Home Decades 1970s 70s Speak

70s Speak

70s_000Life magazine in December 1979 as part of a review of the decade.

ADIDAS
Brand-name graffiti appearing primarily on running shoes, including a pair that glows in the dark.

AGEISM
Discrimination against the elderly for being old.

AIR SUPPORT
“It’s not bombing – it’s air support” – U.S. Air Force colonel in Phnom Penh. See also RURAL PACIFICATION.

ANGEL DUST
(a.k.a. phencyclidine, PCP, Hog, Crystal, Rocket Fuel, Killer Weed) Originally for veterinary use only, it can be smoked, eaten, injected or snorted. Highs include increased blood pressure, indifference to pain, drooling, distorted vision and sometimes death.

BANANA
Chastised for the scary language he used about the recession, inflation-fighter Alfred Kahn vowed to substitute more soothing terms, like “banana.” Kahn has since been heard to speak of “double-digit banana.”

BIOETHICS
The ethical ramifications of organ transplants, genetic engineering and other such biological niceties.

BLACK HOLE
A hypothetical hole in outer space into which massive stars collapse upon themselves, leaving behind only gravity so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape.

BLOWS ME AWAY
Replaces “knocks me out.”

BOOM BOX
Portable music system, traditionally operated on crowded city streets at peak volume.

BOTTOM LINE
An irreducible reckoning.

CELLULITE
Another compelling priority of the “moi” decade – the dimpled flesh sometimes found rippling round women’s thighs.

CONEHEAD
Former inhabitants of Saturday Night Live who spoke in monotones and had sex by tossing cones onto each other’s coneheads.

DECRIMINALISATION
The not-quite legalisation of marijuana.

DESIGNER JEANS
Thanks to Gloria Vanderbilt, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein et al, you can look sensational shovelling out the barnyard.

DISCO
“The noun, verb and adjective of the 1970s” – Robert Vare

DYN-O-MITE
Fab-u-lous.

ECOCIDE
Man’s murder of the environment.

FACTOID
A fact having no existence outside its appearance in the news media – attributed to Norman Mailer.

FLASH ON
Have an insight, inspiration, memory or revelation. Frequently drug-induced, e.g., to flash on the meaning of life.

GASOHOL
One part alcohol to nine parts unleaded gasoline. Its advocates believe gasohol will save drivers money and save the U.S. from OPEC.

GAY POWER
Out of the closets and into the streets.

GET DOWN
Get serious.

GOOD BUDDY
Fellow traveller, in CB-ese, especially when “handle” is unknown. See also BEAR IN THE SKY (police helicopter), BIG DOG (Greyhound bus) and GREASY SIDE UP (overturned vehicle). Ten four.

GO WITH THE FLOW
Ease on down the stream.

GREENHOUSE EFFECT
Air pollution is preventing some of the earth’s surface heat from escaping into space. The resulting greenhouse effect could, within several decades, cause swift and possibly catastrophic changes in the global climate, making it somewhat more difficult to go with the flow

HAVE A NICE DAY
(or, western-style, HAVE A GOOD ONE) – Once meant to have a nice day; now means nothing.

HEIMLICH MANOEUVRE
A procedure (named after the U.S. surgeon who devised it) to assist choking victims by manually forcing air up through their windpipes.

HOPEFULLY
The most misused adverb of the decade. Proper usage, such as “He faced the future hopefully,” will eventually come back into use (hopefully).

INTERFACE
Connect, interact, operate together – “They interfaced happily ever after.”

JOINT CUSTODY
Sharing your toke or your tyke.

KIDVID
Corporatese for children’s television.

KNEECAPPING
Bred in Northern Ireland, perfected in Italy, something new and different in terrorism: shooting to cripple.

LAETRILE
A chemical derived from crushed apricot pits believed by many to cure cancer, although the medical and legal establishments remain unconvinced.

LAID BACK
Opposite of uptight. Self-image of many southern Californians. Henry Fonda is laid back. Jane is not.

LAUNDER
Old Mafia gambit, clumsily resurrected during Watergate, of running money through a foreign account to camouflage its dubious origins.

LED
Light-emitting diode. Electronic readouts that give a space-age look to pocket calculators, digital watches and movies about interplanetary flights.

LEISURE SUIT
“How many polyesters did you kill to make that suit?” – Steve Martin

LETTER BOMB
Terrorist explosive inside an envelope, designed to kill the recipient upon opening. The ultimate in junk mail.

