It’s been a while since we waved goodbye to the ’90s, a.k.a the best decade ever, from behind our novelty New Year’s glasses (the kind where your eyes went behind the 00s in 2000), many of us wondering whether the phrases we loved — dude, dude!!, boo ya! — would be trampled by the march of time. Because while every decade’s slang is beautiful in its own unique way (except for the 1880s, that was a linguistic sh*t show), it’s hard to imagine any 10-year stretch having the same ear-tickling magic as the span between 1990 and 1999.
Here in 2016, everything ’90s is suddenly cool again — so feel free to let the following phrases return to your lexicon immediately.
Meaning: Oh, hell naw!
Why it needs to make a comeback: This is what happens when an “I’d rather die” and a very expressive eye roll fall in love and make a baby.
As if isn’t just a phrase — it’s an entire array of emotions. It can be used to convey shock, outrage, and disbelief. It can encourage — “Financial trouble? As if! We’ll pay off our student loans in two years with these amazing jobs at Netscape!” — or insult — “You think I added her on Friendster on purpose? As if!”
It’s versatile, clean, and gets your message across.
Plus, it would bring Alicia Silverstone back into the public consciousness in a good way — something that we desperately need after seeing those pictures of her feeding her kid like a baby bird.
Meaning: a lot; really; very
Why it needs to make a comeback: Some of us (Sacramento represent!) haven’t given up on this word despite its waning popularity. It’s even been added to the dictionary, which makes it totally gnarly (a word that doesn’t need to come back).
Hella is just so much fun to say! And it means so much! Are you happy? Express it by saying you’re feeling “hella good.” Broken-hearted? You’re “hella crushed.” Angry at your best friend for moving in on your ex even though you told him not to in third period? You’re “hella pissed” and there’s nothing wrong with that. Hella nothing.
Here’s the Hella anthem. Incidentally, it’s from 2001.
Meaning: It’s a filler!
Why it needs to make a comeback: Fill up the useless spaces between your very important words with this valley girl-inspired vocabulary condiment. Drag it out! Make it short and clipped! Be all “and he was like” without shame.
You see, even in the ’90s “like” was one of those Unforgivable Curses that your fifth period speech teacher would ding you for using. “Mature adults don’t use ‘like’ and ‘stuff'” she’d say, completely clueless to the fact that the English language is beautiful, alive, and contains multitudes. And then she told you that using it would make you sound like an idiot!
Was she wrong? Yes! Sometimes “like” is the most succinct way of describing what someone is saying — “and she was like” — and also gives you time to think of your next words. Especially in emergency situations. Should you use it during an important presentation at work? Probably not (depends on where you work). Should you use it in your personal life until it’s lost all meaning and you don’t even know if you’re pronouncing it right anymore? Absolutely.
The joke’s on your speech teacher, by the way: The “like” is now a valid and universally recognized form of social currency you can buy on the free market to boost your status. If like can morph into a verb, isn’t it time we brought it back into casual convos?
Meaning: Pretty Hot and Tempting (see Heather Locklear in Money Talks).
Why it needs to make a comeback: Because it sounds amazing and also because it never got the play it deserved ‘back in the day.’ But why use it for humans when you can use it for everything else? Sandwiches? PHAT. Kittens? PHAT.
Talk to the hand!
Meaning: I am standing right here, but you are saying stuff that’s so dumb my face literally can’t even give you the time of day it’s so embarrassed for your entire life right now. Why are you still talking?
Why it needs to make a comeback: See above. Ain’t nobody got time to say all that when a simple hand motion will do!
Meaning: We are done here, this isn’t over, and you’re wrong about everything.
Why it needs to make a comeback: Because no profanity-laden diatribe can take the place of a “whatever” and a flounce. Whoever you’re sparring with just lost the game and they can’t even hit you with a counter punch because how are you going to come back at an obvious insult masked as apathy? That’s cold!
Meaning: Good for you, Glen Coco! Get them candy grams, girl! You earned those! (And none for Gretchen Wieners.)
Why it needs to make a comeback: By the time it was used in 2004 in Mean Girls, the term was a withered husk of its once-proud glory. Once the ’90s preferred way to tell someone they were killin’ it, the phrase had become a cheap joke we laughed at when the chronically unhip Damien said it! But that’s wrong!
Combined with “it’s your birthday,” “you go!” was one of those phrases that made you feel invincible and unstoppable! When friends snapped their fingers and said you were going, they weren’t just telling you to congratulate yourself on getting that promotion, they were saying you could literally reach the stars with just your bad self and your mad skillz (and you know girls only like guys with skillz!).
We use it jokingly now, but you’d be lying if you said anything people say these days could match the feeling you’d get hearing those two magical words. What’s going to replace it? “Good job, Stan?” As if!
Meaning: Very cool, but like in a chill and unattainable way; hella attractive.
Why it needs to make a comeback: How do you solve a problem like Maria? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind? How can you describe a word that describes itself? These are questions we’ll never be able to answer! No one ever knew why the Fly Girls were fly. We just knew they were. And we all wanted to be them or be with them. Are we right? (Yes, we’re right.)
Meaning: Loser, but like the worst kind of loser you can be — a double loser.
Why it needs to come back: At best, someone’s calling you a loser with a hand gesture, involving their body because they have enough respect for your person that they must insult you in a way that’s performance-based, if ultimately demeaning. Sometimes a rhyme and more hand gestures — “loser, loser double loser, get the picture, pow” — are included. This display shows that you matter enough to the other person that they must decimate you in a dance not dissimilar to an arcane courting ritual (plus, in 2016, it means they had to put their phone away for a second!).
Other times, there will be no hand gestures, no rhyme, no complicated contortions. Sometimes one person will refer to another as an L7 in a mean girl shorthand that gets the message across using as few syllables as possible, a devastating blow to the ego that no amount of crying can cure.
What other term, from the ’90s or beyond, can inflict so much exquisite torture with so little effort?
This is an updated version of a post that originally ran in February 2016.