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November 8, 1998 - Slangman: '70s Slang - 2002-02-12

INTRO: on this week's wordmaster, Avi Arditti and Rosanne Skirble "get down" with some of the lingo of a decade that's popular again.

MUSIC: "Night Fever"/Bee-Gees

AA: The seventies are back, from disco music to fashion to those little yellow smiley faces. I'm Avi Arditti.

RS: And I'm Rosanne Skirble. Two decades later, we still hear the music from "Saturday Night Fever" -- and see that movie image of John Travolta, in his white suit striking a classic disco dance pose. And you can relive the seventies in recent films like "Studio 54" and "The Last Days of Disco."

AA: Coming up we'll talk seventies slang with author David Burke -- who's an expert on slang. But first we take you to the dance floor of the Tropix nightclub in McLean, Virginia, where seventies music is hot.

MUSIC: "Disco Inferno"/The Trammps

RS: This is Pete. He's a fifty-year-old computer specialist.


PETE: "Disco was a big thing. You'd go out and you'd get up in a leisure suit with a silk shirt with seagulls or whatever or whatnot type pattern on it, and you'd go out with platform shoes and just go out to the club and start trying to get down or boogy."

AA: "What was you favorite expression or slang from the seventies? And do you admit to using any still?"

PETE: "Not too much, other than we'd go out and 'roll,' 'run the street' or 'party' -- that was still pretty much what people would say back then."

AA: On this night the DJ playing the music is Derek Williams. What's his favorite expression from the seventies?


"'Shake your booty' -- that works every time, everyone knows what it means. It means 'get busy and get down,' 'let's do it,' 'sweat.'

RS: And now it's time to sweat with our Slangman, David Burke, coming to us on the Wordmaster hotline from Los Angeles.


BURKE: "You're in the seventies now and a guy comes up to you and says, 'whoa, cosmic threads, really out of sight. Want to groove on a real boss movie later?' If a guy says to you, 'whoa cosmic threads' (he means) ... "

RS: "Good clothes."

BURKE: "Right, good clothes. Now, 'cosmic' is gone, no one says cosmic, but we do still say 'threads.' In jest, someone will say, 'ooo, nice threads.' Now 'really out of sight,' of course you know what that means?"

AA: "Great."

RS: "'Way out.'"

BURKE: "You know, this is so funny. This is how it works: if you're into the seventies, maybe ten years ago you'd be 'really square' -- which of course means to be out of touch with reality. But for some reason, those who are still living in the seventies are now really hip today. In fact, for years I've had this plaster of Paris candle in my bedroom and I've had this old seventies wood-frame bed. Ten years ago people would come in and say, 'you are so out of touch.' But nowadays people would see that and say, 'whoa, you're really retro.' So now, if you're into the seventies, you are called 'retro,' and that is 'way cool.'

RS: "So you are so out, that you have come back. [laughter]"

BURKE: "It's just like bellbottoms (pants). OK, anybody who wore bellbottoms ten years ago, I'm sorry, you would have been stared at. Nowadays, you wear bellbottoms and you are extremely cool. Let me ask you something -- I'll give this one to Avi. If someone were to say to you, 'I don't mean to bum you out or lay a bad trip on you, but I'm not getting good vibes here.' That's talking seventies. If someone said, 'I don't mean to bum you out' ... "

AA: "I feel like I'm back in high school -- make you feel bad."

BURKE: "Right, and 'lay a bad trip on you'?"

AA: "Make you feel guilty."

BURKE: "But now we don't say that. We'll say, 'someone is a real head trip' or 'they're really trippy.' A lot of teens are saying, 'don't trip on me,' which means, 'don't dis(respect) me, don't try to fake me out' -- see, I keep answering one slang term with another one -- 'don't try to trick me.' And 'I'm not getting good vibes here'. That's really popular -- 'good vibes,' 'bad vibes.' That is still here for some reason and I don't think that one is going to leave us anytime soon."

RS: David "Slangman" Burke will bring back those good vibes -- meaning good feelings -- next month when he joins us with more American slang. In the meantime, check out his Web site: Slangman is one word.

AA: With Rosanne Skirble, I'm Avi Arditti.