Do You Know These Common Gen X Phrases?


By: Olivia Cantor

6 Min Quiz

Image: Thinkstock Images / Stockbyte / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Generation X includes people who were born between 1961 and 1981, give or take, depending on which expert's opinion you trust. Just like any generation that has existed in world history, Generation X has its own special phrases, sayings and words. Can you still remember some of them?

Sometimes, this so-called "slacker generation" even had some phrases borrowed from other generations out there, like from the Baby Boomers that came before them. Some of these words were community-oriented or geographical as well, as Gen Xers found themselves committing to hobbies and habits that also had their own characteristics, such as the surfing community. But being the deeply innovative Gen Xers that they are, they did not merely borrow or usurp these words into their generation's vocabulary - they added new meanings to them. So that's a great spin on things, and a new creation gets reborn. Yup, that is very Gen X all right, as this generation is not really slacking in the negative sense. Gen X is a generation that not only innovates but also creates, recreates, improves upon and pushes things to greater heights. 

So let's see if you can earn your Gen X cred and find out what's really being said with this quiz! Go go go!

What are some Gen X people trying to say if what you’ve done is “totally gnarly”?

The original use of the word “gnarly” was to describe branches or roots that had many bumps, twists and turns. The word was picked up by the surfer culture and came to mean “beyond difficult or extreme,” and eventually it was picked up by Gen X in general.


If a person you like says “You’re bodacious,” what does that mean?

"Bodacious" means attractive or pleasing in some way. The root words are “bold” and “audacious,” which initially meant that a person is admirable.


How should you dress if you’re really "preppy”?

The “preppy” fashion style was based on how people from exclusively upper-class prep schools dressed. It eventually described young people who wore the equivalent of casual, but neat and traditional, clothing.


When you’re “chilling out” with a friend, what are you both doing?

“Chilling out” basically means to relax and keep a cool attitude. The phrase itself was probably coined as early as the Baby Boomer generation’s era, but only became increasingly popular with the Gen X crowd in terms of daily usage.


If someone told you that you had “wicked skills” at driving, what did it usually mean?

The term “wicked” used to be a negative term, primarily and popularly linked to witches. However, it became popular with Generation X for emphasizing how good a person was at something. It was a negative word that was positively reclaimed.


What are you if you’re called a "dweeb" at a party?

Some sources say that “dweeb” is actually an acronym that stands for “Dim-Witted Eastern-Educated Boor.” When used, it usually means a person is socially boring or awkward - hence, you’re not really the life of the party.


What was the bad side of being true “yuppies”?

"Yuppies," or "Young Urban Professionals," were people who kept lucrative 9-to-5 jobs, usually in a corporation. They were considered to be overly career-driven, money-obsessed and unable to understand people who were not like them. Therefore, they came across as shallow and materialistic.


When you hear that a guy is “pretty fly,” what is the person actually saying?

The key word in the phrase is “fly.” It’s taken from an old British term that means a person is well-dressed and probably also attractive. Generation X incorporated it into their street lingo.


Rappers love to make “diss tracks”about other rappers. What does that mean?

“Diss” is actually a shortened version of “disrespect.” Dissing involves one person insulting another, and the term was used in daily life, not just in music.


You can practically hear “gag me with a spoon” with an exaggerated valley girl accent. What does it mean?

“Gag me with a spoon” actually refers to the gag reflex, like sticking a finger down your throat. The term is used to say that whatever was talked about is that bad or really disgusting.


If you and your date are “getting jiggy with it,” what are you doing if you’re not having sex?

“Getting jiggy with it” is more famous as a term that means “having fun dancing,” thanks to Will Smith and his 1997 song. Before that, people in Harlem used it as a term to mean having a good time or having sex.


If someone you know says you are their “homeboy,” what are you?

A person’s “homeboy” is a friend from the old neighborhood, or maybe even his best friend. A more gender-neutral version of this term is “homie.”


When do you say “my bad”?

“My bad” is a shortened phrase that means “my mistake.” However, some Generation Xers have also used it with the additional meaning that “There’s nothing to be done about it, sorry.”


If you’re a girl and your boyfriend said “You’re phat,” should you be happy?

"Phat" has been used since at least the 1950s, but it was Generation X that made it a part of pop culture. It is supposedly a shortened term for "Pretty Hot and Thick," but there are other vulgar variations on what the letters mean – and we’ll leave that up to you to discover.


If you’re debating with a friend and the friend says “word,” what did he or she just say?

