Every decade has its distinctive lingo that seems to be everywhere for a few years, only to disappear completely and have people look at you like you’re an out of touch grandparent when you say them (or maybe that’s just me).
The 80s in particular had some pretty excellent lingo, largely born out of surfer culture from southern California. While a lot of these haven’t made their comeback yet, we think it’s about time it happened!
Nowadays when you hear the word “radical,” it’s often when describing really angry people who want to hurt other people for their own beliefs. Back in the 80s though, “radical” was like calling something “awesome,” except even more awesome than that. It was adaptable too: you could even shorten it to “rad!”
Often used to describe giant surf waves, this too grew into another synonym for “awesome.” Most of us probably remember the term from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Michelangelo dropped this one a lot.
“Gnarly” was probably one of the most multi-use terms of the era. It basically meant “extreme,” but it could be used either as a positive or negative term. This essentially makes it one of the few bits of lingo that makes it change meaning depending on the tone you say it in; “Stay away from that guy man, he’s gnarly” and “Oh man, that chick’s hair is totally gnarly!” were both perfectly acceptable uses.
A pretty old word that typically relates to someone’s relation to the divine, “righteous” was another stand-in for, you guessed it, “awesome.” This one would disappear pretty quickly (I personally blame Samuel L. Jackson’s “path of the righteous man” speech from Pulp Fiction), but it’s about time it came back!
Click to the next page for more gnarly 80s words!
Yes, “dude” is still around today, but you don’t hear it used quite as readily as it was back then. In the 80s, “dude” could refer to literally anything, regardless of gender. Your best guy friend? Dude. Your best girl friend? Dude. Your seatbelt that won’t clasp? DUDE!
With so many synonyms for “awesome,” you’d think there’d be just as many words for “gross,” “disgusting,” or “nasty.” Not the case! “Grody” encompassed all of these and more, making it the go-to word for just about anything (or often, anyone) you didn’t like. If it was REALLY bad, you’d even call them “Grody to the max.”
7) What’s Your Damage?
Best remembered from the movie Heathers, this was a pretty universally mean term for “what is wrong with you?” or “what’s your problem?” Sure, you could use it for someone who almost hit you with their car, but typically it just got yelled at you by the popular crowd.
The ultimate way of describing something you didn’t like, “bogus” was the all-encompassing term for “bad” or “uncool.” Mom asked you to clean your room? Totally bogus. Cindy won’t go on a date with you? Bogus, dude. Wiped out riding a wave? Booooooooogus.
Which was your favorite?