Baby Boomer Slang

Posted on May 22nd, 2011 in by Terry Hamburg

Etymology: the study of the history of words in popular culture, their origins, and how the meaning may have changed over time.

Acid, referring to LSD, was first recorded in 1966. The compound was synthesized by Albert Hofmann in 1938 from ergot, a grain fungus that typically grows on rice. LSD is an acronym for its chemical name: lysergic acid diethylamide-25. “Acid” is sometimes used to describe an intense color, and likely contributed to its popularity with baby boomers as slang for LSD. {see Psychedelic, below}

Amped, as in “excited/ready-to go,” appeared in 1960s baby boomer talk, based on amp, the abbreviation for music amplifiers. The use of methamphetamine accelerated it as a trendy phrase.

Bad, meaning good, popular high school slang in the 1950s and 60s, was picked up from 1920s jazz language.

Bag, as a particular interest or area of expertise, is from 1964 and came from jazz jargon. It’s likely based on the notion of putting something in a bag, thus possessing it. Example: “Folk music is my bag, man.” It was a weekend hipster word that fell out of use in the 1970s.

Bang for the buck was a cold-war military term, indicating greater firepower for expenditure. It spread from Pentagon slang into the mainstream by the late 1960s, used to evaluate the cost effectiveness of practically anything. Example: “Colombian pot {see Pot, below} gives you a lot more bang for the buck than Jamaican.”

Beehive (hair style) was a rage among teen baby boomer girls from the mid-1950s through the late-1960s. Hair was piled up and up, and secured by gels. Some tried to keep the “do” intact for days or weeks on end.  The resemblance to a beehive inspired the word. Also known as a “beehive nest,” connoting a long-lasting project that might hold any number of guests in the labyrinth.

Singer Dusty Springfield’s beehive inspired a generation

Bitchin’ originated as Southern California surfer jargon in the early 1960s to mean “cool” or “awesome,” and spread quickly to colleges. It was always more popular on the West Coast and is seldom used today. The logic of its origins is obscure.

Bogart the joint appeared in the early 1970s referring to a “head” {see Head, below} who was slow to pass the “joint” {see Joint, below}. Marijuana was illegal, thus expensive; hippies were notoriously “tapped out,” so often smoked communally {see Tapped Out, below}. Humphrey Bogart was a tobacco addict, not a pot head. Whatever. The term expanded to include “hogging” anything, from popcorn to computers.

Boggie originally referred to a style of early blues, short for boogie-woggie, used as early as 1928. By the 1960s, as a verb, it came to mean dancing to music with a heavy blues beat, then later dancing to any rock and roll. Soon “let’s boogie” as in “let’s go” was common baby boomer jargon.

Boob tube was attested in 1959. Tube was short for cathode ray tube or picture tube; boob referred to the people who watched what was called “the vast wasteland.”

Bop meaning “to go” was a popular phrase in the late 1960s and 70s: “Let bop on down to the concert.” It comes from Be-Bop, a fast tempo, improvisational jazz introduced by black musicians in the 1940s, setting it apart from mainstream jazz, called swing. The likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk created a exciting new sound. Be-bop was also a form of wild jitterbug dancing, and was used in popular lyrics such Gene Vincent’s 1956 hit:  Be-bop a Lulu, she’s my baby, be-bop a Lulu, I don’t mean maybe….

Bug, as something wrong with a machine or system, has been around since the late nineteenth century, and may have been coined by Thomas Edison. As a concealed  microphone, bug is first attested in 1919. The modern slang meaning to annoy or irritate is from 1949 and originated by Beatniks. The logic is clear: bugs (as insects) are pests.

Cat was picked up by hippies from beatniks who picked it up from blacks, who were using it as early as the 1920s in street and jazz talk. The animal is aloof and steady, and so is the human counterpart – a “cool cat.” {see Cool, below}

Centering, as a concept in spirituality – to find balance or center in one’s awareness – became trendy in the late 1960s. Baby boomer guru Baba Ram Dass (aka Richard Alpert, LSD buddy of Tim Leary at Harvard) helped to popularize it in Be Here Now. It draws from Eastern religions and the concept of yin/yang. American witch culture, Wicca, also uses the idea: an effort to find balance amid a world of conflicting forces. In common jargon it came to mean “cool it, dude; find your comfortable spot, and watch all the s—pass by.”

