80s slang

I don’t know why but my cousin Damien always used to shout "stem!" whenever I did something dumb. Or if I tripped, came in last place, or hit the tennis ball over the fence. I did a search for "80s slang" and nothing came up. Really, there aren’t enough resources out there for good 80s slang. Terms pulled from Fresh Prince songs or something. It’s all Bart Simpson stuff. But I don’t remember the 80s in terms of not having a cow, man.

Frickin’ A, is still a term I use, despite having no actual fondness for it. It’s just managed to work its way in there. For some reason I keep thinking of this kid named Grimace from fat camp who used to "churn butter" every time "The Humpty Dance" played over the loud speaker.Though that happened in the early 90s, not the Max Headrom 80s. At flagpole lineups they’d play it, and he’d perform, kids clapping. He had the body of a clown, just naturally. He even walked as if he was wearing those ridiculous clown shoes. He kept a pick in his back pocket, despite being white and having a shorn head. I don’t know that his given names was Grimace, but that’s what kids called him. He didn’t seem to mind. Actually, his real name was Tony. It just came to me. It’s fun remembering.

But it’s so odd there’s no proper slang bin. Urbandictionary is dreck. I also believe a lot of it was regional. "Wicked bad" was something kids from Boston said, but not so much the kids in New York. Also when people say "the 80s" I think they forget that’s an entire decade, filled with ten individual years. They took me from 867-5309 to "Girl you know it’s true." From Garbage Pail kids and plastic charm bracelets and Lisa Frank stickers, to fluorescent tube socks and rubber bracelets. But the words, I wish I could get them all right. Do you remember any? It would be a help.

The stuff I remember:

Radical. Totally rad. And just plain "rad."
Go suck an egg.
Sit on it, and rotate (while flipping someone the bird)
No duh.
I’m going to totally rank her out.



  1. there was a girl at my school dubbed "grimace" and it's because she was shaped like grimace from the mcdonald's ads – the purple thing… not sure what it was exactly.

    and we used "sike!" a lot

  2. I graduated high school in 1992- so I think you and I are close in age.

    -Gag me!
    -Bite me!
    -"Retard!" was a big one in my school and not very "PC" now, as was "Sped".
    -Skanky (which is still used today, but I remember calling this girl Aimee a skank in 8th grade)
    -Awesome! or Totally Awesome!!
    -Grody to the max
    -Barf me
    -"Like"- inserted "like" 20 times in "like" every sentence.

    Thanks for the trip down memory lane. My mother once gave me a folder of notes my BFF from middle/high school had given me over the years. She saved them for the language/vernacular and laughs. I may go and look to read them tonight. Good luck!
    -"Totally" was used in front of everything pretty much.

  3. my husband still "churns butter" whenever the humpty dance comes on and i definitely continue to overuse the word "rad." it's one of my absolute favorites.

    in sixth grade, there was this boy who knew every single word to "wild, wild west" and we all thought we were so cool because at recess, a bunch of us would follow him around as he led us in the lyrics. there's a good chance that we also did a few dance moves.

    i would love to see us doing that now… i can only imagine what our teachers must have been thinking. how they ever taught us anything with a straight face after seeing us do that is completely beyond me.

    do you ever get those "you know you were a child of the 80's if…" e-mails? they are hysterical and you might get a few ideas from them if you are still looking for slang.

  4. Hmmm…I think I remember a few:
    Sit and spin (perhaps the Midwest version of that one)
    Mint (both versions of "cool")

  5. Barf me out the door man!
    "Trim" as in did you get any trim last night. Oh this makes me cringe!

  6. FACE! (while placing your open hand over your face) in order to say "in your face"!

    I'm so sure!

  7. I remember, "See ya, wouldn't want to be ya", but maybe it's not from the 80's. Young kids used to say "That is so gay" before they even knew what gay was. (Not that there's anything wrong with it!). Another one was kids would always answer "For sure". Also things were "narly".

  8. how about…

    fine. As in, "He is so fine!" (makes me gringe to write it)
    "spuh" just a cooler version, we thought, of "Duh"

  9. Not! As in you look really pretty today, Not!
    From Wayne's world.
    I guess that's 90's though.
    Face! That was one guys always did to eachother. I think that was from tha A-Team. I'm sorry that I remember that.

