Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 28, 2011

Epically Rules: Slang Then and Now

By Bareesh

“This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down”-
J.R.R Tolkein, The Hobbit

First things first. If you don't know the answer to the very famous riddle that began this piece, it's time. This article is about the passage of time. It's about how speech has evolved and how words have come and gone. Now that we have the pretentious opening done with, let us begin.

Remember when you first stumbled upon a cartoon from the 80s or 70s and you sat there wondering what alien language the characters talked in. They used certain words you had never heard before and it seemed almost as if the characters thought these words were cool. You were confused. What in the world was a “neat-o” or an “outtasite”? Were they some sort of sinister code language?

In the 60s when hippies roamed the earth, the “in” word was Groovy. It was everywhere. Everything was groovy, made more so by the fact that they were baked half the time. Other notable slang of that time was “Boss” and “Righteous” although that made a small comeback in the 90s. Move backwards in time to the 40s and all you would hear was how “nifty” everything was. A decade later it was all “swell”.

When the 70s rolled in, “Groovy” was replaced by “Radical”. You may have heard this word if you have seen “Swat Kats” [which we pray you have] or the first season of Pokemon, where Ash Ketchum was as bewildered as us to see Team Rocket say “Radical”. The masses started to all talk like surfers with anything impressive being termed “gnarly”. If it was a younger demographic of the 70s in question, the term you'd be looking for is “cool beans”. I for one am glad that particular slang term is dead.

In the 80s, raw, untamed garage rock was starting to break into mainstream popularity. The metal was coming alive. The word “radical” just didn't sound cool anymore. “Rad” replaced “radical” and was essentially just a shortened version. But it sounded more up-to-date. It fitted in well with the other, increasingly popular words of the day, “sick” and “wicked” (pronounced : wee-kit). The 80s were also guilty of making “bad” the word to use when you meant good. The lesser known 80s slang was probably “tubular” or sometimes “totally tubular”. The decade also yielded “far out” with a big emphasis on the “a” in the “far”.



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