Can You Translate These Slang Words From the '60s?


By: Allison Lips

6 Min Quiz

Image: Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Slang enters our language ever yday. Some terms, such as "kiss up" forever enter our language. Others, such as "groovy," are forever cemented in time as a relic of when flower power reigned and the U.S. struggled  in the quagmire that was the Vietnam War.

At this time, almost half of the U.S. population was 18 years old. Color TV was new. Black and white TV was on its way out. Ninety-five percent of U.S. households had at least one TV . The British Invasion kicked off with the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show.

This decade was also a time of great cultural upheaval. President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas. The Civil Rights Movement was still working hard for equal rights. By the end of the decade, hippies just wanted to celebrate peace and love at Woodstock.

The youth of the 1960s had a significant impact on the language used. Even though a word may have been coined significantly earlier, it stay may have gained wide use in this era. Since the U.S. population was so young, odds are if teens were using a word, it probably caught on.

Now, let's go back to a time when the Fab Four had mop-tops and everybody hung loose. Will you be able to keep up with this 1960s slang? Find out if you remember the 1960s or if this reads like gibberish to you!

If you're stressed and someone says, "Don't have a cow," what do they mean?

The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English traces the phrase to 1966. However, The Oxford English Dictionary believes the first printed reference was in the Denton Record Chronicle, a Texas newspaper.


What is someone doing if they bug you?

Bug didn't get the meaning "to bother" until the 1950s at the earliest. However, the word was used to mean a computer malfunction in the 1940s


If some knows zilch about something, how much do they know?

The exact history of the word zilch is not known. However, the Oxford English Dictionary believes the word was first published in a 1966 collection of slang at the University of South Dakota.


After a long day, what are you about to do if you "crash?"

You can also "crash a party," which means to invite yourself. If you want to sleep at someone else's house, you may "crash at their place."


If someone exclaims, "What a bummer!," what do they mean?

The current meaning of bummer comes from the 1960s. However, in the 1980s, a "bummer" was a "loafer" or someone who was good-for-nothing. The second meaning may come from the German word "bummler," which shares the "loafer" definition.


What would you be doing if you were "catching some rays?"

"Catch some rays" may have its origins in surf culture. In the 1960s, surf culture was based out of Southern California.


What does a man with a "chrome dome" have?

The expression "chrome dome" dates to 1962. It was also used to describe a type of helmet used in Vietnam that protected U.S. soldiers from the sun.


What is calling "dibs?"

While the origin of "dibs" is not clear, the word is believed to have originated in the United States. The word may be a contraction of dibstone, which was a jack as in the children's game.


When someone becomes unglued, what is happening?

While unglued literally means to separate two things, the figurative meaning can be traced back to the 1920s.


If someone is "blitzed" after a party, what are they?

In 1966, "blitzed" gained this meaning. Prior to the 1960s, being blitzed would mean that you were under attack.


What would you find in a boneyard?

A boneyard is a place where cars and other vehicles are broken up for scrap. It is also slang for a cemetery.


What kind of condition is a grungy item in?

The first known use of "grungy" was in 1965. It is believed that the word may be a portmanteau of grubby and dingy.


What is something that's "boss?"

The first published account of "boss" meaning "cool" or "good" comes from a 1916 Issue of Dialect Notes. The word gained popularity in the 1960s. One example is "Boss Hoss," by The Sonics, which came out in 1965.


If someone tells you "right-on," what do they mean?

Right has colloquially meant "very" or "extremely for a long time. However, "right-on" didn't enter American English until the late '60s.


If your friends are having a "Chinese fire drill," what are they doing?

In the 1950s and the 1960s, "Chinese fire drill" became associated with car culture. It could mean a game that takes place at a red light or an accident that causes a scene of confusion.


If someone's a fan of the Fab Four, which band to they listen to?

PR man Tony Barrow coined the term "Fab Four" for the Beatles. He used it in a press release and it stuck.


If you scarf something, what are you doing?

"Scarf" acquired its current meaning around 1960s. The Random House Unabridged Dictionary notes that it is a variant of the word scoff.


If you "tune out" something, you are doing what to it?

Timothy Leary popularized the phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out." He named his spoken word album after it.


What does it mean to "hang loose?"

"Hang loose" came from 1960s surfer culture. It is also associated with a Hawaiian hand signal known as the shaka.


What is the "boob tube?"

The phrase was first recorded between 1965 and 1970. It was coined to imply that television is foolish and watched by foolish people.


What did Marcia Brady mean when she described something as "groovy?"

"Groovy" evolved from jazz slang, where it meant "performing well." In the 1940s, the word shifted to mean "wonderful."


What does "freak out" mean?

Freaking out may be good or bad. You can freak out because you're excited or because you're fearful.


What does "sock it to me" mean?

The phrase "sock it to me" was frequently heard on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In." In 1968, Richard Nixon appeared on the show and said the iconic line.


What is a band doing if it is jamming?

In 1914, jam first acquired the slang meaning "to be in a tight spot." In the late-1920s, jam became associated with "jam session," which is an improvised performance by a band.


What are you fighting against, if you're sticking it to the man?

"The man" can be used in multiple ways. If "the man is keeping you down," you're feeling oppressed. If you're "sticking it to the man," you're fighting against authority.


Why wouldn't you want to be around a "skuzzbucket?"

While no one knows for sure where "skuzzbucket" came from, the Random House Unabridged Dictionary published that the word entered English sometime around 1965. It may come from the word "scuzzy."


What is a ripoff?

Ripoff was originally used as a verb as in "to rip off" someone. Sometime in the late 1960s, it became used as a noun.


Why wouldn't you like something grody?

In the early 1960s, grody entered teen slang. It may be an alteration of "grotesque."


What does it mean to be "decked out?"

In the '60s, a man who is decked out may be dressed in a suit similar to the ones The Beatles wore. A woman decked out may have worn an outfit inspired by Jackie Kennedy.


What does someone do to receive a "five-finger discount?"

Someone who receives a five-finger discount may also have sticky fingers. Both deal with stealing, typically of small items.


What does it mean to "ride shotgun?"

Originally, riding shotgun meant to protect something while in transit. Sometime in the mid-1900s, it came to mean anyone riding in the front passenger seat.


When someone "goes ape," what do they become?

"Go ape" can have good or bad connotations. Someone can "go ape" over something they love, such as a band or a restaurant.


What does it mean to be a "sponge?"

Sponge has had the meaning "to live in a parasitic manner" since the 1670s. Originally, the person who was being taken advantage of was called the sponge, since they were "being squeezed."


What does it mean to "Bogart" something?

In the late 1960s, "to Bogart" entered stoner slang. It comes from Humphrey Bogart, who was frequently seen smoking a cigarette in his movies.


When someone refers to a car as being "cherry," what do they mean?

The origin of the word "cherry" in slang is unknown. While the word used to mean "new," its meaning has shifted over time to mean someone's virginity.


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