  10. Schwing
    Schyeah both from Wayne's world, but that may've been early 90s.


    T — I totally remember Grody to the max!! HAHAH!

    I like reading people's comments b/c so many of our "things" are regional, just like you surmised, Stephanie.

  11. So gross… but how'd you make it through sleepaway camp without hearing the endless "hot beef injection" references.

    Others: excellent, duh-hickey, no shit sherlock, tubular, anything Tootie from Facts of Life said.

  12. Of course "dude" goes in there. And "gross me out". Why did we all talk like surfers? I grew up in GA and we all still did it… it must have sounded so funny with the drawl! We always said "going with" to mean dating- Jim's going with Sue. My dad's reply to news like this was to ask where they were going.

  13. That's too funny. I live in Montreal, went to french school but the popular crowd was mostly anglophone and can still relate to this. Sit on it and rotate was my favorite. wish i could use that today. with co-workers. or annoying strangers. am sure it would relieve some stress…

  14. how about "he's a fox" when referring to some guy who you thought was cute…

  15. gnarly, bogus, dude, Duh Ralphie, tubular (seriously, we in Montana we obsessed with California), waver (for New Wave music likers or predecessors to Goth), eechiwawa (from the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi), meckaneckal (for mechanical, it's a Pee Wee's Playhouse thing), "What's your damage?" (Heathers, best movie ever!), Large Marge (scary, large person from Pee Wee's Big Adventure)…

  16. I remember using 'gaywad' and 'dweeb' a lot. Also-"your mama" was always appropriate whenever all other comebacks had been exhausted.

  17. oh this is fun! My sister and I used to sing the lyrics of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" (touched for the very first time…) when in the grocery store. My mother finally had to tell us what a virgin was just to shut us up!

  18. I still have my junior high yearbook from 1985 and there was a page where the students compiled the popular slang of the time. Plus I remember some from high school.

    to the max
    so cool
    like, i know,
    for sure
    barf me out the door
    gag me with a spoon
    fresh (cool)
    what up, do?
    yo mamma
    word to the mother (as in Vanilla ICe)
    catchin air
    fag (sorry, not pc)
    mental (as in "she is crazy")
    classifications of people: head banger, yuppy, preppie, poser, skater, burn out, geek

  19. marcy–
    dweeb! totally forgot that one even though there was an entire clothing industry based on that word!

  20. We used to always use a line from the movie Better Off Dead. Whenever we crashed, say on our bikes or on a snow sled, we would yell out, "Two Dollars." We also loved lines from The Karate Kid and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.

  21. Oh, and "queer-bait" was used a lot. I definitely didn't know any meaning to it- just that it wasn't a compliment. Same with "That's so gay". We probably used that one daily. But gay=lame. I can't remember that it actually meant "homosexual" back then.

    "scumbag"- then, I remember in 7th grade, this kid Joey told me what a "scumbag" actually was (or his definintion, anyway). I was so grossed out.

    No DUH! was often used in my house between my sister and I. It drove my mother crazy.

  22. I remember "dih", not sure if it was true 80's slang or just our take on "duh", but it was always long, loud and drawn out, "diiiiihhhh!!

  23. In Plainview in the early 80's we said "You have the Chris-touch!" or just "Chris-touch!" a lot. You had to cross your middle finger over your pointer finger to be immune from it. If you got it, you had to touch someone else to give it away.

    The way the first person got it was by accidentally touching Chris (or whoever it was).

  24. This post is the bomb!

    I used to get really annoyed at my brother because he would taunt me with "Oooooh, cap on you!"

  25. Did anyone call tongue kissing "frenching?" As in, I saw them and they were like totally frenching.

    And of course, there's nothing better than an Oh My God, but in different tones:

    quick and excited: "Omigod! You will FREAK OUT when you hear this"

    or in a "holy shit" way: "Oh. My. God." Like that girl in the beginning of I Like Big Butts or whatever that song is.

    And then of course, Anything that Jennifer Grey said in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" or in Sixteen Candles, like,

    "Whatsa Hoppenin Hot Stuff"

  26. Mashing (making out)

    A doy! (variant of duh, or a duh!)

