#ROW80 / Family / Random Musings

What in the World are the Kids Talking About?

We had a small family reunion over Labor Day Weekend. After a full day of Wiffle ball games and enjoying possibly not-so-healthy, but oh-so-yummy potluck food (I’d like to thank my Aunt Sheryl for making the Asian salad–YUM!), we gathered around a bonfire in my dad’s backyard and reminisced. That’s what we do in Michigan, by the way, when we want to relax–we light things on fire and watch them burn. Logs, mostly.

Anyway…my cousin and I were remembering our younger years when our grandma and aunts used to take us on trips. Now that I have kids of my own and have taken them on road trips, all I can say is: Bless You All. Seriously.  The two of us giggled over the crazy slang terms we used to say (especially in the car as we approached our “rad” destinations). If each generation is defined by its slang terms, then mine will most likely be known for phrases like awesome, radical and totally.

Taking a look back (and sticking with the family reunion theme), here are slang terms coined by generations past:

My Grandma: The 1940s

1940s Woman

"Get your stompers on because I'm a ducky shincracker!"

Given the state of the world in this decade, it’s no surprise much of the era’s slang involved war motifs. According to 1940s.org, a gal who’d gone boy crazy was said to be Khaki Wacky. Of course, she should probably stay away from those Active Duty guys (men who were sexually promiscuous), or she’d be known as a Share Crop (a sexually promiscuous woman). Who knows if she’d be so foolish as to fall for the line, “Hey sugar, are you rationed?” (are you going steady with someone?)

There are a few phrases we still use today for which we can thank the teens from the ’40s: Eager beaver, gobbledygook, fat-head, and chrome-dome, for instance. And I still remember my grandpa saying “Hi-de-ho!” as a greeting when I was a kid.

My Great Aunt: The 1950s

1950s girls

"Clue me in, ladies. Do you think that cat thinks I have a classy chassis?"

Slang from the ’50s might be my favorite of all the decades. If you’ve ever called something “cool” (and who hasn’t?), you’re invoking the slang of an earlier generation. Or if you’ve said you might “Catch a flick” (go to a movie), said someone had cooties, you’ve had to “flat-out run” somewhere (run very fast),  or asked someone what their handle (name) is (what’s your Twitter handle?), all of those came out of the 1950s.

Personally, I’m going to make it my mission to bring back “get bent” (drop dead) as a snotty retort. I’m a YA writer, I can totally pull that off, right?

My Uncle: The 1960s

1960s mod girls

"Now that we all look fab, let's go dance holes in our shoes!"

Ah, the ’60s, the decade that brought us The Beatles also brought us the term “teenie bopper” (young teen rock fans). Of course, if those teenie boppers couldn’t get tickets to see The Beatles, they were probably really “bummed out” (yep, coined in the ’60s). And if they did get tickets, they probably had to find a “choice” outfit (cool, good-looking) to wear to the show. We can also thank the youth of the ’60s for phrases like: Fab (like The Fab Four), dude, freak out, groovy, and hang tough (though we probably can’t actually blame them for the New Kids On The Block Song, Hangin’ Tough which came much later).

My Dad: The 1970s

1970s teens

"Freak me out, dude. I had no idea you bagged such a foxy lady."

Disco wasn’t just a dance craze in the ’70s, it was also a slang term for cool (so…a slang term for a slang term?). Instead of saying, “Hey, that’s a cool shirt!” if you grew up in the ’70s you might have said, “That shirt is totally disco!” I thought Snoop Dog invented the “izz” phase sometime in the ’00s, but apparently adding “izz” to a word was born in the late ’70s (according to inthe70s.com). “That shirt is totally disco, for sh-izzle” (that’s a really  nice shirt, for sure). Who knew? I can dig it.

My Stepbrother: The 1980s

1980s girl

Somewhere out there my parents own a picture of me looking EXACTLY like this.

I was born in 1980, so I remember many of the key slang phrases of the decade, but I consider myself more a child of the ’90s, since that was the decade of my teen years. My stepbrother is 6 years older than I am, so he would probably identify more with the ’80s. And what a decade it was. We can thank the kids of the ’80s (and maybe John Hughes) for giving us The Bases (oh, come on…you’ve totally defined how far you went on a date with baseball terms too).

If you hate it when kids say that something “sucks”, you can blame it on the ’80s for bringing that phrase forward. They also said cool things were rad, sick, sweet, righteous, or outrageous.

Me: The 1990s

Cast of 90210

Like, whatever. Brandon was the cutest, not Dylan.

We can thank the 1990s for the tools to make English teachers angry. For instance, ending sentences with the preposition “with” supposedly became popular in the ’90s (“I’m going to the mall, wanna come with?”). We also inserted “like” into every sentence, “That movie was, like, awesome. It was, like, scary.” I recall my step-dad asking me “So was it scary or was it ‘like’ scary?” And obviously I replied, “Dude. It was scary. Duh!”

