Your ’90s Slang of Choice is Telling

When I first moved to the Bay Area, I was continually assaulted with this word I had not heard since I was… much younger (stop trying to guess my age, asshole): hella. I rolled my eyes, thought, What is this, the ’90s? to myself, and inwardly judged everyone I heard using it.

Hella, in case you haven’t spent much time in the Bay (or other areas of the country that still use it), is somehow able to be used as all parts of speech. It’s a tricky word, sneaking into your psyche until, after hearing and judging its’ spewing forth from the mouths of others continually, there comes the day when, unbidden, it leaves your mouth, and you realize you have been assimilated. I used it just the other day. Yes, I am a hypocrite.

But I also judge people much less for using this word, since I have realized that every area seems to have it’s ’90s slang word that has never left.

In the Metro Detroit area, where I’m from, it’s “bitch.”

Like the unassuming everyman, just blindly going through her day, I was blithely unaware that this was the case, until I had an argument with my husband. This time, it was over his taking the rest of the coffee I had made and not brewing a fresh pot. I had only had 1 cup so far for the day, and for those who incorrectly think I’m a normal person, let me assure you – I am a raging psychotic until I’ve had a few cups of coffee in me. I like to sit in complete silence until the caffeine level in my bloodstream gets high enough, like Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman, but without all the push-ups. So while my flabby arms are in no way, shape, or form at all intimidating, the fury escaping my person as I fumed and grinded fresh coffee beans, got more water, retrieved a filter from beneath the coffee island was ridiculous. So, once I had consumed a couple additional cups of coffee and was once more safe to approach, my husband apologized, saying he realized Terry Tate would have tackled him.

If you’re saying: “… who? … what?,” I was in the same boat.

So we went to the internet, where half of our arguments are resolved (ahem: only one space is required after a period; two spaces is leftover from the days when everyone used typewriters…) or our pop culture knowledge is strengthened and shared. As YouTube will show you, Terry Tate was a football player (actual name: Lester Speight, T-squared is a fictional character) in the ’90s/early 2000’s who did commercials for Reebok where he used football maneuvers to handle common office problems (… like taking the rest of the coffee and not brewing a fresh pot). In addition to having abs for days (… yum!), this character is a funny reminder to, like, not be a dick, and guess what one of his slang terms is…

So, yes, watching old commercials with Terry Tate caused me to have a moment of self-realization and reflection, and I realized that – surprise, surprise, I am an asshole. I mean, I kind of already knew that, but in this case, I am an asshole for judging people constantly (constantly!) using “hella” in conversation in the Bay Area, when I still consistently use “bitch” in my own non-professional conversation with people I trust.

I remember having a conversation with someone from Boston, and asking what their word was – “wicked.” Not, like, “… witch of the west,” more like “wicked awesome.”

As a result of everything just detailed above, I have a theory that, whether you know it or not, your regular vocabulary includes a ’90s slang word that tells people where you’re from. If you use “hella,” you’re probably from the Bay. “Bitch” is Detroit. “Wicked” is Boston. Help me expand my geographical knowledge of America via ’90s slang vocabulary – those of you from other areas of the US, what is your ’90s slang word?

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