The Totally Gnarly '80s Slang Quiz

By: Allison Lips
Image: RichVintage/E+/GettyImages

About This Quiz

In the 1980s, teens wore bright colors, used slang and created their own culture. Some girls spoke like Valley Girls in an attempt to attract teenage boys. Others hung out with surfers or the mallrats, which were two subcultures with their own lingo. Both wanted you to know that they were not be confused with the nerds and the dweebs.

Teenagers on the coasts were able to catch some gnarly waves after school. Everyone else was stuck listening to the radio or popping cassettes into their boomboxes and Walkmans. If you were lucky, you could watch MTV to discover new music. Fortunately for music lovers, this was the time when Michael Jackson was bad. Those who enjoyed harder music headbanged to Twisted Sister and Poison songs as their sisters listened to Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.

After dinner, the family would gather 'round the TV and watch rad shows like "The A-Team," "MacGyver," and "Miami Vice." 

Did this intro get you amped? Or do the '80s make you want to exclaim "gag me with a spoon?" Will you find this quiz to be dope or will you feel like a doofus because you forgot what some words mean? Don't wig out. It's time to get stoked and test your '80s slang vocabulary!

Why would a surfer dude describe waves as gnarly?

Outside of slang, "gnarly" means twisted. In the 1970s, the word entered surfer slang. By 1982, it spread into teen slang where it picked up the dual meanings of both "awesome" and "disgusting."

When someone requests that you "Gag me with a spoon," what are they really saying?

"Gag me with a spoon" entered 80s slang from Val-speak. Val-speak is social dialect used by Valley Girls, who lived in the San Fernando Valley.

If you were told a story and at the end, the person telling it said "psych!," what did they do?

"Psych" has many meanings that are not an abbreviation for psychology. You can say "psych" at the end of a sentence that was meant as a joke. You also can "be psyched," which means to be excited.

When someone says that's "radical," what do they mean?

"Radical" can be shortened to "rad." In 1982, both versions entered slang.

"Let's get amped for this party," means what?

In 1973, "amped-up" started to be used to express intense excitement. The earliest known use of it being shortened to "amped" comes from 1981.

When a man describes a woman as "bodacious," what is he saying?

The word "bodacious" was popular in the 1980s. However, its first usage dates to 1832. Merriam-Webster believes the word is most likely a blend of "bold" and "audacious."

Which is another way to describe an "airhead?"

"Airhead" did not always mean a stupid person. It was originally a military term for a secured area in hostile territory used for bringing in supplies and more troops. The name derives from the fact that these areas were usually secured by airborne troops.

What does "Don't have a cow" mean?

The Simpsons helped popularize, "Don't have a cow." The British idiom don't "have kittens" means the same thing.

If you're told to take a "chill pill," what are you being told to do?

The phrase chill pill predates the 1980s. In the 1800s, recipe books would print recipes for "chill pills," which were pills that were intended to help with the chills from high fevers. The original phrase has nothing to do with the more modern version.

Who would you tell to "bite me?"

"Bite me" is generally considered rude. It is also used to express annoyance.

What made Will Smith the "Fresh Prince?"

Fresh first appeared in the 13th century. Over time, it has evolved to mean many things. It can mean something is not stale, something original and someone who lacks experience.

Who are you with if you're hanging with your "posse?"

Posse comes from "posse comitatus," which is Medieval Latin for "authority of the county." It usually referred to a group of people a sheriff would summon to help preserve the peace in an area.

Why would the cool kids avoid a "nerd?"

Dr. Seuss coined "nerd." It first appeared in his 1950s book "If I Ran the Zoo." At the time it was not used as a synonym for "geek."

When someone exclaims "totally," what do they mean?

In 1509, "totally" entered the English language. It use as slang is an extension of its original meaning of "completely."

Who is a "dude?"

In the 1880s, a dude was a dandy. In the 1960s, the word was appropriated by surfer culture. A female "dude" is a "dudette."

If you ask for "the 411," what are you looking for?

In 1985, 411 started to apply to "the skinny." 411 was chosen because it is the number used to reach directory assistance.

What does it mean to do something "to the max?"

In the 1980s, to the max became slang for "to reach the maximum level." Anther phrase that uses max is "max out," which is to reach the limit of something.

If someone gets "burned," what happened to them?

In general, the world "burn" comes from the Middle English "bernen." Other slang phrases featuring burn are "to burn a bridge," "to burn oneself out," "to burn the candle at both ends," and "to burn the midnight oil."

If you're vegging out in front of the TV set, what are you doing?

"Veg out" is slang for vegetate. It became common in the mid-1980s. Prior to then, "veg" was used as an abbreviation of vegetable.

What does "as if" mean?

"As if" is used to show derision. You could also say "you wish" or "whatever."

If you were in the 1980s and someone described an outfit as "bogus," what would they mean?

Back in the 1800s, a bogus was a machine that made counterfeit coins. The word bogus was eventually applied to anything "phony."

If you ask a question and someone responds "duh," what are they implying?

"Duh" was first used in 1943. At the time, it was used to feign ignorance.

What was a "yuppie?"

Yuppie was coined in the early 1980s. It is short for either "young urban professional" or "young, upwardly-mobile professional."

What does an '80s teen mean when they call something "wicked?"

Wicked can be used as an adjective or an adverb. In either usage, it serves as an intensifier of something that is deemed impressive.

When would you use "whatever" as an interjection?

In 2010, "whatever" topped a Marist poll for the most annoying word in the English language. Of the 1,020 Americans surveyed, 39 percent found "whatever" to be more annoying than "like" and "you know what I mean."

What type of person is most likely to scream "cowabunga" to show excitement?

While "cowabunga" became popular in the 1980s, it did not originate then. In 1954, it was said on "The Howdy Doody Show" by "Chief Thunderthud." It became popular later on due to its use in "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

What does someone mean when they say "barf me out?"

Barf me out is always used in that order and used to show disgust. However, "barf out" means to become very upset or to freak out.

Why would you call something "grody?"

"Grody" got its start in the Frank Zappa song "Valley girls." It is often used in the phrase "grody to the max."

Why might a woman be interested in a "stud?"

Originally, a stud was a male horse kept for breeding. In the late 1890s, the word morphed to mean a man who is proficient sexually. At the beginning of the 1900s, stud took on the meaning of any man.

What makes a wannabe?

Wannabe entered American English from surfer slang. It became popular when people used it to refer to female fans of Madonna.

What does it mean to "party hardy?"

Party hardy is sometimes rendered as "party hearty." The latter version was created because it rhymes.

If someone says that party was "bad," what do they mean?

While bad literally means inadequate, it became a popular alternative to "awesome" in the 1980s. Some idioms with bad are "my bad," which means it's my fault, and "not bad," which means that something is adequate.

Why would other high schoolers look down on a "dweeb?"

"Dweeb" was first recorded in the mid-1960s and may come from college slang. It gained popularity in the 1980s.

If something is "the bomb," what is it?

If something is "the bomb," it is good. However, if something "bombs," it is a failure.

What is another term for a "poseur?"

In 1869, "poseur," which is sometimes spelled "poser," entered English. It comes from the French verb "poser," which means to affect an attitude.

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