There’s one surefire way to find out if somebody came of age in the ’90s. Randomly shout out “Schwing!” If they stare at you like you’re having a mental collapse, they’re probably one of those darned Millennials. But if they laugh or cringe, in some way acknowledging the reference, you’ve identified a bona fide ’90s kid. (“Schwing,” by the way, is ’90s slang for excitement, first coined by Mike Myers in his “Wayne’s World” Saturday Night Live sketch and movie spin-offs.).
Once somebody has opened the ’90s slang floodgates, those memories can come rushing back and you start using words and phrases that haven’t entered your brain since you last bought Pearl Jam records. Don’t resist that urge. Slip on some flannel and Skechers, slap on that slap bracelet, and let’s revisit the best of ’90s slang. And for things from this decade that are starting to fade away, check out This Beloved ’90s Store Is Shutting Down Its Mall Locations.
When you’re just done with somebody and you want out of the conversation immediately. “Whatever” doesn’t declare a winner or loser, just that you don’t care anymore.
Example: “Okay, okay, I get it, you think you’ve got the best soul patch on the eastern seaboard. Whatever!” And for more terms that really show your age, check out 25 Common Words That Didn’t Exist Until the 1990s.
If it’s fly, it must be dope. Or as your grandfather might say, “The bee’s knees.” The dancers on In Living Color weren’t called Fly Girls because they could levitate. They were just that awesome.
Example: “Your Vanilla Ice dance moves are totally fly!” And for for your favorite flash-in-the-pan musicians from this era, check out 20 One-Hit Wonders Every ’90s Kid Remembers.
When your sentence needs a little extra emphasis, this piece of 90s lingo will do the trick. It’s an adjective that automatically adds three exclamation points.
Example: “I just watched the OJ Simpson verdict, and I am hella surprised!”
This phrase comes from a popular meme at the time. Sorry, no, just kidding. We mean music video. Remember those? Will Smith’s “Gettin’ Jiggy With It” taught the world that the only way to dance was like you’d just downed two pots of coffee.
Example: “It’s been a tough week at work. I need to get jiggy with it.” And for the the films that freaked you out back then, check out The Scariest Movies ’90s Kids Can’t Forget.
A greeting. When you mean to say “wassup” (i.e. “what’s up with you?”) but that just seems like too much mouth exercise.
“Nuthin’. Sup with you?”
“Nuthin, just playing Sega.”
Weirdly, it’s not (usually) meant as an insult. If somebody is bugging, they’re behaving in unfamiliar ways that concern you. You want them to stop, or at least explain why they’re acting so darn crazy.
Example: “You okay? Why are you bugging out?” For more helpful information delivered to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Somebody got on your wrong side and they’re going to regret it. This 90s slang term doesn’t necessarily mean a physical scuffle is on the horizon. That can of butt-kicking might just translate as a verbal lashing.
Example: “He broke my GameBoy, so I’m about to open up a can on him.”
It sounds like you’re throwing somebody out of your house, but it’s really a celebratory cheer. It’s the hip person’s way to say, “I’m so proud of you!!”
Example: “You got that job promotion at Blockbuster? You go, girl!”
A compliment of sorts. The person or thing being described is everything one could possibly hope for, and they come with a side dish. Because who doesn’t want a snack for later?
Example: “She’s not just cool. She’s all that and a bag of chips.”
When it’s not enough just to break up with somebody. You need to let them know, in the strongest possible terms, why you want them out of your life.
Example: “He did what? Oh girl, you’ve got to kick him to the curb.”
Your best bud and closest confidant. The guy or girl you count on and trust above all others. But not, ironically, the person most likely to make you dinner on a skillet.
Example: “Home skillet! It’s about time you got here.
Whatever the other person is trying to tell you has been rejected. You are no longer interested in conversing with them. If they want to continue anyway, well, they are welcome to direct their grievances towards your open palm.
Example: “Can I please explain why you’re wrong about Tonya Harding?” “Talk to the hand!”
A sarcastic retort to a preposterous suggestion. “As if” imagines a ridiculous alternate reality in which the subject being discussed could actually happen. We can thank Clueless for this memorable 90s slang term.
Example: “She thinks we’re going to get married and have a bunch of kids together. As if!”
When you’re feeling so much exuberance but no real word in the English language seems sufficient enough to capture the full scale of your emotions.
Example: “I’m finally moving out of my parent’s basement. Booyah!”
A guy with no money, no job, no prospects, and no class. Pretty much the lowest of the low. Also, they won’t be getting any love from the R&B girl group TLC. Sorry, fellas.
Example: “I appreciate the offer for a date, but I have a strict no scrubs policy.”
It’s the 90s slang version of “psych.” You think somebody is telling you the truth or agreeing with you, and then blammo, they hit you with the ol’ reversal!
Example: “I think Spin Doctors are the best band of all time…NOT!”
A more confusing way to insult somebody. Just say it with a Beavis and Butthead voice and leave it at that.
Example: “I’m not going anywhere with that fart-knocker.”
Someone or something seems attractive from a distance, but when you get up close for a better look, it’s a hot mess. Not unlike the paintings of French impressionist Claude Monet.
Example: “You actually think he’s hot? You better look again, he’s a total Monet.”
It’s just the words “all right,” but, you know, said by a cool kid.
Example: “Nah, I’m cool. I know it looks like I slept in a dumpster, but I’m aiight.”
A celebration that’s gotten so wild and crazy, Snoop Dogg himself might very well show up.
Example: “Don’t come till at least midnight. That’s when the party really gets crunk.”