Chauvinist is an old French term meaning blind patriotism and obedience. It’s based on one Nicolas Chavin, a veteran who gave unswerving loyalty to Napoleon.  Or, if there were, as some assert, no Nicolas Chavin, many veterans who stayed loyal to Napoleon were balding in their old age – chauve in French – and became known as chavins. Its use in America predated the 1960s, but remained esoteric. Usually, the expression appeared with an adjective to describe a type of behavior, such as a “cultural chauvinist” (like New Yorkers). The feminist movement propelled it into the mainstream, coining one of the great buzzwords of the eramale chauvinist.

Chick, as slang for females, was first recorded in the novel Elmer Gantry (1927), picked up from earlier American black slang. The British used it around 1940 as a variation of “bird.” “Chick” found its way into American Beatnik vocabulary. Hippies, ignoring the sexist connotation, picked it up.

Chicken has carried the meaning of cowardly since the 14th century. To fall back or run – “chicken-out” – was used in the early 1940s. As a reckless car game to test courage, it was first recorded in 1953 and became part of baby boomer teen rebellion movies in the 1950s and 1960s, popularized by Rebel Without a Cause featuring head-on high speed car challenges.

Cloud Nine, meaning a wonderful place, came into use during the 1950s. Best guess as to origin is the 1896 International Cloud-Atlas that identifies cloud #9—the cumulonimbus—out of the ten types as the most puffy and soft-looking. Cloud Nine by the Temptations won a Grammy in 1968. George Harrison’s album Cloud Nine was named after its title track.

Cool entered mainstream usage in the Beatnik “hipster” 1950s and has never lost its “cool” despite the more current “awesome” and “sweet.” In the 1930s, it was a jazz term for fashionable, and assumed the additional meaning of a self-assured and mellow character, as well as anything desirable.

Cop out has been around for a century. Originally it meant to take something for oneself – to steal or grab. By the 1930s, it was used to signify pleading guilty to a crime or taking a plea bargain, then evolved into backing down or surrendering. It was a short linguistic step in the 1960s for the phrase to signify taking the easy way out.

To cop, acquire or “score” drugs, was standard jargon by the late 60s. Its street and crime context made it a compatible word for the hippie drug scene, but didn’t connote stealing, just buying illegally.

Cowabunga does not come directly from Bart Simpson or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The credit goes to Hoody Doody’s buddy Chief Thunderthud. Good things were “kawagoopa:” bad thing “kawabonga.” Surfers in the 1960s adopted the word as an expression to indicate a “bodacious” wave or ride. In this case, bad means good. {See Bad, above}.

Crash, in the sense of “sleep,” is from the 1940s, likely introduced by tired soldiers who collapsed after a hard day’s battle. Pad is much older, found in 18th century English underworld slang and then revived in beatnik jargon to mean a temporary place to sleep. Put it together – crash pad. Specifically, a place hippies could come and go, sleep, do drugs, have sex or whatever without rent. In computer talk, “crash” was first attested in 1973.

Daddy-O comes from be-bop talk, the language associated with 1940s improvisational jazz, first attested in 1949. It was quickly picked-up by beatniks, but by the late-1960s already regarded as archaic. Even Maynard G. Krebs wouldn’t touch it then.

Dig, as to appreciate, emerged in the 1930s, especially in jazz circles. It’s probably based on the idea to excavate, in the sense that one goes beneath the surface to see what’s really there. The hippie culture turned the word into everyday usage. Can you dig that explanation?

Doofus was being hurled in the 1960s at nerds {see Nerd, below} and people who didn’t “get it.” It’s probably a combination of dodo (bird), regarded as the prime example of an inadequate extinct species (dead as a dodo), and goofus.

Dork as a stupid or inept person appeared in student slang around 1967. It was likely derived from an earlier 1960s use of “dick” as a euphemism for penis.

Duck’s Ass: A Philadelphia barber claims to have invented the Duck’s Ass in 1940. It was already a popular style with the Mexican-American street pauchucos of Los Angeles, who made the zoot suit famous. By the 1950′s, it became the symbol of baby boomer teen rebellion, especially among working class kids, often referred to as “greasers.” Hair was combed (with lots of pomade) back around the sides of the head, and then the teeth edge of the comb used to create a part down the middle, running from the crown to the nape of the neck. It resembled a duck’s rear end.  Elvis Presley was an inspiration. Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip also sported a version and was constantly combing it in place, leading to the hit song, Kookie, Kookie, Lend me Your comb. First in England and then here, some added the “elephant trunk,” curling pieces of hair down the front of their face. Bill Haley sported a single spit curl elephant trunk.

