Have you ever watched a movie or TV show set in a different time period, caught onto a specific line or slang term, and wondered why it sounds so different from the way people speak nowadays? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Language has more to do with the inner workings of society than we realize, so it’s no surprise that as civilization changes, our styles of communication will too. What some might remember with fondness as the golden days of their youth, others today may only recall as an arbitrary set of dates out of a history textbook.
The 20th century was a time of exponential growth and rapid change. Earth endured two (almost three) world wars, several major economic crises, and the invention and popularization of everything from electricity, cars, radio, and television to disco, whiteboards, and stilettos. Words and language were jumping all over the place, and within the space of five years, it was entirely possible that one slang term could acquire ten different meanings!
We here at FamilyWise have scoured the internet high and low, searching for “What makes a century great?” Certainly, this is a multifaceted question, but we’ve come to the conclusion that slang words and the evolution of language are pretty significant factors. Below we’ve compiled a list of some of the most noteworthy slang trends and sayings from the 20th century.
Top 100 Slang Terms from the 20th Century
1. “Word from the bird”
Pop-culture often stems from the music industry, and that’s exactly true of this saying. 1960s bop group, The Rivingtons, inspired a dance craze with their hit songs “Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow” and “Bird is the Word,” from which this saying originated. In short, if something is described as the verified “word from the bird,” it’s basically the unequivocal truth.
Back in the 1920s and 30s, if someone was a “cat,” they weren’t necessarily feline. This was what you might call someone, particularly an artist, who’s cool, trendy, or hip.
3. “Knuckle sandwich”
Either this saying is a face-up threat or a really good tea-time snack. 1930s Hollywood popularized the phrase in movies like Dead End and Bowery Boys, featuring tough-and-up, macho-man characters hungry for a fight.
4. “Don’t flip your wig!”
This saying from the 1950s is another way of basically telling someone not to freak out. For example, “Don’t flip your wig Mom, but I accidentally threw a baseball through the kitchen window.”
5. “Burn rubber”
This slang phrase might not be the best advice to give to a newly-licensed driver. In essence, to “burn rubber” is to exceed the speed limit; put your pedal to the metal, so to speak. Maybe not such a good idea for any amateur drivers out there.
6. “Cruisin’ for a bruisin'”
There’s nothing quite like a little of that 1950s Greaser sass to get you pumped and oiled up for a street fight. If you look at it from a certain point of view, this saying doubles as both a threat and a semi-compliment. If you’re “cruisin’ for a bruisin’,” it means you look particularly fight-able.
7. “Bust a gut”
There are ways to say ‘LOL’ without the mildly gruesome imagery that this saying implies, but I digress. In the early 1900s, if you laughed hard enough you were apparently in danger of “busting a gut,” or giggling until your stomach exploded. Pretty cool–also ew.
8. “Come on snake, let’s rattle!”
Like other phrases of the 1950s, this slang saying also had a double meaning. If you said this to someone, you were either itching for a fight or asking them to dance.
9. “Wet rag”
Like all flimsy, ineffective household cleaning apparatuses, this saying doesn’t really make the surface shine. If someone described you as a “wet rag” back in the 1950s, it means you were considered a party-pooper, or someone who didn’t know how to have a good time.
10. “Freak flag”
When weird became the new cool, this Jimi Hendrix-inspired slang term became the average quirky person’s self-identifier. If someone considered themselves a “freak flag,” they saw themselves as different, eccentric, and maybe even a little bizarre.
If you’ve ever seen the Back to the Future movies, you’re already clued in to what this term means. A “heavy” situation is probably pretty serious and consequential, just like “heavy” emotions would probably be the kind that weigh frequently on your mind.
12. “Lay it on me”
There’s nothing much to this one. It’s just a more casual, laid-back way of inviting someone to tell you what they’re thinking about.
13. “It’s a gas!”
No, this slang phrase really doesn’t have anything to do with nitrous oxide. Back in the Jazz ages, an especially fun party could be considered “a gas.” You’d use the saying to describe a hilarious situation, joke, or even a person.
14. “Can you dig it?”
Originating from somewhere in the 70s, this saying is essentially another way of asking, “Do you understand?” In simpler terms, if you dig it then you get it.
15. “Far out”
Slang historians postulate that this phrase can either be traced back to the California coast and the surfing community, or else popped straight out of the jazz era. Regardless of its origin, today the phrase is used to describe an unbelievable or extraordinary occurrence, person, or idea. For example, “Woah, the movie Interstellar is pretty far out!”
Oddly specific as this slang phrase’s definition is, its usage is even odder. The name “ankle-biter” could be used to describe anything from puppies to preschoolers. If they rolled, crawled, or sat around on the ground, the adults of the 1950s would probably have referred to them using this term.
17. “Made in the shade”
When someone asks how your life is going, the phrase “I’ve got it made in the shade” probably isn’t the first that pops into your mind. Today, describing something as “shady” implies that it’s suspicious, questionable, or untrustworthy. Back in the 50s, however, shade had a whole lot more to do with cool, laid-back days of ease.
