Words of the 80s: Totally Tubular Slang


Dude is a term that’s still in use to this day. Defined as “a man excessively concerned with his clothes, grooming, and manners,” the interesting thing about this word is that it has multiple cultural inferences, depending on how you say it. If you say it to someone in a short, clipped fashion—you’re mad. If you drag the word out breathlessly, you’re amazed. If you use it like they did in Fast Times, you’re stoned. Aerosmith also scored a big 1980s hit with dude in the title.


The definition of bitchin‘ sizes it up perfectly: “Marvelous, wonderful.” It is mostly used in a declarative, enthusiastic fashion. An example no doubt once used at the Sherman Oaks Galleria: “Those Jordache jeans are totally bitchin’!” (Also see tubular.)


No religious subtext here, dudes. We define omigod as “an exclamation of surprise, pleasure, dismay.” This one is frequently used in Val-Speak (keep flipping through to seriously learn more about that, ok betch?).


If something is gnarly, it’s “distasteful; distressing; offensive; gross.” Erstwhile Jeff Spicoli of Fast Times goes on a field trip to see an autopsy and proves the proper context. (Also see grody.)


This is an interesting inclusion, as the word bogus itself is quite old. In the 1980s, it was used to mean “ignorant; not up-to-date; unattractive; lame, square.” Yet, the word dates back to the early 1800s, referring to counterfeit currency.

Gag me with a spoon

You’re disgusted and about to retch: “gag me with a spoon.” And, this is the perfect lead-in to our next entry.


The intertwined concepts of Val-Speak and Valley Girl rose to prominence with Moon Zappa’s popular song, which, as Wikipedia accurately notes, was intended to “lampoon the affluent Southern California teen culture of the San Fernando Valley.” Val-Speak is associated with “uptalk,” or ending a sentence with an upward inflection. Later featured in movies, like Clueless, the trend caught on quickly, and it’s one we are happy to see finally locked in the 80s vault.


Psych has, of course, a psychological background and definition, so it’s fitting that its usage may have some psychological effects on those it’s used against. Perhaps a shortened version of the slang “I just psyched you out,” or in other words “I just faked you out,” the inflection and volume in which people say “psych” is usually the part that catches people the most off guard. But you have to admit, it’s fun to say, maybe even the most fun saying of the 80’s . . . psych!


Nowadays, the word tubular might be something a stereotypical surfer might say, but back in the 80s almost everyone was using it. Tubular actually means consisting of tubes, and perhaps that is how it became a surf term, first used by the most rad surfers in California in the 70s. And, since California was the epitome of bitchin’ style, everyone soon began using the term to talk about the everyday exceptional.


When something is beyond cool, it’s radical. It makes sense, as the word signifies something extreme. So, if you’re really excited about something totally tubular that you did this weekend or that you saw on MTV, use this word and others will be sure to know how seriously stoked you are.


“That slice of pizza was so amazing; it was so righteous.” If something is out of this world, there’s no better way to describe it than by saying it’s totally righteous. Originally, a word used to describe anything with upstanding morality or virtue, it has an almost religious connotation. So, if that piece of pizza was almost heavenly, it’s necessary to call it righteous. 


This 80s word was often used to express excitement for an upcoming Blondie concert, to get pumped up for the Miami Vice premiere, or to declare the anticipation for this weekend’s trip to the mall. Amp means to excite or energize, and it’s used very literally to express that. Also, a term for the equipment that projects music through loudspeakers to make it, well, more loud, it is fitting that getting “amped up” signifies someone who is trying to arouse their energy and emotions for that upcoming rad event.


No, we aren’t referring to reading here. Back in the 80s, when you said you had to book, it meant you had to leave. It’s interesting that the verb-form of book means “to hire someone to perform” or “to appear.” Typical of 80s slang, many took this meaning of the word and flipped it to mean “the need to leave” or “disappear” instead. So, the next time you are stuck at a majorly lame party, don’t be afraid to book to the next radical one.


While this word was a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles staple, it wasn’t just the famous cartoon characters who used it. Many people in the 80s loved using the word cowabunga to express delight about a new job, good grades, or scoring some new neon duds. First said in the 1950s on the Howdy Doody Show, it later made its way into surfer vernacular in the 60s, and then into animation and everyday conversation.


If you’re using the word bodacious to describe someone, chances are you think they are pretty attractive. But, this 80s word doesn’t always have to refer to an actual person. It can be used to show admiration for many things, including a bodacious meal, a club, or that new music video. Originated in the south, bodacious was used to describe someone who was blatant or unmistakable, which easily leads to its slang usage for someone or something remarkable or outstanding. Although it’s fallen out of common usage, we think your knowledge of 80s words is now totally bodacious.

Did you think this list was cool beans?

Then, you were from the 70s man . . . so head on over to the Words of the 70s—they’re dy-no-mite!

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Word of the Day

Can you guess the definition?


[ swa-dee-zahn ]

Can you guess the definition?

Word of the day

[ swa-dee-zahn ]