    Smell ya' later!

    dearly not queerly,


  27. Here's my list
    moded – said when someone makes a mistake
    face – see above
    scratch – (while making a scratch motion to face)
    gag me with a spoon
    butt nugget
    and the all time fave "like totally"

  28. I was in high school until 1985, and it is very regional. I went to high school on the west coast and the whole Valley Girl/Moon Zappa thing made it into everyday speech—-but I'm really from the east coast, and "wicked" as an adjective, "tahhd" (short for retaahded), "choice" as an adj. or a noun, for something superlatively good—-were commonly used here.

    Before I completed my mental list of high school words, I read prennie's post and she got it dead on. That's what the CA kids in the early 80s were saying. Stoners and "mods" (alternative lite kids, heh) were two more clique descriptions.

  29. I just remebered this one….. stoked (sp?) as in, "I'm so stoked to have two tickets to Bon Jonvi"

  30. thought of another one, so I'm back.

    If you told someone you did something:

    "Big whoop. You want a medal or a monument?"

  31. Oh god.. my brother, cousins and I said "no duh" until WE were sick of hearing it.

    My brother and I would also (innocently) call each other "Jerkoff!" until our mom overheard, freaked out, and demanded that we only call each other "jerk." She didn't tell us what "jerk off" meant but we figured if "jerk" was better, it had to be pretty bad.

  32. Watch some of the first seasons of "Saved by the Bell" if you want to hear some great 80's slang.

    We used to say…
    Word. (I understand)
    That's tits! (sweet)
    Sprung (horny)
    Airhead (stupid girl)
    Butt Ugly
    Nasty (sex)
    For sure!
    Spaz out
    Doing it (sex)

    Everything was MONDO-something. Mondo-tits, mondo-sprung, whatever. And we quoted rappers more than movies – funky cold medina, check yo'self before you wreck yo'self, posse on broadway, white lining. I am such a product of the 80's. I love that time in my life. :-)

  33. How about "yessssssss…" very often accompanied by a clenching a fist and pulling it back quickly toward one's self, like a rowing motion? Distinctly remember that from my childhood… but if the fist pump is integral to the overall expression, it may not count as slang.

    Or – "punch bug!" I hated that game – my best friend always punched way too hard. Or I was just a crybaby…which is totally possible.

  34. I remember "Fresh" and "wicked"…not the Boston wicked, like wicked bad, but more like, "that jump was wicked!" I dunno…I grew up in Westchester.

  35. "I gotta jet" (like gotta run) or when someone was moving quickly, "She was jettin'"

  36. What a fun post! You should, like, totally check out the website someone mentioned above (www.inthe80s.com/glossary.shtml). Really takes me back. A lot of it is absolutely regional, but it will be helpful. I am embarrassed to say that I was a new waver in the 80's. I even had a Flock of Seagulls 'do, which is not easy to pull off w/ curly hair. What was I thinking?? I was totally rad. NOT!

  37. Cringe…I remember saying these things to "be cool". Now, whenever I hear kids say the slang-of-the-day, I think they're morons. Makes me wonder if I was ever "cool" back-then. Hell, I know I'm not even close at 30.

    Slang I remember:
    -That's so Tits…very cool
    -Tits-Rig…very cool car
    -Ass-Hat…not cool
    -Killer…sometimes cool, sometimes not cool…dependent on the delivery.

  38. Green, I'm back too b/c you reminded me of "do you want a medal or a chest to pin it on?"

  39. I remember some:
    Fonky (used by my sorority sisters in high school, yes, we had sororities in high school in Galveston, TX, it was, like, totally weird)
    Gag me with a spoon
    Gross me out

    That's all I can remember right now.

  40. Well, as a bonified Valley Girl, I feel ultra qualified to add to the list, although everyone else did a pretty good job, so I apologize if these have already been posted, as I can't go through every list:

    What I remember:

    Totally Dude
    Gag me with a Spoon
    Like, totally
    Oh My God!!!!
    I'm so SURE…
    Freak Me OUT

    Then there were the shoulder pads, flourescent clothing and nails, scrunched down white socks with bright white Reebok high tops, mini skirts, moussed hair, ahhhh, I could go on and on. Good times.

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