18. “Beat feet”
If you were a juvenile troublemaker back in junior high or high school, you probably did this more than once. To beat one’s feet was to make a quick getaway, most often involving running, and most often uttered amidst hijinks gone wrong.
Sure, there are better-sounding ways to refer to your home or living space, but come on! Who doesn’t love a little arbitrary retro simplicity? Back in the 50s, you wouldn’t simply ask your friends over to your house, you’d invite them to come hang at your “pad”–which sounded much cooler, at least back then.
Back in the mid-20th century, catching a cold wasn’t as simple as we might think of it today. A case of the sniffles was a sure ticket to “germsville,” and if you got sick for a long period of time, you were there for an extended visit.
Short-sided and far-sighted glasses-wearers all have one thing in common: they most likely need a pair of these. “Peepers” are a slang way to refer to glasses. For example, “Hurry up, Jenny! We’re going to be late for your driver’s test.” “One second, Mom. I’ve gotta’ grab my peepers.”
22. “Hunk of junk”
There are more than a few ways to refer to a dated, sputtery automobile, but this one takes the cake. If you wanted to really dig on your guy friend in high school, you might call his car a “hunk of junk.”
This one’s still widely used today. If something’s a “bummer,” it’s probably not an ideal situation. The word was popularized back in the 1960s as a slang way of describing an unfortunate occurrence.
24. “Hang loose”
Surf bums in the early days didn’t really have a whole lot going on. They’d spend their days lounging on the beach, or “hanging loose,” as the saying goes. This phrase is essentially another way of saying “relax” or “have some fun.”
25. “What’s your bag?”
This 60s saying was another way of asking, “What’s bothering you?” or “Why so agitated?” Though if someone is genuinely irritated this might be the wrong question to ask, as it’ll probably upset them even more.
26. “The fuzz”
Yet another slang term from the 1960s that continues to elude us as to its origins, this term was a cool way of referring to the police. For example, you might say, “Slow down, the fuzz are right behind us!”
If someone was considered a “fink,” it probably meant they were a little bit of a tattletale. The word’s origins aren’t explicitly known, but it’s believed to come from the German word “finch,” meaning a type of bird.
This shortened form of the word fabulous wasn’t really a slang term, per-say. Rather, it could be used as a definitive adjective used to describe anything remarkable, stylish, trendy, or just plain awesome. For example, “That dress is totally fab!”
If you’re looking to get out of somewhere quick, you’re planning on “splitting.” This was just a slang synonym for “leave” or “exit.”
This term has come back to popularity in recent years, thanks to a viral meme in 2018. No, the slang term “bread” is not actually referring to baked yeasty carbs, but rather paper money. When someone says “let’s get this bread,” it really means “let’s make some cash.”
This one might evoke some nasty images of snot and nose goo, but that’s surprisingly not what it means at all. Back in the 1960s, a “goober” was someone who often acted silly or foolish. For example, you might describe the class clown as a goober, though it might be misinterpreted in today’s classrooms.
So it’s 1922. You’re hosting a party, but you don’t want anyone to know you’re hosting a party–mostly because prohibition is as big as your stash of alcohol, but also because the word “party” is just so overused. There’s going to be dancing, jiving, laughing, and fun, so you might as well call it a “shindig,” if only to save yourself the trouble of getting busted by the police.
If someone’s a “square,” they’ve gotten a little too used to the idea of being normal. In the 60s, if you were described as a “square,” it probably meant you were just a little bit boring.
34. “Punch it!”
Despite how it sounds, this slang saying was not intended to incite violence. In reality, if you hopped into a car late for work, you’d probably “punch it” on the gas pedal. (Or maybe you’re in the middle of a space battle with the Intergalactic Empire and need to make a quick escape, in which case you’d probably tell your Wookie co-pilot to “punch it” on the hyperdrive.)
35. “Catch you on the flip-side”
This quippy way of saying goodbye originated in the golden days of DJ radio. It refers to the changing from the A-side to the B-side of a vinyl record, the way they used to listen to albums in the good ole’ days. When tomorrow is on the opposite side of today, there’s really no better way to say “see you later.”
Alternatively spelled sike or psych, this one-word “gotcha!” synonym often follows a particular sort of joke, in which the joke-teller excludes the joke-receiver from the actual essence of the joke. Usually, it’s the annoying co-worker who thinks he’s funnier than he is or the class clown who uses bad humor to cover up the fact that he’s actually an insulting bully. Don’t worry, they’ll get their comeuppance.
37. “Five-finger discount”
So we’re not criminals here, but this slang thieving reference from the 60s has got us counting our coupons. If you’re looking for a “five-finger discount,” then you’re looking to steal something. The catch is, only items that can fit into your pocket or the palm of your hand qualify for the “five-finger discount.”
38. “Make the scene”
Though it could be misconstrued to mean “don’t make a scene,” this saying has a whole different meaning. If you “made the scene,” you’d officially arrived at the party, place, or person’s house everyone wanted to be at. Not literally everyone, of course, but you get the gist.
