Thirty-two years ago this month, Sixteen Candles blew its way into theaters. With it came those now iconic teen characters, the Geek, hot Jake Ryan, the ridiculously stereotypical Long Duk Dong, and misunderstood every-girl Sam, along with some major ‘80s slang. Here we take a look at 10 sweet slang terms from the movie: some from the ‘80s, some not.
“Sounds major,” forgotten birthday girl Sam tells freshman Farmer Ted when he invites her to the school dance. Major joins the ranks of other ‘80s adjectives like awesome, cool, and righteous to describe something awesome, cool, or righteous, perhaps playing on the word's original meaning of being greater than others in importance or size.
Bohunk is a term that might have left a lot of ‘80s kids scratching their heads. No wonder: The word originated around 1903 and hit peak popularity in the 1940s.
So what exactly is a bohunk and why is everyone upset that Sam’s sister is marrying one? It's a derogatory term for someone of Hungarian descent or someone from central or southeastern Europe, and by extension, a brute or buffoon. The word comes from the bo- of Bohemian, someone from a region in the Czech Republic, and the hun- of Hungarian.
In case you were wondering, hunk meaning a hubba-hubba guy comes from hunk meaning a "large thick piece," not hunk as a slur for a Hungarian.
3. OUTER LIMITS
“Everybody in this family has just gone totally Outer Limits,” Sam complains. Another possible puzzler for Generation Xers and beyond, Outer Limits was a Twilight Zone-esque science fiction show that first aired in the early 1960s. Perhaps due in part to an especially trippy episode called "Expanding Human," which involved an LSD-like drug, outer limits has also come to refer to an LSD-crack cocktail.
Another name for Farmer Ted, geek is an ‘80s staple that is actually much older. The word first appeared in print in the 1870s to mean a fool or simpleton, and may have been an alteration of geck, which might come from a Scandinavian word meaning “to croak” as well as “to mock.” Around 1919, a geek referred to a sideshow geek or circus performer.
It was in the late 1950s that we got the geek we know and love today—someone smart but lacking social skills—perhaps first used by Jack Kerouac: “Brooklyn College wanted me to lecture to eager students and big geek questions to answer.” In the 1980s, the term was reappropriated to mean someone really into and knowledgeable about computers, and by extension, almost any topic.
“Mike thinks I’m a dork,” says Sam. “Mike is a dork,” says her father. The word dork has been used to mean an inept or ridiculous person since the early 1970s. Before that, it meant “penis.” Dork might be a variant of dirk, a kind of dagger, especially worn by Scottish Highlanders, and influenced by dick.
6. DICK AROUND
“You’d better not be dicking me around,” Jake warns Farmer Ted. Dick around, meaning to waste time, originated in the 1940s and might have first been used in print by Norman Mailer in his 1948 novel, The Naked and the Dead. By the early 1980s, the phrase came to mean to annoy or treat unfairly, and might have first been used in the 1982 movie 48 Hrs: "You've been dicking me around since we started on this turd-hunt."
“I told her you asked about her,” Farmer Ted tells Jake. “She had a hissy.” Hissy meaning a fit or tantrum has been in use since perhaps the 1920s. A 1934 edition of American Speech says, ”Hissy is probably provincial slang. I have heard it for eight or ten years.” The word might be short for hysteric. Hissy fit is newer, originating in the 1960s.
8. SPAZ OUT
“Don’t spaz out,” Farmer Ted tells a fellow geek. The term spaz or spaz out originated in the late 1950s as an offensive shortening of spastic, a medical condition characterized by involuntary movements.
“I’ve never bagged a babe,” Farmer Ted admits to Sam. “I’m not a stud.” It’s not clear when this sense of bag meaning to sleep with or “score” with someone came about. The earliest verb meaning of bag is from the 1400s and means to be pregnant or impregnate. Other meanings include to kill in a hunt, to seize, and to capture.
10. HAVE A COW
“Everything’s fine,” Jake assures girlfriend Caroline. “Don’t have a cow.” This phrase meaning to freak out about something has been in use at least since the late 1950s. It comes from, as the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, “the upsetting and painful notion of giving birth to a cow.” The idiom might play off the older to have kittens, which is from 1900.