80s Slang / Lingo

The 80s slang was memorable and just as colorful as everything else the decade had to offer.

From the Valley Girl to famous slang phrases from the big screen, 80s slang was infectious, superlative, and like, totally awesome dude!

80s Valley Girl!

A nickname for the stereotypical spoiled young girls of California’s San Fernando Valley who were not exactly know for their intelligence, Valley Girl slang spread like wildfire in the 80s.

Sentences peppered with the word “like” and “totally” and the exclamations “Oh my God!” and “What-ever” (emphasis on the second syllable) were staples of the Valley Girl’s speech.

80s Valley Girls were responsible for such memorable phrases as “Gag me with a spoon”, “Take a chill pill” and “Barf me out”.

Nearly every sentence rose at the end as though it were a question, even if it wasn’t.

Hollywood helped to spread the 80s slang with a number of movies showcasing it, including one aptly named Valley Girl. (Like, oh my god, you totally sound like a Valley Girl!)

Surfer slang

Also originating in California, surfer jargon became part of everyday conversation in the 80s.

Once again we had the movies to thank, especially hits like Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

Slang terms that had been part of surfer culture going back to the 60’s hit the mainstream with a vengeance. Words like “tubular”, “radical” and “righteous” (often following the 80s favorite “totally”) were common ways to express that something was really, really great.

The word “gnarly”, originally meaning something rough or difficult also came to mean a good thing.

But of all the slang the surfer culture gave us, the most ubiquitous and memorable has to be “dude”.

The word became so popular that it could actually express an entire sentence worth of meaning by itself, depending on the tone of voice of the speaker.

Surfer slang didn’t corner the market on descriptions of good and bad.

Older generations found themselves confused by terms like “wicked” and “bad” which in the 80s meant entirely the opposite.

Nothing was ever just good in the 80s – it was “awesome”.  When we were happy, we were “stoked”, and when we were sad, we were “bummed”.

Something disgusting could be described as “grody”, but if it was really disgusting – extremely so, it was “Grody to the max!” In fact, “to the max” could be used in just about any situation for emphasis.

Similarly, the suffix “o-rama” was tacked on to the end of a word, as in “geek-o-rama”, which indicated that the person in question was a geek in every possible sense of the word.

Quote me on it.

“Who you gonna call?  Ghostbusters!” Movies and television provided all kinds of popular catchphrases and quotes.

Commercials for the fast-food chain Wendy’s had everyone asking “Where’s the beef?”

In just about every episode of the hit TV show Different Strokes actor Gary Coleman’s character asked “What’choo talkin’ bout?” and it became one of the most popular TV catchphrases in history.

The sarcastic and cruel title characters of the movie Heathers gave us another great question of the decade – “What’s your damage?”

Totally insulting.

The 80s had no lack of ways to insult someone, in fact it was almost an art form.

“Airhead” or “ditz” insulted your intelligence, but if you were too smart, you might be a “dweeb”. The movie Strange Brew popularized the word “hoser” to replace the term “loser” in the 80s vocabulary.

The slang in the 80s was as unique as the decade itself, so much so that just hearing the words “totally awesome” brings back memories of the days when we all had a little Valley Girl in us.