39. “Do me a solid”
This slang phrase’s origins are pretty much as variable as its meaning. Some say they first heard it in the early 70s on the West Coast among the laid-back communities of surfin’ folk, while others swear the popular 90s sitcom Seinfeld was the first place they’d ever heard it. Regardless, if someone asks you to “do them a solid,” it means they’re asking you for a favor.
40. “The man”
So there are positive and negative connotations to this saying. If someone says “you’re the man” with a smile on their face, it’s safe to assume they’re giving you a compliment. If, however, someone refers to “the Man” with a capital M, they’re probably referring to the government, the Institution, the bigger organization that controls the simulation of life, if you will.
41. “Boogie down”
This phrase has followed the origins of hip-hop since the early days. Back in the era of MCs, DJs, and disco balls, if you went out dancing, you were officially “boogie-in’ down.”
42. “Get a wiggle on!”
Following with the dance theme, this 1930s phrase was just another way of saying, “Let’s dance!” Although today, it might get you some weird looks at the club.
43. “Stop dipping in my kool-aid!”
In the 1970s, this name-brand, powder-based, high flavor drink was at its peak of popularity, but this phrase really has nothing to do with fruit punch. If someone is “dipping in your kool-aid,” it means they’re sticking their nose where it doesn’t belong. The whole phrase itself translates to “mind your own business.”
In the 60s, the word spastic shifted from its original descriptor for one with a medical condition or physical uncoordination to a colloquial term of endearment. If you’re high energy, awkward, or scatterbrained, you could be described as a “spaz.”
45. “Take a chill pill”
The OG “chill pill” referred to ADHD medication developed back in the early 80s, and it was actually a real pill. Nowadays, however, this slang phrase is just another way of telling someone to calm down.
46. “Cool beans”
Though thought to have originated in the 70s, this phrase became more widely used thanks to the fun-loving Full House character DJ Tanner in the 1980s. If something is “cool beans,” it’s fashionable, appealing, trendy, or impressive.
The early 20th century saw a whole lot of fresh new trends, like the automobile and electricity. But if something could be considered absolutely “hanging,” it was probably the peak of fashion.
48. “Glad rags”
This cute little expression was what kids back in the 30s used to refer to their dress clothes. If you were going out in your “glad rags,” you were going out in style.
49. “10-4 good buddy”
We think this one’s more exclusive to truckers and pilots, but regardless, it is quintessentially 70s. Similar to the commonly-known phrase, “over and out,” it’s used to convey mutual understanding, typically over a radio or walkie-talkie.
50. “Dead hoofer”
Not only does this sound like an immaculate insult in and of itself–seriously, what more could you ask for in an insult?–but it’s also from the 1940s! If someone’s a “dead hoofer,” they probably don’t have the smoothest dance moves.
51. “Mirror warmer”
We’ve had our fair share of noteworthy insults on this list, but this one belongs in its own uber-specific category: Insults for People Who Spend Too Much Time In Front of the Mirror.
The 70s was a prolific time for random new lingo. This slang term is synonymous with “gossip,” most often used over neighborhood ladies’ brunches. (i.e. “What’s the skinny on Janice’s new minvan?”)
53. “Barf me out!”
So the 80s would have us believe Valley Girls were a whole different breed of mean. Whether that’s true or not, they did coin some pretty gruesome slang sayings, of which this might be one of the worst. If a valley girl saw something (or someone) that didn’t appear up to the social par, they’d use this as an expression of disgust.
54. “To the max”
You’re determined, ready to go all the way. You want to push it to the limit. You want to go “to the MAX!”
55. “Don’t kirk out”
All you Trekkies out there, don’t freak out–or should we say, don’t “kirk out.” This saying really has less to do with the famous USS Enterprise Captain than it might appear. Ironically, it’s the 80s way of telling someone not to lose their cool.
Thanks to the iconic 90s film Clueless, this slang term has likely gotten more screen time than any other phrase on this list. If you were “buggin’,” the situation was probably pretty confusing, difficult, or complex.
Rather than go through the trouble of giving someone credit where credit is due the old-fashioned way, you might as well just say, “Props, dude,” and get it over with. It’s a shortened version of the term “proper dues.”
If you’re looking for a more creative way to call someone a “know-it-all,” this is the slang for you. Hailing from the early 1900s, this antique insult might just be the perfect blend of nonsense and perfect sense.
The 70s weren’t just a time for vocabulary minimization, but also already-easy-to-pronounce word minimization, as well. If something is “bogue,” it’s an adverse situation, sometimes disastrous, usually always a bummer.
60. “Talk to the hand”
The full saying goes, “Talk to the hand, ’cause the face ain’t listening!” But we don’t need to get into semantics. Essentially, this 90s-coined saying is what you might say to a particularly annoying someone (or sibling) if you wanted them to stop talking to you.
