Classic Slang Terms from the '80s That Everyone Should Know
I don’t think people give the ’80s enough credit. Though the decade is best known for starting a national hair gel shortage and blinding small countries with neon-colored leggings*, it also gave rise to a collection of noteworthy slang terms that died out before they could be fully appreciated. As I’ve mentioned before, I am continuously disappointed in how painfully uncreative and obnoxious my generation’s lingo is, so this may be my own bitterness talking, but I believe we as word lovers need to reinstate some of the gnarly terms that died when video killed the radio star. (I know that came out in 1979. It became popular in the ’80s. Give it up.)
1) Dudette (n.): female version of “dude”
Example: Dudette, where’s my car?
When the word “dude” flows down my ear canal and into my brain, my first instinct is to switch my inner narration voice from neutral (read: Liam Neeson) to “Surfer Boy,” so you can only imagine my confusion when I stumbled across the word “dudette” for the first time. I mean, what exactly is a dudette? What would such a character look like or sound like? The irrational part of my mind immediately pictured Smurfette in a Hawaiian summer dress and dreadlocks (mostly because Smurfette was the closest thing to “dudette” that I could come up with) while the normal part of my brain quickly realized that a dudette is probably nothing more than a laid-back female.
2) Spaz (v.): to become overly excited
Example: Then, Michael Jackson started doing the moonwalk and everyone totally spazzed.
When I was ten years old, I signed up for an internet forum under the username kimmyspazmataz, which makes me wonder if part of my soul was a reincarnated ’80s fan-girl and also, if all of my friends at the time were actors that my parents were paying off so I wouldn’t realize that my weirdness was scaring away the other children. If you decide to help bring any of these words back into circulation, it should be spaz, if only because your next game of Scrabble could benefit from having another z-word to use.
3) Party hardy/hearty (v.): to party hard
Example: I’m gonna party hardy this weekend, broski.
A phrase that probably stemmed from our natural human instinct to make everything rhyme, party hardy describes the act of partying to excess. Or, put more creatively by UrbanDictionary, “to go out partying and celebrate until you pass out, wake up naked, find that you are wearing someone else’s underpants, and discover that someone has used your body as a canvas for their artistic lipstick drawings.”
4) Veg out (v.): to relax
Example: Let’s veg out on the couch and watch VeggieTales all weekend!
Contrary to what I originally thought, to “veg out” does not mean to splurge on vegetables on a Friday night but rather, to cool off or relax. Some say this phrase originates with the idea of the “couch potato” (sitting around like a potato, a vegetable), while others say it relates to being as dazed and lazy as someone in a vegetative state. I support the first theory only because I’m in favor of any word that makes my laziness sound healthy.
5) O-rama: suffix used to emphasize the strength of the word
Example: Wow, you like Star Wars? What a dork-o-rama.
If you thought o-rama was just a way to describe over-the-top infomercial products, think again. Apparently, the suffix was frequently used around the 1980s to enhance the significance of certain nouns or adjectives. So a Bowl-O-Rama would be an all-inclusive bowling lane and di(e)-orama would be a very painful science project.
6) Road pizza (n.): road kill
Example: “Hey mama! Me and Pop-Pop picked up some road pizza on the way home so you don’t need to do any cookin’ tonight!”
I actually have no desire to bring this slang term back but I’m including it because prior to today, I’d never heard it before and I find it interesting, in the way that you would find an asteroid flying towards Earth interesting. I hear “road pizza” and the first thing that comes to mind is some delectable new food product that’s advertised as “pizza on the go,” an image that is immediately ruined by the real definition.
7) Wiggin’ out (v.): to freak out; to go crazy
Example: The wind blew Mom’s wig into the ocean and she started wiggin’ out!
If only wiggin’ out meant “to obsessively alternate wigs in times of crisis” like I originally imagined. That definition would have been a lot more interesting than the real one, especially considering the hairstyles that the ’80s produced. A mullet wig? What’s not to love?
Unless someone erased an entire decade from my memory and I have amazing skin that is impervious to age, I was not raised in the ’80s, so I don’t know whether or not these terms were actually popular or if the Internet is lying to me. So, all you ’80s babies out there, let me know: what are your favorite slang terms from the 1980s? Were any of the words I listed above actually duds or were they all as tubular as I am imagining?
*Both slightly exaggerated lies.