Dude used to mean dandy, the 19th century term for metrosexual. In the 1960s, baby boomers appropriated the word as a form of address to another hip person. Dude was also associated with cowboys; although not hippies, cowboys were seen as informal, independent, and not part of the overly-civilized mainstream.

Fag hag surfaced in the 1970s, denoting a straight woman who likes to hang out with gay men. Still used. Although it can be a neutral phrase, most regard it as derisive. It appeared in the 1980 movie, Fame. One seldom-heard spin-off word is “fag-stag,” meaning a straight guy who frequents gay bars to pick up straight women who are there because they think they won’t be hassled.

Far out, as an expression of approval or the recognition that something is out of the ordinary, originated in the 1950s, but seldom used outside of beatnik enclaves at that time. It implied that what was groovy {see Groovy, below} had to be far removed from common culture. By the mid-1960s, it was fast becoming one the hallmark baby boomer utterances.

Fragging was a military term for soldiers attacking a disliked commanding officer, often by tossing a grenade or fragmentation mine into his bunker, thus the term to frag or fragging. Such attacks have occurred throughout history, but the term was popularized, if not invented, during the Vietnam war. Accurate numbers are hard to come by, but between 1969 and 1973 there were, according to one source, 788 cases resulting in 86 deaths. Others put the figures higher, as many as 600 murders. Fragging came to designate any attack on fellow soldiers, and was occasionally applied beyond the military to an assault in general, particularly on an enemy you knew. By the 1980s, linguistic and actual fragging virtually disappeared.

Freak, as an ironic term of endearment to describe a hippie, was likely picked up from its use in the 1940s to describe circus side-show people. Both groups looked different and were alienated from mainstream society. Perhaps the wild caricatures of R. Crumb and other counterculture comic artists contributed to the popularity of the word. It’s not unlike the use of “queer” by gays to describe themselves, although in that case it’s also a reclamation of a once derisive term.

Freaked out was not attested before the mid-1960s, around the time the first hippies were referring to themselves as “freaks.” Originally, it signified a bad drug trip but quickly came to mean anything that caused astonishment, dismay or fear.

Full Monty has been a British expression since the 1950s but may not have appeared in print until a generation later. Americans adopted the phrase after the 1997 British movie of the same name, where a group of unlikely men become strippers to make money during hard times. At first used here to describe nudity, it  came to have the more traditional meaning of the “whole thing.” Origins? Two stories have the ring of truth. One traces it back to a well-known London tailor called Monty, who offered complete hand-made suits, including vests, shirts and ties. Or, how about Field Marshall Montgomery, nicknamed Monty, who always wore a full regalia of metals and also fancied a full British breakfast, even in battle.

Funky, meaning a bad smell from smoke or an overly musty cheese odor, has been around for a few centuries. By 1900, it was a jazz term signifying down to earth and deeply felt. In the baby boomer era, the word came to mean stylish in a unrefined, anti-bourgeoisie way.

Ginchy was introduced to America as part of the baby boomer British Invasion of the 1960s. Meaning “excellent” or “cool,” it was more popular on the East coast than other places, although Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip used it. Hardly uttered anymore, it would be like using “bitchin’- really date you. {see Bitchin’, above}

Give it up, meaning to clap your hands in applause, was popularized by Arsenio Hall in his 1980s TV show, but it was used at least 10 years earlier in hip-hop circles.  The phrase also signifies giving gang hand signals, and likely has roots in street crime jargon as a phrase meaning hand over your cash or valuables.

Gnarly originally meant contour or twisted, likely based on Middle English knar, as a knot in wood. The word was was adopted by American surfers in the 1960s to describe a challenging but inviting wave. It progressed to baby boomer teen slang where it could mean both “excellent” or “disgusting.”