In the 1980s, cell phones were about as vague and obsolete a concept as the idea of water on Mars. Which is to say that kids really had nothing better to do than hang around at the mall all day. This slang term pretty much encapsulates an older generations’ regard for the pegged-pants-wearing, scrunchie-wielding, Janet Jackson-lauding loafers.
If you’ve never heard this expression before, it means you haven’t really done it. To “party-hardy” is simple to party hard. Or to party heartily, which is another form of the expression that means the same thing.
63. “Brick house”
Popularized by the Commodores’ 1977 one-hit-wonder of the same name, this slang phrase was used to refer to a formidable and well-groomed woman. If she was a “brick house,” she was dangerous, super fly, and she definitely knew what it was all about.
64. “Fine as wine”
So objectifying women is NOT what we here at FamilyWise are about, but this 60s expression follows the theme of impressive females. If someone was “fine as wine,” they were powerful, beautiful, and most likely mildly intimidating.
This slang term originated from who-knows-where in the 20s, and it pretty much means nothing more than what it means. If something is “copacetic,” it’s all good, excellent, or in perfect condition.
66. “Get bent!”
Deprecatory slang was one of the big deals of the 90s, as exemplified by this rude slang saying. Bart Simpson popularized the phrase, but it was used largely against someone you didn’t like. If someone told you to “get bent,” they probably didn’t want you anywhere near them.
67. “Gag me with a spoon!”
The quintessential slang saying of the 80s, this phrase is still widely used today in fond reference to the decade of legwarmers, aerobics outfits, and big hair. If something gross you out enough back in the 80s, you might use this phrase to emphasize your disgust or express disbelief.
In the 1920s, cuss words were pretty few and far between–if not pretty much entirely obsolete in polite society. This nonsense term was used in place of actual curses. But who really knows what a “horsefeather” is, anyway? Do with it what you will.
69. “Keep on keepin’ on”
This slang phrase has some vague origins, but it essentially means “don’t give up.” When you get into a tough spot, just “keep on keepin’ on.” You’ll get through.
70. “Bag your face”
You might not want to use this phrase on anybody, as it’ll probably get you no friends. If you say “bag your face” to someone, you’re basically saying you think they’re ugly. Not very nice.
If a party is a total “drag,” it’s not a party you want to go to. If you don’t like your job, you might also describe it as a “drag.” The 70s coined this phrase, shifting its meaning from the act of pulling an object behind you, to a totally boring public event.
72. “Chrome dome”
This timeless phrase is a loving way to refer to all the baldies in your life. At least, we hope you’ll use it lovingly.
In the 90s, if your high school bully called you “wacked,” it was just another predictable insult. It’s just your typical synonym for weirdo, freak, or loser.
Surfer lingo of the 80s became skater-kid lingo of the 90s. This phrase is another way to describe something awesome. If you’ve ever ridden a nice wave or managed a kick-flip, you have some pretty “gnarly” skills.
75. “All to the mustard”
The power of condiments is so far-reaching and eclectic, we really don’t know the half of it. This 1920s saying was used to describe something excellent. If a situation was “all to the mustard,” it was all under control, perfectly handled, and not to be worried about.
76. “Birthday suit”
This one is still used today but was popularized in the 20s as a nicer way of saying the word naked–because that was just too taboo, of course.
77. “Have a cow”
To make a bigger deal out of something than it’s intended to be made into, or else to defy all the known laws of nature by giving birth to one of these bovine ungulates.
It seems fitting that one should use nonsense to describe something nonsensical, right? That’s exactly true of this slang term from the early 20th century, which is a synonym for humbug, absurdity, or foolishness.
79. “Not even!”
Usually, this one’s said in a high-pitched voice. At least that’s how we read it. In the 80s and 90s, this phrase was used as a strong refute. If someone said something you found wholeheartedly false, “Not even!” was an appropriate response. (Everywhere but a courtroom, anyway.)
80. “Full of prunes”
There’s nothing wrong with this fruit, per see. It just gets a lot more flack than it probably deserves. If someone is “full of prunes,” they’re blatantly wrong about something.
Spelling errors abound with this icky slang term: grodie, grodee, grodelicious! (Nah, we’re just kidding about that last one.) Regardless, in whichever spelling format its slang-wielder chooses, this saying is unfailingly used to describe particularly disgusting situations, objects, and sometimes even people.
82. “It’s a doozy!”
If something is a “doozy,” it really is a big deal. Most often, it’s used to describe a situation or person that is just simply too overwhelming to put into words.
As weird as this one sounds, it makes pretty literal sense. “Grindage” refers to eating, meaning that when you’re looking for lunch you might as well say, “I’m ready for some serious grindage.” However, we’d suggest using this in very specific contexts only, as it may easily get misinterpreted. (Properly pronounced, “grinde-udge“)
This odd-sounding conglomeration of the words absolutely and positively was popularized in the 20s. I guess when you had flapper-dancing and cocktail-drinking to do, you just didn’t have enough time to emphasize your certainty in more than one word. (i.e. “Are you sure this speakeasy’s not gonna’ get busted?” “Absotively!”)
