A bunch of breakthroughs happened in the 1990s. The world-wide-web took off alongside the boom of pop culture. There was definitely a lot of talk surrounding both the end of a century and the beginning of a new one. So it was just fitting that 90s lingo be remembered for all time.
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“Totally” is a carryover from the 1980s surfer and “Valley teen” cultures of Southern California. It is an emphatic way of expressing full agreement or an absolute degree of completion. On Reddit, “like totally, for sure” is cited as an example of colorful 90s words.
Comedian Chris Rock popularized this expression of humorous contradiction during his stand-up routines in the early 90s. It requires a slight dramatic pause for effect before delivery and is pronounced as “naaaawtt!” Here’s a Redditor providing an example: “Pamela! I’m not attracted to you anymore! NOTTTTTTT!”
This is the 90s PG version of the 80s “crap!” Since it was used mainly by younger teens around their parents, the Millennial Generation eventually grew out of it. “Oh man, crud just took me back.”
Hip-hop culture grew exponentially during the 90s, so many superlative adjectives of excellence filtered into the mainstream. When something is “the bomb,” it is superb. One Redditor explained: “I remember in primary school we’d write on our books ‘name’ is da bomb lol.”
Here’s another carryover from Southern California in the 1980s, but it comes from skateboarding culture. Rapper Vanilla Ice used it in his lone 1990 hit “Ice, Ice Baby,” and advertising executives quickly took notice. In the 90s: “Everything got extreme. Extreme deodorant. Extreme pizza. Everything. I grew to hate it.”
This intensifier adjective emerged almost parallel to “hella” during the late years of the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. It made it into the 21st century but started losing steam recently. Redditor u/Kircala explains proper usage: “Mad” which is used to mean “very.”
The “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (TMNT) fictional universe revived this exclamation, which originated from California surfers in the 1960s. The popularity of the cartoon series and action toys popularized the term because “TMNT was lit in the 90s!”
This was the artist name of the late rapper Artis Leo Ivey, whose “Gangsta’s Paradise” hit distilled the 90s. In essence, “coolio” is one of many forms of “cool.” Here’s a Reddit example: “Haha, forgot we actually used to say that to be in step.”
This slang is a contraction of the quintessentially American expression “What’s up?” A Bud Light TV commercial campaign popularized it, and it was later spoofed by “Scary Movie” in the year 2000. As correctly pointed out by a Redditor: “That commercial debuted during the Super Bowl in 1999.”
As a more mischievous synonym of “NOT,” this 90s exclamation is used as the punchline to a verbal prank. You have to spin someone into a tall tale before pulling the rug and yelling, “psych!” This exclamation emerged at a time when psychotherapy specialists were invited to television talk shows.
MTV produced the original “Beavis & Butthead” series from 1993 to 1997. The teen stars of the animated series were dimwitted miscreants, but their slang was on point. Redditors agree: “That might be the best one. Definitely a Beavis creation from the genius of Mike Judge.”
Enrollment in colleges during the 1990s reached an all-time high, and this trend generated a few sophisticated slang expressions. “As if” is an elegant update of the incredulous “yeah, right.” In general, Redditors think of “as if” as a cute expression born out of Generation X attitudes.
In the high-flying NBA era of Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls, acrobatic in-game dunks were called jams. Popular songs on urban radio stations were called jams long before they became “bangers.” Redditors who are video game connoisseurs know that: “NBA Dunk doesn’t have the same ring to it.”
Talk to the Hand
The pure American sass of this expression tells a lot about the self-absorbed worldview of Generation X. Of all snarky dismissals, “talk to the hand” is one of the most bitter. As one Redditor puts it: “Well! Sorry, I asked! I can feel the teenage door in my face.”
This is American military slang brought back by veterans of the first Persian Gulf War in 1991. It has a connotation of excellence and outstanding qualities but is not an antiquated 90s word. A couple of Redditors agree: “Killer! I still use it.”
Popular culture in the 90s got an injection of Boston and New England colloquialism. This decade was dominated by Mark Wahlberg, Denis Leary, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck, hence the popularity of “wicked.” One young Redditor commented: “I still use it, and I was born after the 90’s.”
“Bomb” and “phat” are graffiti terms that crossed into hip-hop and later into mainstream slang. A phat cap creates a wider spray pattern required when bombing (painting) a subway car. The 1997 film “Money Talks” made “phat” an acronym for “pretty hot and tempting.”
The 90s buzzed with a level of sexual energy that today would be considered to be politically incorrect and improper. This nearly-onomatopoeic exclamation denotes immediate arousal in men who ogle “phat” women. One Redditor sharply pointed out: “Not sure you’d get away with all that today.”
Don’t Have a Cow Man
Bart Simpson introduced quite a few slang expressions in the 1990s. This means, “Don’t lose your mind.” Another classic phrase from “The Simpsons” often remembered by Redditors is “Eat my shorts.”
This thread inspired this post.
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