Today, if you don't know your common slang, most people will think you're square (a '40s slang word meaning conventional or old-fashioned). It's not a cool label to have, but that wasn't always the case. There was a time when slang was reserved for the lowest of the low classes. Throughout the 1700s, the only people using slang were the uneducated and poor classes of society. Nobody in the nobility, bourgeoisie or education system would be caught dead using slang. And before that, it was reserved for those who were even lower than low - the thieves, beggars and hustlers. It was commonly known as thieves' cant or peddler's French, and if you were approached by someone speaking it, you were probably seconds away from getting robbed. Today, however, that's all different.
One of the most influential decades in American history when it comes to slang was the 1960s. Music was at its peak; equal rights was front and center; citizens began to question authority, norms and rules; the Vietnam War was raging; protests were taking place across the country; clothing, styles and trends were taking off; and slang reflected all of that. There's a ton of slang that was common in the 1960s that is still in use today due to its popularity. Let's see how rad you are when it comes to identifying groovy language.
What would you call an outstandingly cool man?
This phrase was first used to describe jazz musicians of the 1920s, but it didn't take off nationwide and eventually faded out. It was resurrected in the 1960s when style, culture and music began taking over American society.
What kind of strength did Flower Children wield?
The 1960's were all about promoting peace, love and happiness and Flower children, more commonly known as hippies, were the leaders in spreading the message of "Flower Power," which was an embrace of peace, love and a natural, free lifestyle.
When somebody in your group of friends comes up with a rad idea, you could agree with them by saying: Right ______
"Right on!" was one of the most commonly used phrases of the 1960s given its versatility. It was almost like saying "yeah" and could be used in almost every situation quite naturally. It can still be used today but you'll definitely be dating yourself if you do.
How would you respond when someone showed you something really cool?
"Far out" is one of those phrases, like "right on," that could have been used in a variety of situations and in combination with other popular phrases. It simply meant "cool" and was one of the most popular phrases of the decade.
What would you say when something came up at the last second to ruin your plans?
What a bummer or "bummed out" was used to describe any really disappointing situation, or to express being depressed or really sad. It's such a common phrase that it's still in use today and means the same thing.
If you're at a party or event that is pretty boring, you might turn to a friend and say, "Let's ______."
"Let's split" simply means "let's leave" or "let's get out of here." Many popular phrases of the decade were so universal that they're still in use today, this one included. If the party was a gas, however, you'd probably want to stay.
After explaining a complex concept to someone, you might end by asking: Do you ______
"Do you dig it?" or "Can you dig it?" may be the most popular of all phrases from the '60s. Although it can be traced back to 1936 and some iterations date back to 1827, it was the hippies in the '60s who used it to mean, "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
What would you say when you wanted someone to express their opinion on a particular topic?
This means "tell me," but more specifically, "don't hold back" or "don't sugarcoat it." The '60s were a time of radicalism and change the country had never seen, leading to protests nationwide that trickled down to intense debates among individuals. It wasn't a time for phony conversations.
When greeting a friend you haven't seen in a while, you may say: Gimme some ______
This phrase would precede a high-five or handshake between two people. If you were going in for a hug or a kiss, you probably wouldn't greet your friend like this. You can still say it today, but more in a humorous way than everyday speech.
If you're promoting a weekly party to a group of people hesitant on going, you could convince them by saying, "It's a ______."
"It's a gas" was a phrase that was used to describe how awesome, rad or fun a specific event was. Today it's still a slang term that means something completely different. People now use it to say that something is exaggerated.
Which of these terms was used to tell a woman her slip was peeking out below her dress?
This phrase is so outdated you probably have never heard it and probably never will. If you were to say it to someone, they wouldn't know what you were talking about. It means "your slip is showing."
What were capri pants commonly known as during the 1960s?
Pedal pushers were calf-length pants that would be the equivalent of today's capri pants. Anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle with pants knows grease from the chain can easily swipe onto the pants, so rolling them past your calf is the perfect way to keep them clean.
When demanding that someone tell the truth without holding back, you might look at them and say: Sock it to ______.
More than "Lay it on me," this phrase really meant, "give it to me straight," as in, "tell me how you really feel." President Richard Nixon, in an attempt to be cool and win over the youth, famously used this phrase in 1968 on a TV show appearance.
Make love, not ______.
If you couldn't tell yet, the war and the draft played a major role in defining the culture of the time, and many popular phrases stemmed from protesting the war. One of the most popular phrases was this anti-war slogan, which is pretty self-explanatory.
What was the slang term for a man who didn't speak up for himself?
This isn't a flattering term and could possibly be considered a dis. It's the equivalent of calling someone a "mama's boy" or a pushover and was used to describe a timid or nebbish fellow who didn't speak up when he needed to.
If students were protesting the Vietnam War, who or what did they want to stick it to?
The Vietnam War ran for 20 years (1955 - 1975). Combine that with the draft, civil rights and the assassinations of high-profile leaders, and it's no surprise that the '60s were full of protests, boycotts and people who wanted to stick it to the establishment, meaning the government, powers that be, or just conventional society at the time.
Which of these phrases would you use if you wanted to leave an event very quickly?
