17 Phrases Older People Use That No One Else Gets

Written By Jill Taylor

Each and every generation has its own phrases and sayings that separate it from the rest, and the boomers certainly have plenty. Discover 17 popular boomer phrases that aren’t often used today and what they mean. Maybe you’ll want to bring some of them back!

“What’s on the Boob Tube?”

Photo Credit: adriaticfoto/Shutterstock.com.

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, people began to call television the “boob tube.” The tube part of the phrase referred to the giant tubes that would come out of old-fashioned TVs. According to Merriam-Webster, the words boob and tube “were combined based on the notion that much of what is viewed on television is either foolish or geared toward foolish people, also known as the booboisie.”

“Wig Chop”

Photo Credit: Freeograph/Shutterstock.

Instead of saying, “It’s time for a haircut,” boomers would often say, “It’s time for a wig chop!” We don’t quite know why this was, but people in the ‘50s onwards would use this phrase frequently among friends. Why not bring the attention-grabbing phrase back and use it yourself next time you need a trim?

“Bite the Bullet”

Photo Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.

To bite the bullet means to face up to something difficult or unpleasant. The phrase is said to originate from the old practice of patients biting a bullet during surgery to cope with pain. It’s used to encourage people to muster up the courage to tackle challenges head-on.

“Catch You on the Flip Side”

Photo Credit: New Africa/Shutterstock.

Another way to say “see you later” or “talk to you soon,” “catch you on the flip side” is kind of like imagining yourself chatting with someone on an old-school vinyl record, and when the song is over (on the A-side), you’ll catch them on the flip side (the B-side). It’s a fun and quirky way to say goodbye that harks back to when vinyl records were a popular way to listen to music.

“Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket”

Photo Credit: fizkes/Shutterstock.

You may have heard this phrase before, but if you’re not a boomer, you likely haven’t used it yourself. It means not to risk everything on one venture. According to Poem Analysis, the phrase first came to be in the 17th century, though boomers used it frequently to emphasize the value of prudence and forethought.

“Close, But No Cigar”

Photo Credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock.

This once-popular phrase means nearly achieving a goal but ultimately falling short. It’s said to originate from carnival games where cigars were given as prizes for near successes. The saying was commonly used as a lighthearted acknowledgment of effort and near success.

“Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”

Photo Credit: Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock.

The Idioms states that this phrase “is considered as one of the oldest idioms of old English language.” It’s said to have been first used in 1546, though it became increasingly popular in the boomer era. The phrase means that it’s hard to change someone’s established behavior or beliefs, and is sometimes used self-deprecatingly nowadays by boomers about their own adaptability.

“The Early Bird Catches the Worm”

Photo Credit: Motortion Films/Shutterstock.

Another popular boomer-era phrase, “the early bird catches the worm” means those who get an early start to the day will reap benefits. It harks back to an agricultural society where early risers succeeded and reflects the boomer generation’s work ethic and drive.

“In a Pickle”

Photo Credit: Alice Day/Shutterstock.

To be in a pickle means to be in a difficult or challenging situation. As shared by The Phrase Finder, “The ‘in trouble’ meaning of ‘in a pickle’ was an allusion to being as disoriented and mixed up as the stewed vegetables that made up pickles.” The phrase is a whimsical way of acknowledging a tricky predicament.

“Mind Your Ps and Qs”

Man discussing with old man
Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

You may have heard your boomer parent or grandparent use this phrase. It means to be on one’s best behavior and possibly originates from bartenders reminding patrons to watch their alcohol consumption. Essentially, the phrase is a reminder to be polite and behave appropriately.

“You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too”

Photo Credit: DenisProduction.com/Shutterstock.

One of the more commonly used boomer phrases today, this one means that you can’t have everything; compromises are necessary. The saying emphasizes that decisions often involve trade-offs and expresses practicality and the need to prioritize. Consider using it yourself next time someone you know is struggling to compromise!

“Hang Loose”

Photo Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.

To “hang loose” means to relax, let go, and live in the moment. The phrase is a reminder not to take things too seriously and emphasizes the laid-back attitude of the boomer generation. The phrase was commonly associated with Hawai’i and surf culture, often accompanied by a hand signal.

“Sock it to Me”

Photo Credit: Shutterstock.

This phrase was popularized by “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” a 1960s TV show in which Goldie Hawn would often use it. It indicates readiness for something, or “do your worst,” and is often used humorously. It became a catchphrase at the time, symbolizing the whimsical humor of the era.

“Bug Out”

Photo Credit: Paul Burr/Shutterstock.

Telling someone to “bug out” means that they should leave quickly or escape. It was originally military slang that spread to general use. When was it used? Typically, to describe a hasty departure from an uncomfortable situation. The phrase is not commonly said today.

“Chrome Dome”

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.

This is a playful reference to a bald man. Emerging from a time when colloquial language was rife with lighthearted insults, this term reflects the era’s humor and communication style. While it might sound harsh to younger ears, it was often used among friends in a teasing, affectionate manner.

“Far Out”

Photo Credit: Andrii Iemelianenko/Shutterstock.

The phrase “far out” was used for something excellent or unbelievable and symbolizes the hippie culture’s influence on boomer slang. Rooted in the psychedelic culture of the ‘60s and ‘70s, it conveys enthusiasm and approval, much like today’s “awesome” or “amazing.” It has fallen out of common usage in modern times, but you could always try to bring it back!

“Getting Fried”

Photo Credit: Budimir Jevtic/Shutterstock.

Boomers would use this phrase to describe getting high on drugs or being very drunk. It represents the casual and often hedonistic attitudes toward substance use of the era. However, the saying is less common in today’s vernacular, reflecting changing attitudes toward drug use.