We’re guessing you’ve heard this one before, but if you haven’t, it’s a synonym for excited. If you’re “stoked” to go to a party, it’s going to be a good time.
86. “Going ballistic”
While this word refers to military-grade missile weaponry, it can also refer to someone’s over-the-top temper. If you’re a hotheaded individual, you probably know what it feels like to go “ballistic.”
87. “Veg out”
Still widely used today, this phrase is another way to say you’re taking the day off, probably binge-watching your favorite HBO series or Netflix original, snuggled up in blankets with your favorite snacks. Don’t feel bad; we all need to “veg out” a little every now and then.
88. “Wig chop”
Not everybody needs to wear wigs, but everybody occasionally needs to get a “wig chop.” This 1950s saying translates to “haircut.” Why, exactly? We certainly don’t know.
89. “Earth pads”
Only the uncool kids of the 40s and 50s referred to footwear as shoes. And besides, who wants boring old shoes when you can have “Earth pads?”
Picture this: It’s a 97-degree July day in 1953. You just got a couple of quarters for trimming your neighbor’s grass. What better way to spend it than to cycle down to the diner and slurp on a nice, cold “slurg?” As weird as it sounds, this slang term is simply another way to refer to a milkshake.
91. “Bust a move”
First used in the late 80s, this phrase was a trademark of the famous hip-hop group the Beastie Boys before it was more widely popularized by Young MC in his song of the same name. The saying itself means “to dance,” or more specifically, “to begin dancing very suddenly.”
92. “Gettin’ jiggy wit it!”
The 90s introduced us to cultural phenomena after cultural phenomena, it’s true. But perhaps one of the most noteworthy was Will Smith’s ’97 solo debut album Big Willie Style, from which we acquired this prime specimen of a 20th-century slang saying. If someone is “gettin’ jiggy wit it,” they’re dancing up a storm.
If you were considered “fly” back in the day, people weren’t calling you an annoying insect. In fact, this term was used as a compliment back in the 80s and 90s. To be “fly” was to be stylish, hip, and the epitome of cool.
94. “Old lady”
Though this one sounds like a lighthearted jab, it was actually a term of endearment used in reference to one’s wife or girlfriend. For example, “Hey Joe, we’re going out for drinks after work. You should come!” “Nah, I think I’m gonna’ get home to the old lady.”
95. “Cut the mustard”
This slang saying is one of the few on our list that’s over 100 years old, originating from the 1907 story The Heart of the West. If someone’s “cut the mustard,” they’re successful at meeting and exceeding expectations.
96. “Space cadet”
This phrase refers to someone who zones out a lot. If you’re easily distracted or often find you’re mind wandering, this slang applies to you.
97. “Cross my heart and hope to die”
Though it’s not your typical slang, this saying is still widely used today. If you “cross your heart and hope to die,” you make a promise that you can’t possibly break.
98. “Make goo-goo eyes”
Back in the early 1900s, if someone was accused of “making goo-goo eyes,” it meant they were crushing hard on someone. Maybe it had something to do with the way you feel absolutely “goo-goo” around someone you like.
99. “Live wire”
There really aren’t any more perfect ways to refer to an energetic person. If someone’s considered a “live wire,” they’ve got a bad case of the antsies.
100. “Bring home the bacon”
Though this popular saying originated way earlier than the 20th century, it was widely used in the 1940s, 50s, and beyond. If you’re “bringing home the bacon” you’re earning an income to live on.
1984: Big Brother, Big Economy, Big Happenings
When George Orwell’s groundbreaking science fiction novel hit the market on June 8, 1949, it blew millions of American minds. Not only was it one of the most revolutionary novels of the 20th century, but it also established an expansive school of thought. Though the piece of fiction wasn’t exactly true to reality, it might pose the question, “What actually did happen in 1984?”
The economy was booming, DNA profiling was developed, and the space shuttle Discovery took its maiden flight. 1984 might not have gone down how Orwell predicted, but plenty of interesting stuff happened this year. Below we’ve compiled a list of the 25 biggest events of the year that made it so memorable.
What Happened in 1984?
1. Genetic fingerprinting/DNA profiling was developed.
Between two people, there are approximately three million different base pair DNA combinations. It was in 1984 that these microscopic differences began to be more widely used in forensic investigations to identify criminals. DNA profiling was a breakthrough for both the medical and criminal investigative communities.
2. The U.S. hosted the Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California.
Not only was this the first Olympics to incorporate women’s marathon, women’s cycling, and synchronized swimming, but it also proved to be one of the more unique games in history. With Cold War sentiments still running rampant and in response to the US’s boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, the USSR and fourteen additional Eastern Bloc countries neglected to participate in these games. With such a lack of competition, the U.S. made out with a record 83 gold medals.
3. Hong Kong returns to China.
Since the first Opium War of 1842, Hong Kong had operated under British rule as an entity separate from the Chinese communist government. UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang came to the Sino-British Joint Declaration on December 19, 1984, officially designating 1997 as the year Hong Kong would retain its capitalist, democratic systems while becoming a part of the Chinese government.
