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80s Popular Lingo

by Kathy

During the 80s, there was an explosion in new terms and slang terms. In fact, there were so many that some people might have a hard time remembering all of them. Many were quickly adopted by the “cool kids” at school, alongside surfer dudes and other hip people.

If you watched a teen show from the 80s or a recent show that was set in this time period, you’ll see much of these slangs being thrown around.

While the words are mostly from English language and can sometimes be found in dictionaries, here is a list of some of these words for reference:


It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the word ‘gnarly’ comes from the word ‘gnarled’. Per the Oxford dictionary, this slang first rose in the 1970s, though it flourished in the 1980s as well.

It was a surfing term that referred to something considered challenging, hard, and dangerous, particularly in reference to rough oceans. Hence, the term was used liberally by surfers. The term was shot to fame after its appearance in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982).

80s Popular Lingo

Gag me with a spoon!

What the 1980s witnessed was the emergence of “val-speak,” which was a language that became very common among valley girls. Many of the young women who adopted this way of speaking were white and mostly upper to middle class, and they lived in the San Fernando Valley near Los Angeles. The stereotype of the valley girl first appeared during the 1970s, but it spread like wildfire during the 1980s. “Gag me with a spoon,” used to refer to something gross, is one of the more popular terms that girls speaking in this lingo use.

It is something that young women often say has caused them to be ridiculed. However, despite many thinking this way of speaking was annoying, most of the people living in California have adopted it. While “gag me with a spoon” is very rarely used unironically nowadays, the valley girl lingo doesn’t seem like it will die any time soon.


It is a term that has been used since at least the 1970s, and it is often used to refer to someone who acts in a way that would be considered ‘radical’. Today people use it mostly to refer to a person or thing considered unconventional or unusual, though mostly in a positive light.

This word was first used in the late 1960s. Like many other ling in the 80s, it originated in surfer slang. It is also incorporated in the idiom of the valley girl way of speaking. The 1990s saw the craze of a show called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That was pivotal for bringing the term to the mainstream public. The word “rad”, which is a shortened version of the word, was also used as a way of describing something you liked.

Take a chill pill!

One of the most common phrases that young people on TV shows or in movies say. It is a way of saying that something, which can be annoying or extremely annoying, should be taken as a joke.

In today’s world, this phrase is used mostly by people who want to sound cool and are usually young. When you say that somebody should take a chill pill, you’re really saying to that person that they should relax.

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