“Word” has come to mean either agreement, because the word is the truth, or, if used as a question, to ask if something is the truth. “Word” is more commonly used within the African-American culture, but it has been picked up outside of that culture from time to time.


If you’re traditional, what is the right Gen X term for you?

“Old school” rocketed in use when Generation X used it to describe people or actions that were rather traditional in nature. Depending on how it’s used, it can have a good or bad connotation.


What is a Gen Xer really asking you if they say, “How’s it hanging?”

“How’s it hanging?” has been traced back to the 1920s, when it was originally a vulgar greeting linked to a man’s genitalia. Generation X usage is more of a general greeting, asking about your state of being or how your day is going - more wholesome than its original usage.


What’s “going postal” about, if it’s not about mail?

“Going postal” was coined due to the apparent stress and violence linked to employees of the U.S. Postal Service. Generation X has made it a general term for extreme anger that can lead to violence.


When you say sorry and you hear that it's “aight,” are you forgiven?

The word “aight” is a shortened term of “all right.” By making it one syllable only, it’s easier to say or use. Gen X is genius at reinvention.


If something‘s “the bomb,” it isn’t usually dangerous. What is it?

Though the phrase “to bomb” generally means failure, “the bomb” means that something’s excellent or the best. The origin of the phrase isn’t clear, but it may come from jazz and African-American culture.


When your friend shouts “booyah” after you ask someone out on a date, what does it mean?

“Booyah” is an expression of victory. Some people say it started in sports or the military. If you’re a millennial or younger, you might use this Generation X term sarcastically.


If you tell your no-good friend to “talk to the hand,” what are you saying?

“Talk to the hand” means that you’re not listening. It’s usually used with a “stop” gesture, wherein a full hand is extended, facing the person you’re talking to. But in some versions, the hand does talking motions with the fingers.


When someone says “You go, girl” to a female friend, what does it mean?

“You go, girl” is a gender-specific Generation X phrase. It usually means to encourage a woman to do something, but it can also be a form of congratulations.


If you hear “as if” as the reaction to an idea of yours, what should you do?

The phrase “as if” means that whatever the other person is asking or proposing is not going to happen. It’s the Generation X way to say, “It will be a cold day in hell before that happens.”


When you hear “That’s bogus,” it can have a different meaning from “fake.” What's the other meaning?

In the past, “bogus” always meant something fake. The Generation X twist was to add the meaning of something being unfair, or something that shouldn’t happen.


If someone keeps on saying “psych,” what do they like to do?

“Psych” originated as a 1930s term meaning to outsmart others. The Generation X twist is more about lying to a person, then telling them in a mean way that you lied to them.


If your friends keep on telling you to take a “chill pill,” what is your normal mood?

Advice to “take a chill pill” means that a person should calm down or relax, because they are perceived to be too anxious, uptight or very much preoccupied. The second meaning for Generation X people is to just go with the flow of events.


If you hear “okay, whatever” from a Gen Xer, what did they just do?

If a Generation X person says “whatever” as the last word, they could be ignoring you. They may also be telling you that what you said sucks.


You’re the one who makes things awkward by saying the wrong thing. What are you?

The "buzzkill" is a person who takes the energy or fun out of an activity or even something like a conversation. The “buzz” refers to positive energy, which the person is killing.


“Let’s bounce,” says your Generation X friend. What’s the plan?

“Let’s bounce” means that it’s time to go somewhere else. The term may have started in sports, with Generation Xers adding a feeling that means “I’m bored.”


What phrase do your Gen X friends say when they have money?

“Cha-ching” means that a person has money. The phrase is taken from the sound of a cash register, so it's a sound effects kind of expression.


When your friend invites you to their “crib,” where are you going?

“Crib” is shorthand for a person’s home, which was popularly used during the '90s and still saw some usage after that, even up to today. Generation Xers also mix in some pride when they use it, like they're displaying their home for people to see.


If you hear “eat my shorts” in a conversation, what’s the person trying to say?

“Eat my shorts” became a famous phrase when it was used by Bart Simpson in the TV show "The Simpsons." It is simply a way of telling the other person you don’t care – at all. It sounds like an insult.


If a party is “totally tubular,” what sort of party is it?

“Totally tubular” is surf speak, used by Generation X people to mean something is really good or excellent. The term describes how a good wave has a “tube” of water for surfers to go through. Since some Gen Xers are also surfers, the usage became interchangeable between these communities.


If you hear someone pointedly ask “Where’s the beef?” what are they trying to say?

“Where’s the beef?” actually started as a Wendy’s advertising campaign slogan. Generation X people used it to ask if something was worth it, implying that it wasn’t.


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