Gonzo was thrust into popular vocabulary by Hunter Thompson (Fearing and Loathing in Las Vegas) during the 70s. In Italian, it means “simpleton.” Thompson said he got “gonzo” up from an editor and explained it “as some Boston word for weird, bizarre.” It usually refers to an unconventional, subjective, and exaggerated writing style, but can be applied to any activity. Thompson is regarded as the founder of Gonzo Journalism.

Grody: take grotesque, gross, perhaps moldy and like put ‘em all together and like mix ‘em up in the San Fernando Valley in the early 1980 and you have like a totally cool word. And when something is like really, really grody, it’s “grody to the max.”  The word was part of British slang in the early 1960s, but used sparingly in the U.S. until Valley Girls {see Valley Girls and Like, below} took it mainstream.

Groovy is rooted in Afro-American jazz culture. It might be based on the grooves in phonograph records, or musicians slang for having sex. It surfaced in 1930s black subculture, and a generation later was one of the most popular phrases in baby boomer vocabulary. What does it mean? Groovy means groovy.

Gross, meaning unrefined or stupid, goes all the way back to 16th century English, but the word made a mainstream comeback among the first baby boomer teens, and eventually turned into “gross out.”

Groupie is based on “music group,” a phrase that appeared in the late 1950s to describe a “pop music combo.” Those who followed or hung out with rock performers were soon referred to as “groupies.”

Hang 10, a surfer term from the 1950s, described a bold and thrilling move: to go to the front of the board and stick your toes off the nose, which lifts the board in the back so the wave propels you faster. It was also used to mean having a good time in general. Sometimes conveyed by the Hawaiian shaka sign.

Hard Hat, as a term for pro Viet-Nam war construction workers, or a general macho right wing mentality, originated after Nixon’s 1968 election. Construction workers formed The National Hard Hats of America to support the war and Nixon in general, in particular his criticism of baby boomer anti-war demonstrators.

Head to describe a pot smoker was widely used in the 1960s, but its origins go back to the early twentieth century when it identified any type of drug addict, usually as a compound word with the type of drug coming first, such as opium-head (also called “hophead”).  “Pothead,” {see Pot, below} then “head” by itself became the norm. To “give head,” as in performing fellatio, is from the 1950s.

Hickey is a red welt, usually on the neck, given by an overzealous lover. It was a badge of honor for 1950s baby boomer teens who popularized and likely coined it. As the 1960s sexual revolution heated up, the word assumed an air of innocence and was used less often.

Hippie: Hip and hep appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1904. During the late 1930s, black jazz entertainers used “hip” to mean sophisticated or up-to date. Soon hipster became a popular term for jazz performers, then evolved to describe the post-World War II Bohemian subculture. Hippie was applied in the early 1960s by Beatniks to describe the young wannabe Beatniks, mainly students, regarded as  neophyte versions of the real hip, thus the term “hippies.” Malcolm X referred to hippie as a word blacks used to describe a white man “who acted more Negro than Negroes.” Hippie was something other people called hippies, who often preferred freaks {see Freaks, above} or heads {see Heads, above}, the latter referring to drug use. Time Magazine wrote of “hippies” in 1964. Herb Caen, the San Francisco Chronicle columnist, helped popularize the word, and eventually the “freaks” succumbed to media labels and accepted the term. A variation spelling, hippy is sometimes used in England.

Jive, meaning empty talk or a style of fast, lively jazz was common in black urban language by the late 1920s. Its meaning was stretched by the counterculture to mean acting insincerely or deceptively. First attested in 1971.

Joint, meaning rolled marijuana, was not invented by the baby boomer generation. In the 1930s, the word meant a hypodermic needle, but by World War II it more often referred to a pot cigarette. Probably derived from the idea that marijuana was usually smoked in common – people were joining together. The “heads” {see Heads, above} of the 60s took it from esoteric to mainstream.

Jones, as a craving for drugs, especially heroin, was being used in the early 1960s, soon coming to mean a general compulsion. Its development is similar to the Chinese word “yen,” which originally meant a craving for heroin, but by the 1970s morphed into a need for anything in particular.

Keep on truckin’, one of the most popular counterculture slang expressions, comes from a one-page comic by R. Crumb published in the first edition of ZAP in 1968. It was picked up first by rock groups who used the the word “truckin’” in songs. The message: keep on doing your own thing regardless of obstacles.

