If you grew up in the 1980s—or just watched the first season of Stranger Things—then you might be familiar with the word wastoid, a slang term for a person who does so many drugs that they’ve essentially become worthless. And if you’ve ever used it yourself, you have John Hughes to thank. The screenwriter and filmmaker coined the term for The Breakfast Club: Andrew tells Bender, “Yo, wastoid, you’re not going to blaze up in here.” And if you wanted to diss an avid drug user in the 1970s, you could have gone with burnout.
Every language, every culture, every era has its own slang, and as these terms come and go, language expands and becomes more colorful. The proof is in the work of Jonathon Green, a.k.a. “Mister Slang,” who’s been collecting and defining slang for over 17 years. His Green’s Dictionary of Slang, which features terms from 1500 onward, currently has 135,000 definitions and counting. In his words, “What slang really does is show us at our most human.”
With that in mind, Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy fired up the old time machine to revisit some of history’s truly terrific slang terms in the latest episode of The List Show. And while technically the title of the video is “slang from the last century,” we stretched that a little and went all the way back to the 1900s.