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The Dictionary of 1980s Slang - from Acid House to Zits!

fronr cover of The Dictionary of 1980s slang
The Dictionary of 80s Slang by Rick Carlile

As I grow older, it certainly becomes more challenging to keep up with all the latest slang terms, memes, acronyms and abbreviations used on social media by today's youth. Okay, so I know the popular ones such as WTF and LOL, but half the time I haven't a clue what they're on about! I guess, it was the same for my parents back in the 80s. We didn't have the internet, of course, but I'm pretty sure we used some ridiculous slang words that were very much of their time.

The Dictionary of 1980s Slang by Rick Carlille is described as "The Totally Awesome Guide to Rockin' 80s Lingo". The author is American, and so the book is aimed at an American audience. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a huge array of definitions (over 800 in all) that we were also using here in the UK, from acid house to zit, the latter of which I'm certainly glad to see the back of! 

The 1980s was an energetic decade, for sure, and this amusing book matches this. It's a fascinating insight into the language being used back then. It starts by telling us why we use slang in the first place, which was interesting in itself. For obvious reasons, I'm not going to feature every slang term used, but I would like to go over a few of the best ones. And it's great to know that I have in my arsenal a huge selection of slang-terms and abbreviations that will confuse today's youth.

As you would expect, the book starts with the letter A, which is a good start! Acid house and acid-washed are certainly familiar, and I certainly experienced both of these, although not the actual Acid drug, which was actually LSD. But driving around trying to find a rave in a field in the middle of nowhere was certainly an experience, although we would often turn up either in the wrong location or a week too late!

Some of the words featured are not actually slang, but the addition of words associated only with the 80s is very welcome. Commodore, for instance, was a manufacturer of computers that became defunct sometime in 1994, and just about about everyone wanted a C64 or an Amiga.

It's good to see the air guitar mentioned here, and there can't be many of us who grew-up in the 80s without pretending to play an electric guitar while listening to Bon Jovi blasting out of a boombox.

Ah, now this one is amusing! We certainly used the term ball-huggers here in the UK, although, thankfully, I never paraded around in a pair of tight swimming trunks, as I didn't want to evacuate the beach!

So do you remember using a BBS? This was, of course, a Bulletin Board System, which was pretty much the first incarnation of the internet. Staying with technology, and Betamax is another word that hasn't been used for many a decade. My parents were wise enough to opt for VHS, which was the more popular of the two video cassette formats. This was also the decade that introduced us to the camcorder and CD, of course - do any of you still buy CD's?

The word bimbo was certainly used a lot by the red top tabloids, and many blonde, female celebrities found themselves being labelled as one, whether they liked it or not.

Cheesy is a word very strongly associated with the 80s, although I prefer the word Corny myself, and there are many songs and movies that have been labelled as such. Personally, I like a bit of 80s cheese (and I'm not talking about cheddar), and the decade just wouldn't have been the same without it!

Dipstick was used by Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses. I certainly remember calling my friend a dipstick whenever he was acting like one, which was quite often! Dipshit is also here, but this one was used more in the American movies. 

Now, although there are a quite a few terms here that we didn't use in the UK (such a mall chick), I still recognise a great many of them, as American movies were hugely popular, particularly with the advent of the video rental store.

Floppy is a great word to tell your kids about. We all know that it is an antiquated computer storage medium, but trying to explain to a young person that you used to insert your 5 and a quarter inch floppy into your computer, and they will certainly think you have lost the plot! - "it didn't hurt, I promise!"

You may also remember shareware and freeware software, which often came on a floppy disk, and I certainly remember buying this for my Atari ST. Quite often, though, I received a faulty disk which made a disconcerting noise. This was definitely not the most reliable storage medium! 

Joystick is also here, and it's certainly been a long time since I last gripped one! I'm not sure if the mini joysticks on my PS4 controller count, they're just not quite the same as waggling a Quickshot or Cheetah 125+. 

Great to see new wave given a mention. It's kind of old wave now, I guess! Although the term is still being used, new wave music is certainly very much associated with the 1980s. It's one was of my favourite genres, for sure!

My goodness, this book has certainly rekindled a great many memories, quite a few which I'd forgotten about. It's certainly proving to be a very handy resource for my article writing on my 80s blogs, and has given me inspiration for a lot of new subjects to write about.

Whether you want to confuse your kids or simply jog your memory with the many slang terms and words we were all using back in the day, you'll find this a fascinating read.

The Dictionary of 1980s Slang is available as a paperback, hardback and also for Kindle.


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