Like, as a free floating “accent” word, was part of hipster and baby boomer vocabulary in the 1950s, then taken to new heights in Valley Girl talk of the 1980s. “Like you can like use it, ya know, as often as like you want to. Like is like totally cool, fer sure.” {see Gnarly, above, and Valley Girls, below}.

Mellow Yellow, a big Donovan hit in 1967, entered the lexicon as a drug term. Some thought the lyrics suggested you could get high smoking dried banana skins. There was a run on bananas for years. It’s not true.

Mosh pit is the place where you mosh. It’s usually in front of the rock stage in the area where traditional stage show musicians sit—the orchestra pit. Moshing is a form of violent dancing, the word likely a variant of “mash,” as in crush. It’s first recorded in the mid-1980s.

Nerd appeared in 1951, used mainly in high school and college, to mean an overly studious person with retarded social skills. It’s probably based on nerts, a substitution for nuts, referring to testicles.

New Left originated in the mid-1960s to describe the generation of baby boomers who embraced socialism, but wanted to distance themselves from the old, discredited communism, often symbolized by Joseph Stalin.

Nimrod, as a fool or jerk, was popularized in American vocabulary by Bugs Bunny in the 1950s. The historical Nimrod had an impressive biblical résumé: great-grandson of Noah, founder of Babylon, builder of the Tower of Babel, and renowned hunter. It was this latter skill that entered the language; nimrod meant great hunter. Bugs called his inept nemesis hunter-stalker, Elmer Fudd, a “poor little Nimrod.” Soon it was used as a general term for any inept person.

Paparazzi comes from Frederico Fellini’s 1960 movie La Dolce Vita that featured one Signor Paparazzo, a freelance photographer character. In dialectal Italian, the word paparazzo means “an annoying insect.”

Scene from La Dolce Vita

Politically correct became a major buzz word in the 1980s and is still going strong. It came from Marxist-Leninist vocabulary, meaning allegiance to an ideological party line. The New Left appropriated the word to signify adherence to a general set of liberal principles, most particularly the avoidance of language and conduct that offended “minorities,” i.e anyone not a White Anglo Saxon male. It became a cause célèbre on college campuses, affecting speech, behavior, and curriculum. Those opposed to the movement called it oppressive and intolerant. On the left, this criticism was regarded as overblown and seen as a right wing effort to besmirch a progressive agenda.

Pot, meaning marijuana, originated in the 1940s, and was soon popularized as the most widely used word for the drug. It’s most likely a shortened form of Mexican “potiguaya,” which means “marijuana leaves.”

Preppy is a derivative of “prep” school, an abbreviation for a preparatory academy (usually east coast and upper crest). In that sense, it was used over a century ago. In the 1960s, “preppy” came to describe those that attended such schools and/or attitudes and dress associated with the image: traditional clothing, entitled demeanor, aristocratic speech, and at least superficial etiquette. Preferred college sports were anything but football, baseball or basketball. Lacrosse, fencing, golf and swimming were favorites. The best selling Official Preppy Handbook was intended as a parody but taken seriously by some preppies.

Psychedelic has a specific origin. Introduced by H. Osmond – a psychologist experimenting with mind-altering drugs to treat alcoholism – in a 1957 scientific article, the new word was a combination of the Greek psykhe (mind) and deloun (make visible, reveal). Ten years later, the word as well as the substance was on many tongues.

Rap meaning “to talk” is rooted in black culture. In the 1970s, urban poetry set to music was dubbed “rap.” It was among the many terms beatniks borrowed from black street language, which then found its way into the baby boomer mainstream. “Let’s talk about it” turned “Let’s have a rap session.”

Rave, as a rowdy party, invaded the vocabulary in the late 1960s, but the modern connotation of a mass underground event with loud electronic music and sex-enhancing drugs is from the 1990s. Most baby boomers were too late to experience the fun, but they got the grief of waiting up for their kids to get home.

Roach, meaning a marijuana cigarette, was around for 25 years before hippies brought it in into popular lexicon. Quickly, “roach clip” followed. Roach originated in black street/jazz talk, perhaps for its resemblance to the insect – rolled by hand, it had a bumpy, funky look. 

Tapped out, as in broke, dates from the 1940s and is likely based on the idea of already tapping all your friends for loans. The slang became very popular in the 1960s when hippies, often in voluntary poverty, seldom had the funds for anything.

