t do that. Today, of course, this is totally something that only older people say.
Example: “I’m just teasing you. Don’t have a cow, man!”
What something has been uttered that is so obvious and apparent, there will be no duhs given.
Example: “Do you think growing a rat tail was maybe not my best life choice?”
Barf me out
What is it with the 80s and regurgitation slang metaphors? Was “gag me with a spoon” not enough to express contempt? If you reeeeeeally want people to know your level of physical revulsion, you can’t do better than this.
Example: “He’s wearing jam shorts to church? Barf me out!”
You disagree with somebody, but have declined to go into details. “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 my reasons.” They may retort with “even,” and the argument is officially over.
Example: “She’s totally into you, dude.”
What’s your damage?
This is not a sincere question. It’s asked only when a person’s “damage” has already been assessed and diagnosed. It’s a mildly nicer way of saying, “You’re not all there.” Oh, and speaking of dumb, here’s Why Men Are Terrible Risk Takers.
Example: “You ate that whole bag of chips by yourself? What’s your damage?”
A sort of punctuation, either to what you’ve said or what somebody else said. Shouting “word” essentially means “I rest my case.” If you add “…to your mother,” well, that settles it. Word has been delivered to your mother, so don’t even bother with a counter-argument!
Example: “This Cold War is making me really tense. Word to your mother!”
When something is gross but with a little extra—a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will—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 more grody than that. We’ve reached maximum grodiness.
Example: “You’re eating so much nacho cheese. It’s grody to the max!”
The opposite of grody. To be tubular (or better still, totally tubular) is to be remarkable and breathtaking. More surfing slang, because as trucker slang was to the 70s, surfers were to the 80s. If you want to get a surfer’s body without a surfboard, here are 10 Surefire Ways to Get Your Best Body in Your 40s.
Example: “The way he looks in parachute pants is totally tubular!”
Especially delicious food that you intend to chow down on with extreme enthusiasm. This slang was gifted to our culture by Pauly Shore, so use with extreme caution.
Example: “Mind if I help myself to the grindage in your fridge?”
An acknowledgement that something is true. It’s not so much a word as 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?” “Chee’uh!”
Just like the yellowish butterfat spread on your morning toast, something is “butter” if it’s smooooth.
Example: “Naw, man, you gotta peg your pants. That’s butter!”
On Muscle Beach in LA, it wasn’t enough to have a nice body. You had to have a great bod. And if you need tickets to the gun show, here are 10 Ways to Gain Muscle Fast.
Example: “You’d wear muscle tees all the time too if you had a bod like that.”
When a geek has an undeniable sex appeal, he’s elevated to zeek level.
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 slang from the 80s is totally over. Let’s bounce!”
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