My nieces: The 2000s

OMG Kitten with rubix cube

We may not be far enough removed from the ‘oos to really judge the staying power of slang phrases. This is the generation where internet phrases, abbreviations and text speak found their way into spoken word. Words like w00t (spelled with zeros and not Os) and FAIL (in all caps) stick out in my mind. LOL and OMG were even added to the OED (Oxford English Dictionary). Saying you “heart” something instead of saying you love something also became popular, “I heart chocolate chip cookies” or even “I ❤ chocolate chip cookies”. Perhaps the evolution of adding “like” in every phrase during the ’90s is adding “so” in every phrase in the ’00s, “He was so checking you out!”

My kids: The future

So what will the slang of the future be? Will my kids toss in more technology words? Will I succeed in getting them to bring back “get bent”? Time will tell. And, as it goes with every generation, as soon as I figure out what slang words are popular with my kids, those words will no longer be cool. Because I’m a parent and by definition I’m no longer cool, rad, disco, groovy, or killer-diller. I’m just old.


#ROW80 Check-In:

–I blogged 3 times last week, as was my goal. This week I missed Monday (where I usually blog kid stories) but it was a holiday, so you forgive me, right?

–I didn’t do an official word count last week, but I made great progress on my WIP. I think it’s finally shaping up nicely. Now that the holiday weekend is over, family road trips are DONE until Christmas and the kids and I are settling into a school routine, I think I’ll really be able to settle into a good writing routine. YAY!

–I’ve also taken on another beta reading project and I’m VERY excited about it.

How did other #ROW80 participants do?


12 thoughts on “What in the World are the Kids Talking About?

    • Isn’t it funny the things that will make us feel old? When I saw my niece this weekend I felt that way. She’s 13 now. Yikes. I very clearly remember her as a baby and a toddler. How did she get to be 13 already?

      I love family reunions.

  1. Haha, I think I embody the worst excesses of the 90s and the 00s. “Awesome,” “like,” “FAIL,” and various other forms of text-speak now crowd up my speech. It’s a little embarrassing. :p

    Glad to hear that things are progressing well. Have a great rest of the week!

  2. I held off reading this post until I had time to really soak it in because this language stuff is SO up my alley (inserted the so, wonder where “up my alley” came from). Generations are defined by many things – including language. My kids now love the words “fail” and “random.” (Everything’s random, which doesn’t seem random at all to me!) Thanks for the trip down memory lane! It was totally rad, dude, like freaky!

    • Haha! I remember starting to say random when I was in college. If something was off or weird we’d say, “That’s so random!” Or, since I was a sorority girl, if we saw non-Greeks at a fraternity party, they were “randoms”.

      And I actually thought of you while I wrote this post, wondering if you’d done one too. LOL.

  3. I’ve used many of these generational terms in my vocabulary courtesy of my family like gobbeldygook. I also use dude, totally, and suck…a lot. BRAVO, Erin! I love this post.

    I’ve also had to flat-out-run places before too. 🙂

    • Thanks, Tiffany. I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was really fun to figure out where a lot of phrases we use all the time came from. I say dude, totally and suck all the time too. Probably too much!

  4. Um. OK, so like, uh,huh.

    Valley-speak ruled in the early 80’s. I had a friend who would translate all the texts in our World Literature course into valley girl for fun.

    I kept Japanese exchange students in the 90s and they were fascinated with slang. They wanted to know how we Americans chose or made up our slang words. I told them it was often about re-purposing a word using a new inflection to give it new meaning.

    I had a chance to illustrate this when a very pretty girl walked by and our male student was obviously impressed. I leaned over and said suggestively, “Dangerous!” From that day on he called every pretty girl dangerous. By the end of his exchange year, fast cars and awesome music had also been tagged dangerous.

    And a new slang term was born.

  5. Great post. Sure brought back memories. My son (my oldest) was born in 1980, too. I remember my kids saying “da bomb” and describing someone good-looking that they were interested in as “fine.”

    In the ’00s one of my daughters was telling me how she was at her friend’s the night before and said she was yacking and yacking. I asked her what she was yacking about and she laughed and said, no, she was throwing up!

    Who woulda thunk? And just a few years ago, my other daughter told me the top I was wearing was sick. I thought she was insulting it, and she had to explain that that was a compliment! And remember when “bad” was good? Fun post. I’ll have to thank Tiffany White for tweeting about it!

  6. Pingback: Friday FaBOOolousness – March’s MarvelOoous Mashups, Awards, and a Tag Meme | Tiffany A White's Ooo Factor

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