'90s Kids Should Know These Common Phrases. Will You?



By: Deborah Beckwin

7 Min Quiz

Image: Cornstock/Stockbyte/GettyImages

About This Quiz

After the '80s, full of Reaganomics, major technological advances, family sitcoms, global upheaval, New Wave music and blockbuster movies, there were the '90s, the last decade of the 20th century. 

People were looking forward to what the 21st century and the new millennium would bring, and there was a sense of optimism that came along with that (Y2K freakouts notwithstanding). For example, you can look at fashion near the end of the decade, which looked very futuristic, metallic and shiny.

When it comes to '90s slang (or American slang in general), it's hard to overlook the influence of African-American culture. For the '90s, it was the rise of hip-hop and rap. And here's one example of this: Did you know that although singing group Destiny's Child may have had the song "Bootylicious" in 2001, it was rapper Snoop Dogg (who used to go by Snoop Doggy Dogg) who coined the term in 1992?

American slang influences come from other sources, too. In the '90s, slang came from movies such as "Clueless," TV shows like "The Simpsons" and from regions of the U.S. that have their own lingoes, such as the West Coast and the South. All of these cultural sources feed into our collective vocabulary until ... booyah!--some new words come into being and take their place.

So are you ready to go on a fantastic voyage back to the '90s? We hope you have fun. Good luck and peace out!

"She was straight buggin' about her man talking to that other chick." What was she doing?

If someone is "buggin' out," they are really concerned to the point of being visibly upset. If someone is "straight buggin'," then "straight" can be seen as an emphasizing word, like "very."


"Hey, I need to dip. I'll talk to you later." What does "dip" mean here?

When it's time to go, it's time to go. You definitely don't hear "dip" used like this anymore. We're just back to chewing tobacco and yummy things we eat.


Which one of these words is NOT slang for stealing something?

You know the word "carjack," which means to steal a car usually at gunpoint? That's where jack comes from, although if something is "jacked up," it means it's messed up or screwed up. Yoink and gank aren't really in much use anymore.


"Man, this chicken tetrazzini is all that and a bag of chips!" So how is this meal?

"All that and a bag of chips" has definitely gone the way of the dodo as a phrase. The less emphatic "all that" isn't around anymore either. But there was TV, with "All That" -- a sketch TV show on Nickelodeon which debuted in 1994 and stuck around for 11 years.


One of the famous '90s phrases comes from the movie, "Clueless"-- do you know what "as if!" means?

This was one of the iconic phrases of "Clueless" lead character Cher Horowitz. It was incredulity, with a Beverly Hills/Valley Girl sound.


"Those are beats are pretty phat." So how does that music sound?

"Phat" is not only a word to describe excellence and attractiveness. It's also an acronym: Pretty Hot And Tempting. You could use phat to describe someone or some object.


If someone says "Talk to the hand," what are they also usually doing?

"Talk to the hand" (which means "shut up") is short for a longer phrase: "Talk to the hand 'cause the face [or ears] ain't listening!" There are also different variations of that longer phrase. The TV sitcom, "Martin," starring Martin Lawrence, made this phrase popular in the early '90s.


"That guy is such a scrub. You shouldn't even talk to him." So what is a "scrub"?

The word "scrub" comes from girl group TLC with their song, "No Scrubs," and from the beginning of the song, scrub is defined as someone who thinks he's wonderful but he's broke. He has a lot of ambition but no follow-through.


"I really think Nickelback was the best band of the '90s! NOT!" So what does this sentence really mean?

As another version of "psych" or "sike," this phrase was used more by kids and teens of the '90s than adults. Usually, you'd either say something that sounded normal to "psych" someone out, or you'd say something outlandish and then say "not!" to negate it.


Your friend asks you about this person who seems really cute from far away, and then you get closer to them and find out they aren't that attractive. What's the '90s term for this phenomenon?

Here's another popular '90s phrase from the movie, "Clueless." Named after the French impressionist painter, Claude Monet, when someone is a Monet, they give the impression of being attractive from far away, but when you get closer, you see that they're not as attractive. When seen up close, Monet's paint strokes are daubs and streaks of paint which appear more pixelated and abstract than when seen from far away.


"This party is so crunk, I hope the cops don't come!" So how's this party going?

"Crunk" is most likely a portmanteau of the words "crazy" and "drunk." This is also something you usually say that you want to be -- e.g., let's get crunk! This word came up from rap culture in the South.


Rapper and actor Will Smith brought this phrase into being: What is one meaning of "gettin' jiggy wit it"?

"Gettin' jiggy" has several meanings, one of which is to be uninhibited and dance. Another one was to show that you're stylish or have the latest fashions. And another version -- the more original version -- is that this is a euphemism for having sex.


This phrase is still around today, but you may hear someone's mom say it. What does, "You go, girl!" mean?

"You go, girl" these days may be used with more of a sense of irony -- or by someone older. But back in the day, it was a way to celebrate successes, big or small. It can also be interchanged with boy.


Someone just told you, "Your car is so fly!" What do they mean?

You can use the word "fly" to describe a person or an object. If you remember the TV show, "In Living Color," they had dancers called the "Fly Girls" (actress and singer Jennifer Lopez was one). This slang isn't used so much anymore.


"Look at all the honeys flocking to that guy." Who or what is coming to this person?

Usually, men would use the term "honey" for an attractive woman. This wasn't as popular as calling a pretty lady a "Betty" (another slang term from "Clueless).


If someone has some "bling bling" on, what are they wearing?

Bling bling comes from rap culture, with a 1999 song called "Bling Bling" by B.G. featuring Big Tymers & Hot Boys. Having big chains, lots of diamonds, fancy watches -- it's all about that bling bling.


