The Power of Words in a Bold Decade: A Guide to the 70s Catch Phrases

Bodhi Ramosreviewed byKateryna Protsenko / more about Editorial Process10 min
Created: Jan 26, 2024Last updated: Jan 26, 2024
70s Slang

The 1970s were a decade of disco lights, groovy tunes, and the birth of new vocabulary. This era unveiled a new world of phrases and sayings unique to its time. Words became as flamboyant as the fashion and intricate dance moves of the period. If you want to unravel the charisma of the terms from the 70s, let’s dive deep into its heart – from hippie choicest slang to cult expressions inspired by pop culture. You’ll discover how these words enlivened conversations, embodied an era’s spirit, and set a trend that continues today. 

Decoding the Lingo: How 70s Slang Mirrored Social Changes

The 1970s witnessed significant societal changes, and its language evolution mirrored these shifts. Slang from this period was more than just colloquial expressions; it was a window into the era’s pulse and character.

This decade, emerging from the tumultuous 60s, carried forward an ethos of freedom and rebellion. The slang of the time, encompassing more than just new vocabulary, became a symbol of an evolving lifestyle that defied conventional norms. It mirrored a society moving towards more open, relaxed social attitudes.

The rise of disco music greatly influenced the language. Words from the dance and music scenes found their way into everyday conversation and illustrated the vital link between popular culture and how people communicated. Television and film were also powerful forces shaping the slang from the 70s. Popular shows and movies didn’t just entertain; they introduced phrases into the lexicon that echoed the culture and social milieu.

Additionally, the language of the 70s was marked by an increased openness in discussing previously taboo topics. The decade’s various rights movements brought a new boldness to the language, with terms that were once radical becoming more mainstream.

Street Slang: 70s Expressions Originated in Urban Subcultures

The 1970s saw the growth of urban subcultures that developed unique lexicons. This vernacular migrated from the streets to the mainstream language, and some terms remain relevant today. Just like work idioms and expressions, urban sayings from the 70s told stories about the experiences and lives of people who introduced them:

  • Cool beans – a term of approval or agreement.

Cool beans originated as a quirky, affirmative response. It captured the laid-back, positive vibe of street conversations among friends.

You got the concert tickets? Cool beans!

We’re hanging out after school? Cool beans!

  • Cat – a cool person.

Cat was a term of endearment for someone considered cool or impressive in their demeanor. It was a sign of respect and admiration in urban subcultures.

He’s the coolest cat in the neighborhood.

That new DJ is a really cool cat.

  • The Man – a figure of authority, often used negatively.

The Man referred to authority figures or the establishment, typically used with a sense of distrust or rebellion.

Don’t let The Man get you down.

He’s always fighting against The Man.

  • Jive turkey – someone who is unreliable or dishonest.

Emerging from the urban vernacular, jive turkey was a playful yet critical term for someone who talks big but can’t be trusted.

Don’t listen to him; he’s just a jive turkey.

He promised to help, but he’s a jive turkey, always making excuses.

  • Lay it on me – to ask someone to speak frankly or give an opinion.

This phrase invited honesty or the sharing of thoughts without reservation in straightforward or serious conversations.

Lay it on me; what do you really think about the plan?

Do you have news? Lay it on me.

  • Pad – one’s house or apartment.

Pad was used to describe a living space. The term conveyed the comfort and personality of the owner’s style.

We’re hanging out at my pad tonight.

He’s got a cool pad right downtown.

  • What’s your bag? – What’s your problem or interest?

This phrase was a direct, sometimes confrontational way of asking about someone’s issue or what they were interested in.

You seem upset. What’s your bag?

He’s into jazz these days. What’s your bag?

  • Split – to leave or depart.

Split was the go-to term for leaving a place, often used in casual or urgent contexts.

It’s getting late; time to split.

The scene was boring, so we decided to split.

  • Keep on truckin’ [kiːp ɑn ˈtrʌkɪn'] – to continue moving forward or keep going.

A phrase originating from a popular comic strip became a mantra of perseverance and resilience in the face of challenges, often used in encouraging or motivational contexts.

No matter what happens, just keep on truckin’.

Life’s tough right now, but we’ve got to keep on truckin’.

Such 70’s sayings, born out of the predominantly African American urban environments, found their way into mainstream American culture. From films and music to everyday discourse – these words became a symbol of the times.

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From Boogie to Groovy: 70s Slang for Party

The 1970s were not just about social change but also a time of lively parties and vibrant nightlife. This atmosphere gave birth to unique slang that defined the party scene. From dance floors to casual hangouts, these phrases capture the essence of 70s fun and festivity.

  • Boogie – to dance to pop music.

Boogie was synonymous with dancing, especially in a free, uninhibited style typical of the 70s disco scene. It reflected the era’s love for music and dance as expression and celebration.

Let’s hit the dance floor and boogie all night!

The club was alive, with people ready to boogie to disco tunes.

  • Groovy – excellent, fashionable, or amazing.

Groovy was the ultimate compliment of the time, often used to describe something hip or fantastic. It could refer to music, fashion, or even a state of mind, capturing the upbeat, carefree ethos of the 70s.