"Let's beat feet" is '60s slang meaning "let's get out of here quickly." It's usually used when you just did something wrong and want to get away, or when an event has just turned sour (i.e. the cops show up to a house party) and it's time to go.
The Vietnam War was the source of widespread protests where one of the most popular chants was, "Hell no, we won't ______."
"Hell No, We Won't Go" was one of the most popular anti-war slogans being chanted by protesters across the nation. The draft lottery was in effect at the end of the decade and it was one of the leading reasons for the country's strong anti-war sentiment.
When bad boys are rolling around looking for a fight, it is said that they are, "cruisin' for a ______."
Like a lot of popular phrases, this one can be attributed to originating earlier than the 1960s, but it wasn't until that decade that it actually became popular. "Cruisin' for a bruisin'" is a phrase to describe a group of kids riding around looking for trouble.
Which one of these things was a reason to go to the beach?
Like a lot of popular phrases from the 1960s, this one has lived on because of its simplicity. To catch some rays means to lay out in the sun and maybe get a tan. It does not mean to get a spray tan, however. We're talking about the natural thing.
What was another name for the drive-in movie theater?
The drive-in movie theater was the place to be in the '60s and it was the go-to date spot, earning the nickname, "the passion pit." The movie itself may or may not have been the premiere event when you chose to go to the drive-in theater for the night.
If an outstandingly beautiful woman walks in the room, you may turn to a friend and say: She's such a ______.
A fox or foxy lady simply described a woman who was considered beautiful. It's a term that can still be heard today, but is somewhat outdated since there are so many more terms that mean the same thing that have since come into existence.
Before you tell someone something that could get them really mad, you might preface it by saying, "Don't flip your ______."
When someone flipped their wig, it meant they lost total control of their emotions either in anger or excitement. Another popular phrase of the time that was commonly used to express the same sentiment was, "don't have a cow."
Which one of these phrases did Muhammad Ali make popular?
The greatest boxer of all time was known for his lyrical intimidation of opponents and this may have been his most popular lyric of all time. In 1964 he was 22 years old and underdog to Sonny Liston. Before entering the ring, he uttered this famous phrase. He won by TKO.
A fan of the Grateful Dead is known as a Dead ...
Dead Heads are still around today and the Grateful Dead is still playing arenas around the world. Known for their tie-dye clothing and messages of peace, their message also lives on in other items, like clothing lines and ice cream flavors.
Hippies in the '60s loved their hairstyles, but a person with a bald, shiny head was referred to as a chrome ______.
Afros, long hair, dreads and anything that wasn't a military buzz cut was pretty far out in the '60s, but not everyone could be blessed with immaculate hair. Bald people were known as chrome domes, and they usually used bandanas or shirts to cover their heads.
Two people who are exclusively dating one another may be said to be, "going ______."
"Going steady" is a term that is still in use today to describe a couple who are exclusively dating. Again, this phrase originated in the early 1900s and was first used back then, but it didn't take off and become popular until the '60s.
What do you call someone or something that doesn't perform as perceived?
This phrase was used to describe someone or something that didn't perform as expected. There are several variations of this idiom still around today. "All talk, no walk," "all hat, no cattle" and "all bark, no bite" are some of them.
Which of these phrases would you use to get someone back on track after they've gone on a tangent?
This was a wisecrack that would usually be uttered by the sarcastic one in the group when somebody was talking on and on with no end in sight and had completely lost track of what the original point of the story was about.
Which of these was a common phrase to indicate someone was little crazy?
To say that some one is "around the bend" is a slang phrase to say that they are crazy. Whether they were clinically crazy or just acting crazy didn't really matter. This phrase is pretty outdated, but there are still plenty of people who fit the description.
If you see a couple of lovers making out to the extreme, you may say that they are, "swapping ______.
Swapping spit is extreme kissing. You may say it or hear somebody say this phrase today as it has lasted for decades. It's a lot more than making out and isn't a great look, especially if it's being done in public.
Which of these phrases was used to wave off someone who wasn't making any sense?
You can tell someone to "have a nice day" today, but it will take a skilled level of sarcasm to convey the same meaning in this instance. This was a nice way of telling someone you were simply done listening to them, or you didn't think they knew what they were talking about.
Which of these phrases was popularized by Harvard professor Timothy Leary?
Harvard professor turned counterculture icon Tim Leary was most well-known for advocating the use of LSD. He wasn't suggesting that people drop out of school, but instead embrace cultural changes and detach from conventions of the hierarchy.
When a woman was acting immature, naive or young for her age, someone may comment on her by saying, "She's got ______."
"She's got toys" was a phrase used for a woman or girl who is acting younger than she really is. Sometimes the phrase was modified to say, "she's got toys in the attic," meaning she's a little kid inside her head. It's not a compliment.
If you wanted to tell a woman that her bra strap was showing, you could say: It's snowing up ______.
This is another outdated phrase because of the fact that dress codes and norms have changed so much. Allowing a bra strap to show 60 years ago was taboo, whereas today it can be seen as stylish or trendy if done right.
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!
Get smarter every day! Subscribe & get 1 quiz every week.
Playing quizzes is free! We send trivia questions and personality tests every week to your inbox. By clicking "Sign Up" you are agreeing to our
and confirming that you are 13 years old or over.