8 Slang Terms from The Breakfast Club, Decoded
While it’s easy to understand how the characters in The Breakfast Club felt—isolated, pressured, "demented and sad, but social"—sometimes it wasn’t so easy to understand what they were saying. So here are eight slang terms from the film, explained.
1. Breakfast Club
There is no breakfast and the detention lasts all day. So why is the movie called The Breakfast Club? According to AMC Story Notes, writer and director John Hughes “got the title from a friend’s son, who called morning detention at his school ‘The Breakfast Club.’” Hughes promptly changed the name of the film from a less-appealing Detention. He could have also been influenced by Don McNeill’s Breakfast Club, a radio show that originated in Illinois and ran from 1933 to 1968. Hughes and his family moved to Northbrook, Illinois, in 1962, when Hughes was 12.
“Only burners like you get high,” Claire tells Bender, mere hours before she gets high herself.
A burner is a drug user and might be short for burnout, which is from the early 1970s. Other drug slang terms include druggie from the late 1960s; pusher from mid-1930s prison slang; and primo, as in primo or excellent drugs, from the 1990s. Nowadays the word burner might be more commonly used to refer to a throwaway cell phone.
3. “So, Ahab ... kybo mein doobage”
This famous line said by Bender to Brian has certainly confounded many a movie viewer. While doobage is clearly a variant of doobie, slang for marijuana, and mein is German for "my," Ahab and kybo are less clear. Ahab could refer to Captain Ahab from Moby-Dick, or the song "Ahab the Arab," although neither seems to have any connection to Brian or Bender. As for kybo, it could refer to the Boy Scout term for an outhouse, in which case it stands for keep your bowels in order or keep your bowels open. Perhaps Bender is playing off this and telling Brian to keep his bowels off the marijuana since the drugs are down Brian's pants.
4. Eat My Shorts
While this euphemism for "eat my s***" may seem quintessential Bart Simpson, it’s uttered by Bender in The Breakfast Club two years before The Simpsons makes its premiere on The Tracey Ullman Show. Even earlier is a 1984 song called "Eat My Shorts" by comedian and radio personality Rick Dees.
Essentially, a really big dweeb. "Face it," Bender says to Brian. "You're a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie." The term was apparently ad-libbed by Judd Nelson.
It’s unclear how old the word dweeb is. Some sources say it’s from the late 1960s, while the Oxford English Dictionary cites 1982 as the earliest mention. But it’s agreed that the word might be influenced by dwarf and feeb, someone who’s feeble.
Neo-maxi might be a play on neo-Nazi, at least in terms of sound, with maxi implying something huge. As for zoom, your guess is as good as ours.
6. Nothing To Do When You're Locked in a Vacancy
Vacancy here could mean the empty space of the library, the seemingly endless span of time of all-day detention, or Bender's own mind as he tears out pages from a book of Molière. It's most likely Bender's head since Andrew replies, "Speak for yourself." The line is also the name of an early 2000s song by punk band None More Black.
7. Riding the Hobby Horse
Bender accuses Brian of claiming he and Claire are riding the hobby horse, or having sex. Hobby horse also refers to the Irish hobby, an extinct horse breed; a toy consisting of a horse head on a stick; a favorite pastime (now shortened to hobby); a favorite topic; as well as a lustful person or loose woman.
Another term for someone who uses drugs, wastoid seems to have been coined in The Breakfast Club, or at least makes its earliest appearance there. The word is a combination of wasted, meaning drunk or intoxicated, and -oid, “like, like that of.” This suffix can be found in words like android and humanoid, which are automatons that have human-like qualities but are not actually human, or factoid—something that’s presented as a fact but isn’t, which is often mistaken to mean a small fact or piece of trivia.
A version of this story ran in 2014; it has been updated for 2022.