How The Clueless Director Came Up With Such Iconic Slang

Cher looking at her report card

If there's one decade that has found a resurgence in popularity recently, it's the 1990s. With the trend of nostalgia resulting in major money and tons of reboots, 90s culture seem to be given new life. Clueless is one of the most iconic movies of the decade, catapulting Alicia Silverstone into superstardom and changing the lexicon of 90s teenagers. Accomplished filmmaker Amy Heckerling wrote and directed the comedy, where she developed the original slang that Cher and her gaggle of pals used throughout the movie. So how exactly did she come up with their lingo? It turns out, it was some hard work.

Amy Heckerling has discussed Clueless quite a bit lately, as the film recently screened in Los Angeles. When speaking with, she revealed the almost educational approach she took to developing the movie's slang, saying:

I compiled a dictionary. The thing is, every time you have to say, 'Oh my God, I love that!' or 'It's amazing' or 'It's wonderful,' that adjective tells you what social strata you are in, what year you were born, where you live. That goes on constantly. It has evolved and changed, because a lot of stuff is texted. And because of television. There is a flattening out It is less local. Still, it exists in any group of outcasts, whether Cockneys, in prison or a girls' school. They always have their own separate stuff. If you have a few friends, you develop phrases and words. Even between me and my editor, because we both know my movies and we know the dialogue so well.

It turns out that it takes a lot of intelligence to make such a ditzy set of characters. But the common vocabulary shared between characters like Cher, Dionne, and Tai helped make Clueless such an iconic and beloved movie. And while the slang has changed through the years, the film still holds up because of how curated the dialogue was.

Clueless featured some pretty specific references and quotable lines that managed to help it stand out. For instance, attractive men and women were referred to as Baldwins and bettys respectively. And the ditzy characters often recited nuanced and complicated thoughts, while also referencing whatever trivial teenage problems they were having. As Brittany Murphy's Tai says "You guys talk like grown ups", while also featuring plenty of pop culture references.

Speaking of Tai, her juxtaposition and speaking pattern made for another excellent aspect of the dialogue and slang. The late actress exaggerated her natural accent, and would use more typical street slang for the 90s. Eventually Cher helps change her vocabulary and accent, mimicking the protagonist, and not just sporadically.

As Clueless continues to age like a fine wine, we'll have Amy Heckerling's detail oriented work to thank. I'm kvelling!

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.