Can You Translate These Slang Words From the '70s?

EDUCATION

Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Keen:

One of many synonyms for "cool." Also used as "peachy keen," which we were really glad to see the last of. As we say in the 2010s, "Girl bye!"

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Groovy:

"Groove" was an important term in the '60s and 1970s. As a noun, it meant a mellow vibe; as a verb, it meant to be hip and mellow. So it was inevitable that an adjective form would be born.

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Far out!

Did astronomy buffs come up with this one after grooving on how cool is it to see galaxies that are light years away? Maybe not, but that's our theory and we're sticking to it!

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Fuzz:

The "fuzz" was a generic or collective term, like "the police."

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Boogie:

We're kind of glad this one fell out of favor. It always sounded kind of silly. Nowadays, we just get out on the floor and jam. Much more dignified!

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Drag:

Today, to "drag" someone means to embarrass them in public. But in the '70s, it was a word meaning a disappointment or something that brought you down: "What a drag."

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Crib:

We suppose your crib could be your van if you lived in it. But, in general, it was your place. "We went back to my crib."

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Streak:

Streaking was a prank or a form or political protest in the 1970s. How exactly did running through a public event in your altogether effect social change? Frankly, we're still trying to figure that out.

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You dig?

This is one of the flagship slang terms of the 1960s and 1970s. Other terms like "cool" got their start much earlier, and lasted longer, but "Dig?" in its various forms is iconic hippie-era slang.

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Foxy:

A good-looking person of either gender could be "a fox." "Foxy" was only applied to women, though.

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Square:

Although every generation has words to divide the cool from the uncool, "square" meant something a little different to the hippies than "geek" does today. Often it had to do with never having done drugs, and with still being part of the capitalist, consumerist world. It didn't have to do with wearing glasses or the wrong clothes — "the squares" were on the opposite side of a deep cultural divide.

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Freak out:

This one is still used today, and means the same thing. Except in the 1970s, psychedelic drugs were often involved — while some people found LSD and mushrooms very beneficial, a "bad trip" could be very scary.

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Pad:

"Pad" was a sexy term for home. If you got picked up by a man in the 1970s, he likely invited you back to his "pad."

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Keep on truckin':

One of the least relatable things about the 1970s was that people thought long-distance truck-driving was the coolest job ever. Hence the popular phrase "Keep on truckin'" which meant variously "stay cool," "take it easy," etc. Also a favorite for iron-on patches.

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Toke:

Marijuana is bigger than ever, having been legalized in 10 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., by the end of 2018. Maybe that's why we're relaxed enough to simply call it "smoking," which it is.

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Rap:

This was one of the slang terms most often adopted by parents, teachers and clergy. Many a 1970s kid can remember rolling his or her eyes when one such authority figure asked, "Do you want to rap?"

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Chump:

Before "loser" became a catchall insult, we had "chump." Often male, he's the guy whose toast always lands butter-side-down.

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The Man:

This noun can be singular, plural or just sort of collective. Just don't forget the capital M.

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Boss:

If you had a "boss car," you probably had a Mustang or a Corvette. Sadly, you weren't going to be able to afford gas for it for long!

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Book:

Example: "We were late for the concert, so we were booking down Interstate 10." Not to be confused with the police slang for "process into jail."

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Spaz:

Not-so-fun fact: This term is actually a bit insensitive. It's a shortening of "spastic," meaning a person who can't control their muscles (having spasms). This became a derogatory term for a person who was a ball of nervous energy.

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Trippin':

Nowadays, the definition of "tripping" has changed to mean having anxiety or bad feelings for any reason. But in the 1970s, when psychedelics were very popular, it meant specifically that someone was using them, to either good or bad emotional effect.

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Cat:

This came from African-American slang of the mid-20th century. "A real cool cat" was invariably a man, not a woman (though we're not sure why), and eventually "cool" got dropped, because it was just understood.

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Head:

Stephen King, who has been forthright about his onetime drug use, used this term in an interview to good effect. "I was a head in the '70s," he said. "I don't mean 'I was ahead of everyone else,' I mean, I was A HEAD."

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Solid:

Like other pieces of 1970s slang, this one seems to have its origins in African-American vernacular. Case in point: It makes an appearance in the blaxploitation classic "Blacula."

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Brick house:

Everyone who knows this one probably does so because of the Commodores song by the same name. It's a classic '70s anthem, in praise of a little "bam" in the front and "pow" in the back!

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Bum:

The classic use of this phrase was "Can I bum a smoke?" Technically, it meant less "borrow" than "have."

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Outta sight:

We'd call this another synonym for "cool," but really, it's stronger than that. This was a popular phrase to iron onto T-shirts (remember iron-ons?)

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Bogart:

Humphrey Bogart was cool in a retro way; that's undeniable. But he gave his name to a slang term for not passing along a joint in a timely fashion. This came from the way Bogart would often perform whole scenes with a cigarette in his mouth, never taking it out.

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Bag:

This one's not used much anymore. It's been replaced with the more generic "thing."

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Bummer:

This one never really fell out of fashion, although "downer" came to rival it in popularity. Nowadays, it tends to be more ironic. Deploy it in a deadpan tone when a friend's going on way too long about a minor grievance; they'll get the point.

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Jive:

We all know someone who stretches the truth, but is also colorful and funny. That's a pretty good description of the "jive talker" of the 1970s.

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Tuff:

It's hard to run out of ways to say "cool," isn't it? This one was popularized by "The Outsiders," which tells readers, "'Tuff' and 'tough' are two different words ... in my neighborhood, both are compliments."

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Gassin':

"Gassin'" meant talking, sometimes in a big, braggadocious way.

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Hip:

The term "hip" and "hipster" actually appear to date from the Prohibition era, when alcohol was illegal, but the cool people carried liquor in a flask on the hip. This made them "hip" or "hipsters." The kids of the '70s brought the term "hip" back in a big way. It wasn't until the 2000s that "hipster" made a reappearance, but this time around, it isn't much of a compliment!

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About This Quiz

Oh, the 1970s: Not the most articulate decade, we have to admit. Heavily influenced by the hippie culture that was born in the late 1960s, the children of the 1970s valued the simple honesty of "rapping" over wit and verbal fireworks. I mean, showing off your education and your big vocabulary was such a bummer, man! 

Even so, the groovy youth of the 1970s — like young people of any generation — had to hide what they meant from parents, teachers and other "squares." So they created plenty of informal terms — slang, that is. Unlike their children in the 1990s, who would take to the internet and use a variety of acronyms from "POS" to "LOL," the teenagers of the 1970s communicated face to face, or over the telephone. So you won't see much in the way of acronyms or abbreviations (which might be kind of a relief in today's alphabet-soup age). 

How well do you remember the slang of the '70s? Maybe you're old enough to have used these terms yourself (hey, we're not asking!). Or maybe you've learned them from a love of old 1970s television, like "Good Times" and "Three's Company." Whichever the case, we've created a quiz to challenge you. Dust off your hippie-to-English dictionary and get going!

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