‘LUDE
Quaalude, disco-biscuit. An addictive downer supposedly obtainable by prescription only, but in fact readily available in ghettos, fashionable salons and on campuses all over America. A particular favourite of Elvis‘s.

MACHO
Descriptive of a man who shuns deodorants and buttons his shirt at the navel.

MEDIA
Plural of medium, though the news media has never figured that out, has they?

MELTDOWN
The melting of a nuclear reactor core and release of radiation following a cooling system breakdown. See The China Syndrome (1979).

MISSPOKE
Lied. A favourite of Nixon presidential press secretary Ron Ziegler

NEGATIVE INCOME TAX
An idea whose time has not yet come – guaranteed income paid by the government to the poor.

NO-FAULT
Now you, too, can walk away blame-free from accidents and divorce.

NOSE WHEELIE
Riding on the two front wheels of a skateboard. Not to be confused with a tail wheelie, an apple turnover or a two-board daffy.

ONE THOUSAND PERCENT
Give or take a thousand. “I’m one thousand percent for Tom Eagleton and I have no intention of dropping him from the ticket” – George McGovern, 1972

OPEC
Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The bad guys.

PRE-OWNED
Used.

PRO-LIFE
Anti-abortion, anti-euthanasia. Inferred antonym: pro-death.

PSYCHOBABBLE
I’m going through some heavy energy, man, I mean, wow, it’s beautiful if you’re unhappy, but now I’m getting behind my feelings, like into a new reality, a space for me to be me, and it’s an outtasight head trip, you know, going with my process, getting clear or where I’m coming from, just laying the vibes out there and really it just blows me away, dig?

PULL THE PLUG
Let the patient die.

PUNK
Momentarily hip nihilism of the mid-’70s, characterised by rainbow-dyed hair and pin-pierced flesh. Very punk.

QUADRAPHONIC
Four-channelled sound transmission. Quad was highly touted in the early ’70s as the heir to stereo, indeed to all pre-existing hi-fi systems, but consumers refused the bait.

QUARK
The nucleus of an atom begat neutrons and protons, which themselves are now believed to be made up of sub-subatomic particles called quarks. (Derived from “Finnegan’s Wake”: “Three quarks for Muster Mark.”)

REALLY!
I agree with everything you’ve just said and everything you are likely to say in the future. Really!

REBIRTHING
A therapy involving naked immersion in a hot tub, a snorkel and the alleged re-experience of one’s birth as a key to enlightenment, prosperity and bliss. About $50 a session. Cash.

RED DYE #2
Colouring agent used in hundreds of American foods and cosmetics until banned by the federal government as a possible carcinogen in 1976.

RELATIONSHIP
Once upon a time people met, fell in love, got married and lived happily ever after. Now they have relationships.

REVERSE DISCRIMINATION
Discrimination against whites in order to reverse long-term discrimination against blacks and other minorities. The underside of affirmative-action programs.

SHOWER ACTIVITY
Term favoured by TV weatherpersons to denote rain.

SHUTTLE DIPLOMACY
Well-publicised flights between foreign capitals in pursuit of peace and material for memoirs.

SICK-OUT
A new labour tactic: large numbers of employees staying home from work on the pretext of illness, in order to avoid the corporate and legal ramifications of a formally called strike.

SKYJACK
Kidnap an airplane, usually for political or psychopathic reasons.

SMOKING GUN
Ultimate, indisputable evidence of a crime. As Watergate unfolded, Nixon‘s hard-core supporters kept citing the absence of a smoking gun – that is, until the tapes finally provided one.

STONEWALL
Whatever happens, admit nothing.

STROKE
To soothe with flattery, to lay it on thick.

SUNBELT
The transcontinental South, stretching from Virginia to southern California.

THEME PARKS
Amusement parks based on central motifs, including everything from Mickey Mouse to rattlesnakes. Whatever turns you on.

TOUCH DANCING
Counterrevolutionary disco.

ULTRASUEDE
60% polyester, 40% non-fibrous polyurethane . . . plastic suede.

VIABLE ALTERNATIVE
Alternative.

VISION CENTER
Optician’s shop.

WHAT’S HAPPENIN’?
All-purpose greetin’

XYZ ZERO-BASED BUDGETING
Budgeting anew each year, without reference to previous budgets. Another potent weapon in the war against the double-digit banana

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