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Time goes by way too quickly and nothing makes that more glaringly obvious than when talking to someone who is in a different generation, and they have no idea what you’re talking about. For example, asking your kid to “change the channel” or “hang up the phone” will likely elicit a perplexed expression — and that’s just the beginning.

A viral Reddit thread posted in r/NoStupidQuestions highlights these lost and out-of-date phrases, and it’s absolutely hilarious. Reddit user u/2bornnot2b posed the question: “What are phrases that were common in the ‘80s and ‘90s but people born after [the] 2000s will not understand?” and thousands of comments rolled in. The thread is full of simple phrases and more obscure references that are a historical nod to pop culture in the 80s and 90s and leave Gen-Z absolutely baffled.

Spoiler alert: A lot of these are about phones.

“You have a collect call from HiMomComePickUsUp”

Pay phones required you to have money to make a call, unless you called collect which charged the person you were calling to pay for the use of the phone. Kids and parents got creative to circumvent the cost while still using the service.

“Hello and welcome to movie phone! If you know the name of the movie you’d like to see, press 1! To hear from a list of current movies, press 2!”

Before the internet, if we wanted to know what theaters were playing which movies, Moviefone, an automated system, was the way to do it. Kramer pretending to be this service in Seinfeld is peak 90s.


The Redditor explained that phat, meaning “Pretty Hot and Tempting,” and “pronounced just like ‘fat,’ ” was different back in the day. “There was a song where the lyrics said ‘Phat like Cindy Crawford’ and kids from the 90s had to tell the adults of our era that we weren’t implying that Cindy Crawford was fat, but rather that she was awesome,” they explained.

The song with those lyrics? That would be “Hey Leonardo (She Likes Me for Me)” by Blessid Union of Souls.

“It’s 10 pm. Do you know where your children are?”

This phrase from a Public Service Announcement played for decades to remind parents that it’s late, and if their kids are out, they’re probably up to no good. It played just before the evening news at 10 pm or 11 pm

“You’ve got mail!”

When email was brand new, our computers would play this phrase when we had a new AOL email.

“Here’s a quarter. Call someone who cares.”

An insult you’d hurl at someone when you didn’t care about what they were saying, the quarter referencing the cost of using a pay phone.

“If you are calling from a touch-tone phone, press 1”

Automated phone messages these days are different than in the 80s and 90s. Gen-Z likely has no idea what a “touch-tone” phone is — a phone with buttons versus the older version rotary phones.

I’ll page you!”

Before cell phones and texting, the coolest thing to have was a pager, a small device that only displayed numbers. You’d call the pager (sometimes called a beeper) number, and after the beep, you’d enter a number—either your phone number or a secret code between you and the person you called.

“Smoking or non?”

Smoking cigarettes was far more common in the ’80s and ’90s, and when you went to eat at a restaurant, the host seating you would ask if you wanted to sit in the smoking section or the non-smoking section, which essentially the only difference was whether there was an ashtray on the table.

“That concludes our broadcast day.”

Before streaming services were a thing, TV stations wouldn’t broadcast all day. In the very early hours, like 3 am or so, the TV station would announce the broadcast day is over, and all you’d see after is the SMPTE color bars for a few hours.

You can read the entire Reddit thread and all the responses here.