Oh behave! Austin Powers is finally legal. Eighteen years ago today, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery was released. In the movie, that cunning linguist Mike Myers does more than send up James Bond—he sends up British and ‘60s slang, real and otherwise. Here are 10 of the swingingest.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines shagadelic as sexy in a psychedelic way, as well as a “general term of approval.” The word was probably coined in the Austin Powers movie.
Shagadelic combines shag, to copulate, and psychedelic, hallucinatory or trippy. While psychedelic is from the 1950s, shag is much older. The OED’s earliest citation is from 1770 and is from Thomas Jefferson of all people: “He had shagged his mother and begotten himself on her body.” (This quote might be in regards to a legal case involving slander. At least, we sure hope it is.)
The copulation sense of shag might come from an earlier meaning, “to toss about.”
The film opens in 1960s swinging London, when everyone and everything is uninhibited, lively, and hip. This sense of swinging, which originated in the late 1950s, probably comes from a slightly earlier jazz term, referring to a musician who plays with swing, as in the style of big band.
Swinging in regards to sexual promiscuity originated in the mid-1960s, as such things do.
You can’t have swing without groove, baby. Like swinging, groovy began as jazz slang—although about 20 years earlier, in the 1930s—and has a similar meaning: playing in a brilliant and effortless way. The word groovy comes from the phrase, in the groove, which has the same meaning.
What groove you might be asking? The groove on a vinyl record perhaps, with the idea of a record playing smoothly and not skipping or scratching.
“Don’t have a thrombo!” Austin tells Vanessa. Thrombo, slang for a fit of rage, is short for thrombus, or a blood clot. While some dictionaries cite 2002 as the year of origin for thrombo, it’s obviously at least as old as this 1997 movie.
Another British slang term for a fit of anger is eppie, which is short for "epileptic fit."
5. HOW'S YOUR FATHER
“I like to give my undercarriage a bit of a how's-your-father,” says Austin. Translation: I like to have sex.
How’s your father was originally Cockney rhyming slang for lather, a state of agitation: “After the row, he was in a bit of a how’s your father.” But the phrase gained a bawdier connotation when, in the early 20th century, British comedian Harry Tate would break off in the middle of a potentially suggestive speech to address an audience member: “How’s your father?” Soon the phrase became a euphemism for sex.
6., 7., 8., AND 9. J. ARTHUR RANK, MY OLD CHINA, PORK PIES, AND CRIMBO
This example of Cockney rhyming slang is just one in a hilarious exchange in the third Austin Powers installment, Goldmember. J. Arthur Rank was a British industrialist, a serious-sounding occupation for a guy whose name is rhyming slang for wank, or masturbate.
Another term used in the Goldmember exchange is my old China, or my old mate, where China equals china plate, and plate rhymes with mate.
“Are you telling a bunch pork-pies and a bag of trout?” Austin asks. Pork-pies are lies, and although we couldn’t find a reference for bag of trout, we're guessing the phrase means lies or malarkey too.
“Don’t you remember the Crimbo din-din?” Austin's dad asks. Crimbo is British slang for Christmas while din-din is more obviously dinner.
10. WEDDING TACKLE
Like bits and pieces, meat and two veg, and twig and berries, wedding tackle is a euphemism for male genitalia. Tackle, which refers to any piece of equipment, also means penis. If wedding tackle weren’t slangy enough, Cockney rhyming slang for the phrase is witch’s cackle.
“Bring on the fembots!” Frau Farbissinia screams.
The word fembot, a female robot, has been around at least since the 1970s, according to the OED, and may have made its debut in a 1976 episode of The Bionic Woman. In the episode, a scientist replaces six secretaries at the Office of Scientific Intelligence with six deadly fembots. Later, apparently, the fembots go to Las Vegas.
“Smoke started coming out of their jubblies,” Austin says of the fembots. While jubbly came to refer to a woman’s breasts in the early 1990s, it originated in the '70s as Australian slang for something plump or fleshy, like the stomach or buttocks, and eventually came to describe a woman with large breasts.
Where the word comes from is unclear. It could be imitative of the movement of a fleshy body part, or it might come from the word jub, which is a jug for holding wine or liquor. The word jugs is also slang for a woman’s breasts.
When Austin is attacked by the fembots, he works his mojo to counter their mojo and gets “crossed mojonations,” resulting in exploding fembot heads.
Cross-mojonation plays on the term cross-pollination, the transfer of pollen from one flower to another, or else influence between diverse elements, as in different music genres. The word mojo, which might have African origins, first came into English in the 1920s. Originally referring to magical power or voodoo, the word more recently came to mean any kind of power or influence, including sexual.
By the 1930s, mojo was slang for any drug, especially morphine, and by the 1980s, it also referred to a Cuban sauce with garlic, olive oil, and citrus fruit. This latter meaning ultimately comes from the Spanish mojar, “to wet.”