4. The first MTV Video Music Awards aired.
Back when music videos were just beginning to make their mark, MTV was the channel you wanted to be on. The first-ever Video Music Awards ceremony aired September 14, 1984, and featured iconic performances by Madonna, David Bowie, and Ray Parker, Jr.
5. Indira Gandhi was assassinated.
The Prime Minister of India led a successful campaign during her early years in the position (1966-76). After a few political losses and a shift in her party platform, she won the spot again in 1980 to serve for a fourth term. After a Sikh separatist movement took over the Holy Golden Temple in Amristar in 1984 and hundreds were killed, two of Gandhi’s bodyguards, both Sikh extremists, assassinated her.
6. The Apple Macintosh Super Bowl commercial aired.
Before Super Bowl commercials had become an entire industry in their own right, Apple set the bar when it premiered its Macintosh ad on January 22, 1984. The popular tech corporation, manned by Steve Jobs at the time, spent over $900,000 (the modern equivalent of $2.2 million) on the production of the commercial, making it one of the most expensive advertisements ever produced. Pictured above is the Macintosh computer itself. Was $900,000 worth the hype? Maybe, maybe not… we’ll leave it to you to decide.
7. Miners in the UK went on strike.
This might sound like something pretty old-fashioned, but believe it or not, miners were still going on strike when you or your parents were teenagers. The National Coal Board, an agency of Margaret Thatcher’s administration, was ready to cut around 20,000 jobs and close down 20 different collieries. Over 150,000 members of the National Mineworkers Union went on strike from 1984 to 1985 and brought national, economic, and industrial systems to a near standstill.
8. Band Aid raised awareness about childhood hunger in Ethiopia with a Christmas song.
A month before the Christmas of 1984, musician Bob Geldorf recruited top artists from Britain and Ireland to release a single that would raise awareness for childhood hunger in Ethiopia. The song sold a million copies the week of its release and hit the 3 million mark before the year was over.
9. English pound notes were taken out of circulation.
The English one pound note was removed from circulation in November of ’84 and replaced with a sturdier one pound coin (pictured above) by Chancellor Nigel Lawson. The note had circulated the market for over 180 years and featured Queen Elizabeth II.
10. CIA embassy director William Francis Buckley was abducted.
On March 16, 1984, this story broke headlines all across the nation. While outside his residence in Beirut, Lebanon, William Francis Buckley was kidnapped by jihadi extremists who believed he could be used in a prisoner exchange. He was subsequently held in captivity and allegedly tortured until he succumbed to his injuries and was returned to the U.S. to be buried a year later.
11. York Minster caught fire.
On July 9, York Minster erupted in flames in the early hours of the morning. For hours, York Fire Department fought to contain the flames but eventually had to collapse the south transept in order to save the remaining structure. The fire was caused by a lightning bolt and ended up costing £2.2 million worth of damage.
12. Union Carbide Plant leaked.
In December of 1984, tragedy struck the industrial city of Bhopal, India when the Union Carbide Industrial pesticide plant leaked methyl isocyanate gas (used in the production of insecticide sprays) into the city. Over the course of a day, the gas poisoned over 2,000 people and ultimately impacted over 200,000. With such long-lasting effects, this disaster is still impacting the people of Bhopal today.
13. The longest MLB game in history happened.
On May 8, 1984, the Chicago White Sox went up against the Milwaukee Brewers, running head to head over 25 innings, eight total hours, and two straight days. The only thing that could break the two teams up was a home run by Chicago’s Harold Baines, which secured the win for the White Sox 7-6.
14. A woman ran for vice-president for the first time.
Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro was not the first female politician, but she certainly broke specific barriers that had been in place since America’s founding and continues to serve as an empowering figurehead to this day. In the 1984 election, she became the first female vice-presidential nominee to represent the Democratic party–or any major party, for that matter.
15. The National Cancer Institute successfully identified HIV.
Since the early 80s, health officials, medical researchers, and specialists everywhere had worked tirelessly in the fight against AIDS, but it wasn’t until 1984 that a true breakthrough was made. Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute and his colleagues identified the retrovirus HTLV-III, or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. It is a disease that has caused the deaths of approximately 700,000 people to date.
16. Michael Jackson’s hair caught on fire.
In 1984, Jackson’s ill-fated Pepsi-backed live concert went horribly haywire when a major polytechnics malfunction caused a stray spark to catch in his styled hair while he was performing, lighting him on fire. The pop star sustained second and third-degree burns on his face and scalp and retained scars for the rest of his life.
17. Eddie Murphy became a superstar.
The lovable comedian and actor shot straight to stardom after his work in the Hollywood Blockbuster flick, Beverly Hills Cop (1984). In addition to the fact that Axel Foley was Murphy’s first solo role, the movie ended up grossing over $315 million at the box office! It became the top-grossing film of the year and was deemed a pop-culture phenomenon, loved by generations of Eddie Murphy enthusiasts to this day.
