80s Catchphrases

, Staff Writer
Updated December 9, 2019
Dancers in neon clothing of the 1980s
    Dancers in neon clothing of the 1980s
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Do you want to remember some ‘80s catchphrases and take a mental trip back into that wild and funky decade? You’re in the right place.

Maybe you are heading to an ‘80s themed party and really want to get into character. You will find that some of these phrases came from popular culture such as television and movies, while other sayings just seemed to spring forth from the generation on their own. We've included examples of how the words were used, so you can work them into your own retro vocabulary!

1980s Catchphrases With Sources

For all the oddities that popped up in ‘80s vernacular, there are plenty of catchphrases from that decade that have a known origin, including some catchy slogans.

  • This message will self destruct. (Inspector Gadget)
  • A-duh! (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
  • The actual retail price of the... (The Price Is Right)
  • Alvin!!! (Alvin and the Chipmunks)
  • Andale! Andale! Arriba! Arriba! (Speedy Gonzales of Looney Tunes)
  • And now you know and knowing is half the battle. (G.I. Joe)
  • Anybody got any cheese? (Family Matters)
  • Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! Beetlejuice! (Beetlejuice)
  • Big money! Big money! No whammies! STOP! (Press Your Luck)
  • Bubble yum keeps it poppin'. (Bubble Yum commercials)
  • By the power of Greyskull! (He-Man)
  • Care bear stare! (Care Bears)
  • Clap on! (Clapper ad)
  • Cowabunga! (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • Da plane boss, da plane! (Fantasy Island)
  • Good grief. (Peanuts)
  • Did I do that? (Family Matters)
  • Gag me with a spoon. (“Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa)
  • How rude! (Full House)
  • Just say no. (Nancy Reagan, anti-drug campaign)
  • I ain't goin on no damn plane, fool! (The A-Team)
  • I don't have to take this. I'm going home. (Family Matters)
  • I heard that! (You Can't Do That on Television)
  • I meant to do that. (Eureka's Castle)
  • I pity the fool. (The A-Team)
  • I want my MTV! (MTV ad)
  • I kill me! (ALF)
  • I'll be back. (The Terminator)
  • I'm Gumby, damn it! (Saturday Night Live)
  • I've fallen and I can't get up! (Lifecall commercial)
  • Is it much farther, Papa Smurf? (The Smurfs)
  • Meep-meep! (Road Runner of Looney Tunes)
  • Missed it! By that much! (Get Smart)
  • Never feed him after midnight. (Gremlins)
  • Not! (Wayne's World)
  • Nothing comes between me and my Calvins. (Calvin Klein commercial)
  • Nobody puts baby in the corner. (Dirty Dancing)
  • Not the mama! (Dinosaurs)
  • Now we do the dance of joy! (Balki of Perfect Strangers)
  • Oh, bother! (The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh)
  • Pardon me, do you have any Grey Poupon? (Grey Poupon mustard ad)
  • Punky power! (Punky Brewster)
  • Say hello to my little friend. (Scarface)
  • Say what? (Diff'rent Strokes)
  • Scooby-dooby-doo! (Scooby-Doo)
  • Someone's in trouble! (The Facts of Life)
  • Sorry 'bout that! (Get Smart)
  • Take off, eh! (Bob and Doug McKenzie of SCTV)
  • Talk amongst yourselves. (Saturday Night Live)
  • The power is yours! (Captain Planet)
  • The word of the day is... (Pee-wee's Playhouse)
  • Transform and roll out! (The Transformers)
  • Turtle power! (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • Well, I bet that the neighbors are just loving this! (Mama's Family)
  • Whatchu talkin' 'bout, Willis? (Diff'rent Strokes)
  • Who ya gonna call? Ghostbusters! (Ghostbusters)
  • Whoa, baby! (Full House)
  • You got it dude! (Full House)
  • You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. (The Incredible Hulk)

Sometimes phrases arise without an obvious origin. They might combine common terms (see “butt ugly”) or simply grow popular without a clear explanation.

  • Butt ugly - Really unattractive. “Her new perm is just butt ugly.”
  • Cheesy - Tacky or in poor taste. “Her chunky necklaces are so cheesy.”
  • Dweeb - Geek or nerd. “That dweeb had the nerve to ask me to prom!”
  • Grody - Disgusting. Really gross. “My little brother's room is grody to the max.”
  • Hoser - Insult meaning loser or jerk. “That dude is such a hoser.”
  • House music - Repetitive dance music, with roots in disco. “All they play at Club Eighties is house music.”
  • Let's do lunch - Yuppie phrase (see below) for meeting for lunch; sometimes said insincerely. “Mwah. I've missed you. Let's do lunch soon!”
  • Not even - A denial. “Do I have a crush on Troy? Not even!”
  • Party hardy - To party excessively. “We're gonna party hardy after the last day of school.”
  • Phat - Good, cool. “Those shoes are so phat.”
  • Poser - A wannabe. Someone who pretends to be part of the in-crowd. “That dude is such a poser.”
  • Preppy - Dressing in a collegiate, East coast manner. “That polo and those deck shoes make him look so preppy.”
  • Slam dance - A dance form that involved smashing into each other. “I've got bruises from slam dancing last night.”
  • Stud - A macho guy. “That surfer is such a stud.”
  • Sucks - Unfair or upsetting. “Getting grounded sucks.”
  • To the max - To an extreme. “Being grounded sucks to the max.”
  • Yuppie - Originally an acronym: YUP for “young urban professional.” “Yuppie” became a mildly derogatory term in the ‘80s, describing an educated, well-employed person but also implying shallowness and materialism. “Did you see those yuppies drive by in their Bimmers?”

For more, take a look at our exhaustive list of ‘80s slang.


Forever the ‘80s

As you can clearly see from this extensive list of ‘80s catchphrases, some of these words, fragments, and sentences remain frozen in time in the 1980s. It is also important to note that some phrases originated prior to the 1980s, but did not become popular catchphrases or weren’t widely repeated until that decade!

However, some phrases have traversed on forward into the 21st century, to the dismay of some and to the joy of others. Ready to explore the vocabulary of other decades? Check out our collections of 1950s slang, 1960s slang and 1970s slang. They’re totally rad.