You ask your friend what they're up to, and they respond, "I am mad chillaxin' at the crib." So, what are they up to?

"Chill," "chillin'" and the portmanteau of "chillaxin'" (chillin' and relaxing) -- it's all about not doing much, relaxing. Chillin' is still around, but chillaxin'...you're probably not going to hear that again.


This word is still with us and is maybe an '80s word, too: What does "hella" mean?

"Hella" seems to have come from where many American slang phrases and words come from -- California. This word is still in use today and may have some staying power -- although it's not in as wide a use as it used to be in the '90s.


If you're "'bout it," then you're what?

Sometimes you'd say this twice ("'bout it, 'bout it"), which is from the rapper, TRU, who had a song with the same title. And sometimes someone would ask you, "You 'bout it?" And you'd respond, "Yeah, I'm 'bout it." That can mean you're loyal, you agree, etc.


If someone tells you to "take a chill pill," what do you need to do?

This phrase is probably from the '80s, too, but if you need to "take a chill pill," you need to calm down. It's not as hip of a saying as "chillin'" or being someone who is "chill" (calming, cool).


If someone is "going postal," what's going on with them?

The phrase "going postal" comes from the epidemic of U.S. Postal Service workers who shot and killed supervisors, fellow employees and others, which had been happening since the '70s. Again, the movie, "Clueless," made this phrase popular because it wasn't widely used beforehand. You probably still hear the term on occasion today, which usually means going crazy in an aggressive, violent way, especially due to stress.


What '90s TV show coined the phrase, "yadda, yadda, yadda"?

"Seinfeld" debuted in July 1989 and made its final bow in May 1998 -- so basically, it was on for most of the '90s. The show made many phrases, such as yadda yadda yadda (a fill-in phrase to help shorten a story), "spongeworthy," "close talker" and "man hands."


If you're wearing something that's "iced out," what are you wearing?

This phrase may straddle into the next decade, but this is another phrase most likely from hip-hop/rap culture. Being iced out means wearing showy jewelry -- fancy watches, bracelets, rings and necklaces with lots of diamonds -- and diamonds being compared to the appearance of ice.


This is another "Clueless" phrase: "I'm outtie" -- do you know what this means?

This "Clueless" phrase seems to play on a phrase used in another popular '90s movie, "Reality Bites." "I'm Audi 5000" referenced the car's known quick and sudden acceleration (and this was because the brake pedal and accelerator were too close together). So if you've really got to get going, you'd be "Audi" or "Audi 5000."


At a party, you accidentally bump into someone and cause a little bit of their drink to spill. What would you say in a '90s way to say you're sorry?

"My bad" is probably still being used, but definitely not as much as it was in the '90s. It's literally a way to say, that was my fault.


Which one of these words is NOT a word meaning buddy or friend?

A part of African-American vernacular, the term "homie" is shortened for the word "homeboy," and it's definitely still used today. "Homeskillet" and "homeslice" probably aren't used that much anymore.


What cartoon character is famous for the phrase, "Eat my shorts!"

"The Simpsons" debuted on December 1989, and is amazingly still on TV. A cultural juggernaut in the '90s, this cartoon show had a mischievous kid name Bart Simpson who coined the phrase, "Eat my shorts!"


What's one way you would show surprise or agreement?

"Word" is still in use, as it's a part of African-American vernacular. One popular way in the '90s this was used as actually a mishearing by rapper Vanilla Ice in his 1990 hit, "Ice Ice Baby," where he raps "word to your mother." In 1988, rapper Big Daddy Kane had a rap called "Word to the Mother (Land)" which was to honor the historical and cultural roots of African-Americans.


What is one way you would NOT greet a friend?

"G" is short for gangsta, which was a popular greeting since gangsta rap and culture became popular in the '90s. "Dawg" was another way of calling someone a homie or friend. "The dillio" was just an elaborate way of saying "the deal" -- but "whatever" is more of a dismissive saying.


There were plenty of ways in the '90s to talk about someone or something going crazy. Which one of the words is NOT about anything crazy?

"Stylin'" has a pretty straightforward meaning, which is that one has style, looks especially good and put together. "Wiggin'" (losing your wig), "trippin'," and "wack" (also wacked out) were all various way to talk about a crazy situation or person. Wiggin' is closer to crazy or insane, trippin' is closer to foolish or outlandish, while wack can mean crazy, outlandish or just screwed up/messed up.


What phrase was also the title of a 1992 R&B album by Mary J. Blige?

"What's the 411?" was another way to get the juicy, gossipy details on a situation. It was also a way to say, "What's really going on? I want to know the whole truth."


What's one word that you could use to replace the word "like" and it would mean the same thing most of the time?

"Like" has persisted as a word more than all, e.g., "She was all...'I can't do your homework for you,' and then I was all...'Well, then you're useless to me. You need to step.'" It may have its roots in Valley Girl speak.


You're lamenting over your boyfriend to a friend, and she responds, "Girl, you need to kick him to the curb!" What does she mean?

When it's time to kick someone to the curb, it's time to take out the garbage -- to the curb! And this is not just a "things aren't working out" conversation. It's a, "We are through forever and it's because you're a terrible (or useless) person in my life" conversation.


If something is "aight," how is it, really?

"Aight" (also written as "aiight") is just a slightly shorter version of alright. Example exchange: "I'm gonna get another drink. You want anything?" "Nah, I'm aight."


"I gotta give you mad props on that presentation!" What are "mad props"?

Props is a shortening of another slang word -- "propers." It also means the proper treatment and praise for a job well done. Adding the word mad is an intensifier, meaning big or major.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!