Score has been a sports term for over a century. It’s a short slang step to signify “winning” a woman sexually, attested around 1960, or a few years later, to find drugs, not an easy trick in an illegal world. Getting a girl and reefer in one night was scoring big time.

Sexism was coined by the feminists of the late 1960s for what they described as social and individual attitudes that denied equality. It was meant to be analogous to racism.

Shrink, meaning a psychiatrist, comes from “head-shrinker,” referring to some native groups in the Amazon. You wouldn’t want to be their enemy. The warriors stripped the skin from your skull, which mummified it to the size of fist.  The word as slang first surfaced in a 1950 Time Magazine article where a “head-shrinker” was identified as Hollywood jargon for a psychiatrist. It became more popular when used in the movie Rebel Without a Cause. Perhaps it meant that psychoanalysis reduces the ego, especially when it gets swollen by Hollywood success. By the 1970s, “shrink” had entered the popular lexicon to the point that shrinks were using it.

The skinny, meaning inside information or the truth about a situation, likely originated in the military during World War II, but was not widely used until the 1960s. “The skinny” makes sense as information “down to the bones,” the nitty-gritty behind the public fat.

Skinny dipping first appeared in writing in the mid-60s and was typically used by baby boomers or hippies to describe going swimming in the nude.

Smokey/10-4, good buddy originated as part of CB (citizen band radio) trucker talk. The 1973 oil crisis introduced a national 55 mph speed limit and gas rationing. CB radio became the information loop to locate fuel supplies and warn of speed traps. Some of the toughest enforcement targeted timber haulers in National Forest areas. Police there wore what were called “Smokey the Bear” hats. 10-4 was standard police parlance for “I understand your transmission.” Prior to the 1970s, this jargon was esoteric.  Movies like Smokey and the Bandit and Convoy took it mainstream.

Square is beatnik slang pulled out of 1940s jazz slang, said to derive from the shape of traditional conductor’s hand gestures in a regular four-beat rhythm. Squaresville is attested from 1956. Cube is a variation. For all you cubes, the “square dance” was first used in 1870.

Spaced-out originated in the 1940s to describe someone under the influence of drugs. Soon it applied to people out of touch with their surroundings for whatever reason. Space cadet was first used in the late 1950s, influenced by our reach for the stars and the popular TV show Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

Split, meaning to leave, is beatnik slang, first recorded in 1954. It derived from the standard definition to divide up in pieces. “Let’s make like an amoeba and split, man.” It’s not believed to be a part of older black street slang or jazz. Also entering the vocabulary in the 1950s were split-level, split-screen, and split shift, all anathemas to beatniks.

Stoke, as a verb, was used a hundred years ago – to throw more coals in the fire. In the baby boomer 1960s, it meant throw more weed in the pipe. It evolved quickly to mean enthusiasm in general. Example: “I’m stoked about the Jefferson Airplane concert.”

Stoned Everybody must get stoned. No, Bob Dylan didn’t coin the word. It had been around since the 1930s, although it usually referred to being drunk. By the 1960s, the alcohol meaning of the word was used largely by baby boomer parents while their children were stoned on other drugs.

To toke, meaning to smoke marijuana, was attested in the early 1950’s. By the late 60s, it was a common verb and noun. ♫ One toke over the line, sweet Jesus…The word may have come from the Spanish tocar, meaning to touch, tap or hit.

Trip, a hippie drug-experience take on “voyage,” first appeared in the late 1950s. A few years later it was a very active verb.

Tubular is an old word describing a long, round cylinder, as in tube or pipe. Surfers used it three centuries later, referring to a hollow, curling wave (that looked like a tube) ideal for riding. The term soon came to be an expression of enthusiastic approval for anything. “How was the Beaches Boys concert?” “Tubular, dude!”

Valley Girls originated in the San Fernando Valley (just outside Los Angeles) in the early 1980s. The profile: white, affluent, materialistic, self-centered, sex on the mind, a master of teeny bopper colloquial language {see Like, above}, and generally…

Vibe in the 1940s was short for vibraphone, a musical instrument variation of the xylophone. Twenty years later it became slang for vague feelings “in the air” that were experienced by the sensitive – an intuitive grasp of messages subtly sent from one to another. Do you dig the vibe, brother?