18. Someone rode a hot-air balloon across the Atlantic for the first time.
In September of 1984, Joseph Kittinger, a retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, set out to make the first-ever transatlantic flight in a hot-air balloon. He departed from Caribou, Maine, and touched ground in Montenotte, Italy 86 hours later. In total, he and Rosie O’Grady’s Balloon of Peace traveled nearly 3,600 miles–pretty impressive!
19. Footloose became a cultural phenomenon!
We all know Kevin Bacon by name, and ever since he danced his way across the silver screen back in 1984, we haven’t been able to keep the obsession at bay. These days, he’s usually found playing a more somber character, but to us, he will always be remembered as the dancing, smirking city boy Ren McCormack.
20. Prince released Purple Rain–the song and the movie.
The summer of 1984 was the summer to be listening to Prince. The rock musical drama film was nothing compared to the release of the song, which hit #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the US for two consecutive weeks and #1 in Belgium and the Netherlands.
21. The space shuttle Discovery made its maiden voyage.
The morning of August 30, 1984 had every American looking to the skies for a glimpse of the space shuttle Discovery, which made its first-ever launch out of Kennedy Space Center at 8:42 am EDT. Discovery‘s dauntless crew consisted of five men and one woman, who successfully deployed the SBS-4 satellite, the Syncom satellite, and the Telstar satellite into orbit.
22. Bruce McCandless and Robert L. Stewart made the first-ever untethered spacewalk.
Keeping with the space theme, this is one not-so-small walk for man, and one ginormous spacewalk for mankind! On February 3, 1984, two brave astronauts took the first leap into the great big (and very literal) unknown–no strings attached. Sure, they had jetpacks, but that’s hardly comforting considering the vastness.
23. Reagan won the presidential re-election by a landslide.
President Ronald Reagan was re-elected for his second four-year term in office on November 6, 1984, winning 49 of the 50 states. And, as if that wasn’t impressive enough, the president obtained a majority 97.6% of the electoral vote–the largest margin of any candidate in American history and a truly stunning feat.
24. The Soviet Union ditched the L.A. Summer Olympics.
So the Cold War was a lot more than psychological warfare, but this move was pretty much just that: psychological. After the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, the Soviets saw it only fitting to return the favor, and subsequently opted out of the 1984 games. Blame it on the 102° L.A. traffic.
25. Ghostbusters broke the box office.
This spooktastic classic comedy came out the summer of 1984, shattering Columbia Pictures’ opening weekend record with a baffling $35 million in the box office, making it the highest-grossing comedy of all time (up to 1984, of course). The film was nominated for 2 Oscars and 3 Golden Globes, and its soundtrack–which featured Ray Parker Jr.’s original song “Ghostbusters”–was even in the running for a Grammy.
20 Slang Terms from the 80’s
So maybe Reaganomics and the Just Say No campaign didn’t particularly spike your interest back in the day, but there was much more to the 80s than politics, the Cold War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was a time of big hair, big dreams, and Bon Jovi. If you can look past all of the cringe-worthy neon trends and legwarmers, you’ll find that this decade was also a shining time of phat catchphrases, choice sayings, and totally gnarly slang. If you lived through these years, you know exactly what we’re talking about.
Below we’ve compiled a list of the top 20 most iconic sayings of the decade, from quippy one-liners to full-on nonsense. So if you’re looking to incorporate some totally radical throwback terms into your vocabulary, look no further.
80s Slang that Will Have You Slidin’ Down Your Shades
This was just another way of saying yes or yeah, but with a scoff and an especially sarcastic tone.
Though to you it may seem like an exclusive surfer term, the word tubular was synonymous with the word cool to everyone back in the 80s.
3. “Gag me with a spoon!”
This phrase was used to express disgust. It makes the word gross seem pretty dull in comparison.
If something in the 80s was bad, you knew it was cool or trendy. Good was still good, of course, but bad was also good–makes sense, right?
If you know this movie, you probably already know what this word means. Back in the 80s, if you found yourself stuck in or even witnessing a crappy situation, you would describe it as bogus.
6. “Don’t have a cow.”
This is a funnier way of telling someone to chill out. Kinda weird, right? Apparently, you only really deserved someone saying this to you if you were truly overreacting.
7. “No duh!”
Seeing as how this is still a commonly used phrase, we already know that you already know what it means–no duh!
8. “Not even!”
If your answer to something was no, but you wanted to emphasize it, this is what you would say. It’s the 80s equivalent of the 90s saying, “As if!”
Back in the 80s, there was no more creative and emphatic way to express disgust than this word. Grody was an expression of extreme perturbation.
10. “Like totally!”
This was a way to answer in the affirmative without really saying yes. For example, would we bring back staple 80s lingo if we could? Like, totally!
It’s highly unlikely that you don’t know what this means, but just in case you don’t, we’ve got you covered. A dude or dudette is a particularly chill individual with a knack for chillin’ out and being cool.
12. “What’s your damage?”
Back in the 80s, it was too much of an imposition to ask what someone’s problem was. You just had to dig a little deeper and accuse them of being emotionally damaged in some way.
