Can You Dig The Cool Slang of The 1970s?

The 1970s were an iconic age of bell-bottom pants, 8-track tapes, as well as funk and disco music. Dennis Hooper re-emerged as a movie star after his “Easy Rider” success in 1969, and Star Wars was the highest grossing movie of the decade. Through all the Vietnam War protests and social change, the decade enjoyed some of the most interesting and telling slang. Hey, the ’70s were cool.

Cool

Although wildly associated with 1970s jargon, the word “cool” has been “slanging” around for centuries. During the 18th Century, it was used to describe large sums of cash, i.e., a “cool million.” And a 19th Century dictionary defined it as “calmly audacious.” In the 20th Century, music icon Miles Davis used the term to describe a type of jazz. But it was widely popularized during the 1970s to mean anything from “awesome” to “affirmative.” The word may be overused, but it’s pretty cool.

The Man

“Sticking it to the man” was the way rebellious types in the 1970s waged an idealistic revolution against authority figures. The Man was anyone who worked for the government, law enforcement or an authority figure. These days, it enjoys a more positive connotation. People like to reference themselves and say, “who’s the man!”

Can You Dig It

In ’70s Urban Speak, the phrase had multiple meanings. The most common was basically, “do you understand me?” It also asks whether you’re having a good time. The subject or event must be fairly cool to use the expression. It was immortalized in the New York gang movie, “The Warriors,” in 1979.

Book

If you look the work up in a dictionary, there’s probably a photo of a novel next to it. But in the 1970s, “to book” or “booking” meant running away quickly, usually from the law or trouble.

Skinney

Although Lesley Lawson, aka Twiggy, was an internationally recognized, super-thin model during the era who won a pair of Golden Globes in 1971 for her work in The Boyfriend, skinney has nothing to do with losing weight. Psyche! In fact, skinney refers to telling the truth or enlightening people about a subject with factually correct information. That’s called “giving you the skinney.”

Psyche

Derived from the discipline of psychology, the term was commonly used at the end of a playful trick. One might say you look terrible. Then, say “psyche, you look awesome.” Psyching is all about messing with someone’s mind. It doesn’t appear to have survived the 20th Century.

Right On

This was generally used to convey righteous agreement. In other words, it would be used as a show of support and acknowledgement about a just cause. A good example would be John Lennon’s 1970 release of the song Power to the People. The lyrics says, “Power to the people, Right on!” The expression has gotten somewhat watered down and currently is used by hipsters to show ordinary agreement, like saying yes or okay.

Get Down

Widely used in the 1970’s discos, the expression refers to dancing. More specifically, dancing to hip, ’70s funk. Perhaps the best usage was in Kool and the Gang’s dance-funk song, “Jungle Boogie,” released in 1973.

Bad

The inversion of a word’s meaning was a neat trick during the 1970s. Bad meant good, or really, really good. People got quite creative with the use of Bad in the decade. It was paired up in expressions such as “I’m a bad man,” “bad-as-??” Bad has enjoyed good shelf life and Freddy Wesley released the jazz piece, “Get Down Widcho Baad Self” in 2003.

Wicked

Another bit of slang that employed reverse meaning was wicked. It was a provincial term relegated primarily to southern New England. Wicked was an amped up version of “very,” but far more overused. Pretty much everything positive was wicked or wicked cool.

Bogart

The origin harkens back to actor Humphrey Bogart, who had the habit of holding on to a cigarette for a long time. He would act out entire scenes with a cigarette dangling from his lips. During the 1970s, it turned into people not passing something lit around a circle.

Jive Turkey

Coined by African-Americans during the 1970s, Jive turkey had several meanings depending on the context of its use. Jiving sometimes referred to dancing, when the movements were showy or purposefully humorous. Jive or Jive Talk referred to people speaking on subjects they obviously didn’t understand. Thus, a Jive Turkey was someone who spoke like an expert or in a glib fashion, but knew virtually nothing about a topic. Other uses included people who made empty promises and it is generally was considered an insult. The Ohio Players immortalized the term in their 1974 release of the song “Jive Turkey” and the 1980s retro TV show, “The Jeffersons,” bandied the phrase about.

Old Man

This term evolved from meaning someone’s father to husband or boyfriend. It was generally used by women to refer to spouses or intimate partners they cohabitated with as “My old man.”.

Burn Out

The 1970s drug culture didn’t carry quite the stigma it does today. Rather than refer to drug users as addicts, they were more commonly frowned upon as “burn outs.” That basically meant the person was generally high on drugs and useless. It was considered an insult.