Yippie, an  anarchist “anti-organization,” the Youth International Party, formed by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin to perform guerrilla street theater at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention. It was an unsuccessful effort to combine the hippie {see Hippie, above} and New Left {see New Left, above} movements.

Yuppie, short for Young Urban Professional, was coined in the late 1970s to describe baby boomers who never entered or those who left the counterculture to pursue professional careers. The stereotype:  one who dressed and possessed in a openly pretentious manner, and had little concern for social issues. BMWs, quiche lunches, Ferragamo shoes. Greed is good. Jerry Rubin, who went from Yippie to Yuppie said: If you hear IRA and think of the Irish Republican Army, you’re a Yippe; if you think Individual Retirement Account, you’re a Yippie.”

Wonk first appeared in the 1950s to refer to an overly studious person. In the 1990s, the word entered tpopular lexicon to cover anyone who relished facts, computer spread sheets and statistics. Bill Gates and Al Gore have been called wonks. So has Barack Obama.

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10 Responses to 'Baby Boomer Slang'

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  1. Katherine Steel said,

    on September 14th, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Fighting over family trust money with no job and spending all of your money on lawyers is more than a nightmare. Stealing siblings dishonest lawyers and a trust from hell can make if very hard to get out of bed. Try living with the fact that your brother or sister got away with stealing over $300,000 dollars from a family trust because you your dad had Alzheimer’s.
    I turned my depression and anger into a book about what to watch out for and how to stop the financial bleeding. It’s called “Trust Me: Every Baby Boomer’s Nightmare!” It’s a road map through the shark-infested waters of Family Trust Hell. It’s available at Amazon. Also visit my website at
    I wish the media would start a dialogue on this subject, as it is a ever growing epidemic in this country

  2. calvin said,

    on November 18th, 2013 at 7:20 pm


  3. calvin said,

    on November 18th, 2013 at 7:21 pm


  4. BoomerTuber said,

    on March 1st, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I love it that a lot of the words that Baby Boomers used became part of regular speech. There is one I used to use a lot “it’s all relative”, meaning there is no one answer

  5. Pete Reilich said,

    on June 14th, 2014 at 4:15 am

    “Bitchin’ originated as Southern California surfer jargon in the early 1960s… It was always more popular on the West Coast and is seldom used today. The logic of its origins is obscure.”

    Not obscure. The song “Californis Dreaming” reveals the popular conception of exceptionally attractive west coast women. As part of the sexual revolution, men were outing themselves through language that required a level of verve to express. “Bitch” can be used in lovemaking by the man to express his admiration in a somewhat rough manner. Consequently, in order to out lovemaking behavior to the public as a means to overwhelm traditional sexual inhibition, use of the word “bitch” in its privately well worn manner began to be used openly in a positive manner. It’s all about love, love & more love: Love is all you need etc. The slang term “bitchin’” in its positive sense– “bitchin’ car” (very southern Cal) and especially “bitchin’ hair” & “bitchin’ chick”–is an extension of the above sexual revolution based fad.

  6. M_Young said,

    on July 11th, 2014 at 10:14 am

    Clueless came out in the early to mid 1990s. It’s about 18 year olds. Squarely Gen-X. I’d put ‘like’, ‘grody’, and even ‘the Preppy Handbook’ in that category. (The latter was written by a boomer, but the audience was Gen-X.)

  7. on July 11th, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Enjoyed the posting.

    The people who defined the 50s and 60s were not baby boomers. So if you talk about Gracie Slick who was born in 1939, she spoke the same language as boomers. But with Kookie (1933) and Maynard G. Krebs (1935) aren’t you are reaching too far back?

    They used slang that was around when the baby boomers were kids but which I’m not aware that baby boomers used themselves.

  8. Alvin said,

    on July 11th, 2014 at 9:17 pm

    You forgot ‘dynamite’ – like the more modern ‘awesome’

  9. on August 12th, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and in depth information you present.

    It’s nice to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same out
    of date rehashed material. Fantastic read! I’ve saved
    your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

  10. on August 13th, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Finally, someone got it right. We called ourselves freaks and heads… never hippies. Another similar word for our tribe was fringies, but that goes waaaay back. I’m not sure if the term was around because we wore fringies or because we were on the fringe of society. I didn’t see it in your list. Maybe I glossed over it. Tina Boomerina

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