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What "cool beans" and 50 other old-timey slang words mean

  • What "cool beans" and 50 other old-timey slang words mean

    Slang is a vital part of language. The words and phrases attributed to a specific region or time play out in various dialects and accents specific to different areas in the same country. These tweaks to an otherwise common language define subcultures and represent highly specific moments in time—just look at “bootlegger,” which originated during Prohibition. And like any other language on the planet, English has evolved over the years to change with the times. Every year, new words are added to the dictionary to reflect changes in our culture—from “D'oh!” and “twerk” to “selfie” and “hangry.” Our language will continue to evolve indefinitely, incorporating subtle changes into our everyday conversations and changing the way we perceive popular words from the past.

    For the past five decades, there have been countless slang terms that have come and gone—describing everything from kissing to money. Some come from pop culture like television shows, movies, or music, while others seem to just be products of a particular era.

    Many times, an informal word or phrase becomes popular for so long that its origin is lost, but the term remains part of the vernacular. Whether it's a trendy buzzword or a commonplace adjective, finding the origin of a word can be fascinating. Stacker has rounded up 50 old-timey sayings from the 1950s through the 1990s to explore their beginnings and their original meanings—if they ever had an original meaning to begin with. In this gallery, take a look at what slang terms like “Talk to the hand” and “goon” originally meant, how they've changed (or not), what they mean today, and how words like “booyah!” became part of our culture's everyday lexicon.

    Read on to explore why “cheddar” is associated with money, and other interesting associations.

    You may also like: Local slang from every state

  • All that and a bag of chips

    This phrase came about in the 1990s and it was used to signify that something was beyond good. It could also be used to say you were better than someone else such as "You're all that, but I'm all that AND a bag of chips.” It is possible Nickelodeon made a callout to this phrase with its popular sketch comedy show for kids, "All That." 

  • Ankle-biter

    If you wanted to describe an annoying little kid in the 1950s, you might call them an ankle-biter. The term is likely inspired by small dogs, who have been known to nip at ankles and pant legs.

  • As if!

    “As if!” is rumored to have been a phrase used in the LGBT community before it was co-opted in the 1990s by Cher Horowitz in the movie “Clueless,” officially erasing the phrase's origins. “As if!” can mean a variety of things, such as “I doubt it” or “Yeah, right!” The enduring legacy of “Clueless” as a cult classic solidified the phrase in our culture's everyday vernacular—millennials regularly still use the word today.

  • Bangin'

    “Bangin'” is a word that gained popularity in the 1990s as a word used to describe someone or something as attractive. One might also use the word to describe something exciting or fun, such as, “That house party was bangin.'”

  • Bogus

    The word “bogus” originated in the 1800s as a term used for fake money. The word took on a new term when it became popular in the 1980s as slang for crazy, not good, not cool, or ignorant. A 1991 film, "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey," follows two friends who find themselves fighting a villain from the future who sends evil robot replicas of Bill and Ted sent to Earth to kill the real Bill and Ted—totally bogus. 

  • Booyah!

    “Booyah!” was coined in the 1990s to express excitement and happiness. While it's not known who exactly first came up with the phrase, there are two well-known people who made it popular. Disney character Ron Stoppable frequently used “booyah” on the show “Kim Possible;” and ESPN anchor Stuart Scott also used the word as his catchphrase.

  • Buggin'

    “Buggin'” is another 1990s phrase and one that was also made popular through the film “Clueless” as Cher explains multiple times “Oh my God, I'm totally buggin.” The word's roots can be traced back to New York and mean “to freak out.”

  • Can you dig it?

    The 1970s gave us “Can you dig it?” which can mean several different things, including “Are you ok with this?” or “Do you understand?” The slang gained popularity from the 1979 movie “The Warriors” and is also the name of 1991 track by the English indie band The Mock Turtles. The phrase went on to become a popular title for various songs across genres such as hip-hop and R&B.

  • Catch you on the flip side

    “Catch you on the flip side” was very popular in the 1970s, as it referred to flipping a vinyl record over to the B side. The phrase means “see you later.”

  • Cheddar

    Cheddar was an interesting way to refer to money in the 1950s. The slang term came about because at the time, Americans received lumps of cheese with their welfare checks.

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