That new album is totally groovy, man.

She has a groovy sense of style, always ahead of the trends.

  • Far out – something remarkable, impressive, or awesome.

This phrase expressed awe or approval, often in reaction to something unconventional or extraordinary. Far out was a staple in the lexicon of partygoers and social butterflies.

Did you see that light show at the concert? Far out!

His ideas for the party are far out. It’s going to be memorable.

  • Psychedelic – something mind-expanding or creating intense sensory experiences. 

Initially referring to mind-altering experiences, psychedelic expanded to describe anything wildly colorful, creative, or out-of-the-ordinary, much like the party scenes of the 70s.

The club’s psychedelic lights created an otherworldly atmosphere.

Their party had a psychedelic theme, complete with retro music and visuals.

  • Funky – having a strong dance rhythm, in particular, that of funk

Funky was often used to describe a strong, rhythmic groove, particularly in music, that made it impossible not to dance. This disco slang also referred to something unconventional but appealing.

The band’s playing some funky tunes tonight.

That new art café downtown is really funky.

  • Chillax – to calm down and relax.

Chillax was a blend of chill and relax, perfectly capturing the laid-back attitude of the 70s. It encouraged someone to take it easy and enjoy the moment, often at a party or social setting.

Hey, just chillax and enjoy the party.

After a long week, it’s time to chillax with friends.

  • Can you dig it? – Do you understand? Or do you agree?

This phrase was a stylish way of asking if someone agreed with you or understood your words. It was typical in conversations at parties and social gatherings.

This band is the best in town, can you dig it?

We’re planning a road trip next weekend, can you dig it?

  • Jive – a style of lively, rhythmic music or dance; also slang for deceptive or nonsensical talk.

Jive referred to a popular form of dance music in the 70s but was also used to describe talk that wasn’t taken seriously. In a party context, it often referred to playful, teasing conversation.

Let’s hit the dance floor and jive tonight.

He’s always full of jive but keeps the mood light.

This 70s disco slang paints a picture of the generation as a time of exuberant social life, where the language was as colorful as the parties themselves. You might find some of these words and phrases familiar, as many still hold their place in contemporary language due to timeless popularity.

On Politics and Activism: Rallying 70s Slang Words

The 1970s were also a decade of political activism and change. The era’s political landscape was marked by movements for civil rights, environmental concerns, and anti-war protests. It gave rise to unique slang that echoed the sentiments of the times. Below are a few examples:

  • The Establishment – a term for the dominant groups in society, especially those in control of government and corporations.

It was used critically by those who opposed traditional power structures and sought societal change.

The protesters were united against the Establishment.

He always questioned the motives of the Establishment.

  • Power to the People – a slogan used to encourage empowerment and solidarity among the masses.

This rallying cry was common in protests and movements and embodied the spirit of collective action and democracy.

The marchers chanted, ‘Power to the People,’ as they walked.

His speech ended with a loud ‘Power to the People!’

  • Square – someone who was seen as conventional, conservative, or out of touch with modern trends.

Younger generations often used it to describe older people or those not aligned with the progressive movements of the time.

My parents are total squares; they just don’t get it.

He felt like a square at the rally, with his conservative views.

  • Burn, Baby, Burn – a phrase associated with rebellion and radical change, often used during protests.

Initially linked to the Watts Riots, it later became a broader symbol of resistance against oppression.

The graffiti on the wall read, ‘Burn, Baby, Burn.’

The chant ‘Burn, Baby, Burn’ echoed through the streets during the demonstration.

  • Stick it to The Man – to resist or fight against authority figures or the establishment.

This phrase encouraged defiance and rebellion against oppressive or unfair systems.

They were all about sticking it to The Man.

The song became an anthem for sticking it to The Man.

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Conclusion

Exploring 70s catch phrases not only offers a glimpse into the past but also shapes our understanding of contemporary language. These expressions mirror an era’s spirit, bolstered by social change and lively parties. Today, the resonance of many terms in pop culture indicates their lasting impact. Their continued use deepens our appreciation for this unique period, its influence still echoing in the words we speak today.

FAQ

How do 70s terms compare to the slang of other generations?

Comparing popular sayings in the 70s to the expressions of further generations reveals evolving and social contexts. The 80s, focusing on materialism and digital advancements, had tech-inspired and flashy terms. The 90s, a decade of grunge and internet emergence, adopted a more ironic tone. The 2000s saw the rise of internet slang, influenced by technology and social media.

Were there regional variations in 70s slang?

There were significant regional variations in the 70s slang. Since the internet was not yet a factor in global communication, local cultures and environments heavily influenced slang words and phrases. Each city – or even district within a city – could develop its unique vocabulary that might not be understood elsewhere.

How did movies and TV shows contribute to the popularity of 70s slang?

Movies and TV shows were instrumental in popularizing the 70s language. Iconic media like Happy Days and Saturday Night Fever were the main platforms that introduced and spread the charm of new terms to a broader audience.

Where can I learn more slang words?

For those interested in exploring slang further, a few resources are available. Websites like Urban Dictionary and Green’s Dictionary of Slang offer an extensive collection of terms from various decades, including the popular lingo of today.

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