This would be used to describe someone or something particularly awesome or amazing. For example, you might say to someone, “That is a choice pair of shoes,” or “Choice ride, dude!”
If something was described as gnarly, it was a skill you wanted to gain, a product you wanted to have, or a person you wanted to be best friends with. This word described only the coolest of the cool and the awesomest of the awesome.
Rad is still a widely used term to this day, and boy are we thankful it is! How else would we describe the most awesome parts of life?
16. “Wiggin’/ Wiggin’ out”
If someone is wiggin’ or wiggin’ out, this gif probably resembles their mental state. Duran Duran is an 80s icon, so his facial expression is a perfect fit for the meaning of the word.
17. “Eat my shorts!”
If someone were to say this to you, it meant they wanted nothing to do with you. It was a saying popularized by Bart Simpson–yet another example of how big of a deal The Simpsons was back in the 80s.
This word was used to describe something that was probably extremely new and hip. If something was fresh, it was the cool new thing.
19. “Bag your face!”
This was a particularly cruel insult that high school kids of the 80s came up with when someone’s facial appearance left something to be desired
This word is still widely used today, meant to describe something dull or unoriginal. For example, a boring party would be described as lame.
Groovy 70’s Slang
If you’re anything like us here at FamilyWise, you have tons of fond memories of the 70s. With all those disco balls and funky bellbottoms, it’s no surprise that this decade is one of the most iconic in terms of music, art, and quirky sayings. If you’re looking for ways to spice up your vocabulary or even just in the mood for some soulful nostalgia, you’ve come to the right place.
Below we’ve compiled a list of some fabulous and most groovy 70s slang terms and phrases. Take it from us, you don’t want to miss out on these excellent sayings, sensational words, and hilariously nifty expressions.
70s Slang to Remind You of Trippier Times
You would say this to an overambitious individual, someone who’s made a statement outside the realm of what you might consider realistic. In other words, if you’ve got to get someone’s head out of the clouds, this is what you would say to them. Short and not so sweet, but it gets the point across.
This is another way of letting someone know you’ve tricked them or psyched them out.
This word would have been used to describe an unbelievable idea, something so unrealistic that it was mildly offensive. In modern terms, it’s the response equivalent of “Not cool, man,” or “That’s bogus.”
This is simply a cooler way of referring to someone’s home or apartment.
“Lay a Gasser”
We try to keep our content pretty clean here at FamilyWise, so we’ll leave you to guess what this one might mean. (Hint: Think stink!)
“Can You Dig It?”
So maybe your algebra teacher never phrased the question this way when teaching you variables, but if they had back in the seventies, any student would have understood exactly what they meant. This saying was simply another way of asking, “Do you understand?” or “Do you get it?”
“I gotta skitty!”
If you’ve ever used the word skedaddle, then you already know the proper usage of this word. The phrase all together means, “I have to hurry,” or “I’ve gotta’ rush.”
“Keep on stepping”
If you wanted someone to “get outta’ here” or “keep it moving,” you would say this to them.
This was just another way of saying goodbye or farewell.
“Let’s blow this taco stand!”
You’re at a party with your friends. The music has gotten repetitive and the chips are stale. What’s the most creative way you can think of to say “Let’s get out of here.” That’s exactly what this phrase is for.
“Let’s blow up the cheese!”
People of the 70s must have just not enjoyed saying “Let’s leave,” or “Let’s get outta’ here,” so they had to come up with a bunch of different ways to say it.
“Peace, love, and granola”
The hippies of the day really lived up to their name with this one. Rather than say goodbye, they’d just say “Peace, love, and granola,” before parting.
“Peace out, home fry”
Apparently, referring to your friends as fast-food wouldn’t have earned you a bunch of weird looks back in the 1970s. This was just another way to say goodbye or “See you later.”
“Catch you on the flip-side”
This was just another way of saying “I’ll see you later,” but, like, in a cool way. We don’t know exactly what is on the flip-side, but it must be a pretty cool place for everyone wanting to catch each other there.
“Do me a Solid”
This saying is another way to ask someone for a favor. Our guess is that it sounds less like an imposition when you say it in a hip, offhand way like this. The saying is still used today, so you’ve probably heard it once or twice.
“What a Fry”
And we’re back to the fast-food references. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with calling someone a french fry–I mean, they are pretty delicious–but back in the 70s, if this particular phrase was said to you, it meant that you were acting weird or strange.
This is just another way to refer to a quick rundown of events, so the next time someone says to you, “Give me the skinny,” what they’re actually asking for is a quick overview of the situation.
Though we’re pretty sure this is still a widely-used saying, we’ll let you know what it means, anyway. If something is “far out,” it’s probably pretty cool.
If you were a cute girl in the 70s, you would’ve been considered a “bunny.” Don’t ask us why; we don’t exactly know.
100 Slang Sayings From the 20th Century
1984: Big Brother, Big Economy, Big Happenings
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20 Slang Terms from the 80’s
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