Language supposedly evolves over time. I’m not sure that’s true of English. It’s a complex, ridiculous language. What other spoken dialect forces new speakers to navigate the differences between tough, dough, plough, and through?
I think English was in its prime in the early 17th century. Shakespeare and the King James Version of the Bible were both published during this time, and lovers of the English language still look to those works today for their beauty. English continued to play at a high level until the turn of the 20th century, when it lost a few steps. It stumbled around for a century until the invention of texting and social media in the early 2000’s. And then, it’s as if English decided to start drinking and give up. 140 character bites butchered resplendent prose. Capitalization, punctuation, and basic syntax were given their pink slips. Literature has suffered from English’s decline. How else do you explain tripe such as Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray being considered literary classics alongside Moby Dick and Lord of the Rings?
I’m no English expert. Heck, this post may have a few errors. But I’m certainly not going to send my teen a text that says, “c u n a few”. All I know is that today’s parents are raising the next generation of English saboteurs. Our teens are expert tweeters and texters. They’ve invented new slang terms that leave us old folks born before the late ‘80’s flummoxed (our teens have no clue what flummoxed means).
As the dad of a teen, I find it more difficult with each passing moment to communicate coherently with her. When she uses one of these slang terms and I ask, “What does that mean?” I’m more often met with eye rolls than explanations. She did, however, agree to help me understand several of the latest slang terms so that I no longer look like a deer in the headlights when she speaks. So, here are five slang terms you must know if you’re to have any hopes of understanding your teen.
Definition: something that’s perfect. “On fleek” originated on Vine, where a girl used the phrase to describe her eyebrows. From there, it spread like the Black Death through Medieval Europe. Your teen may also use the related term, “on point.” “On fleek” is usually used in such a way where the thing described is indeed perfect, but the user of the phrase and the audience realize how ridiculous the phrase “on fleek” is, and thus the result is laughter.
Correct Usage: “Sarah’s eyebrow game is on fleek.”
Incorrect Usage: “These quarterly earnings spreadsheets are on fleek.”
If you wish to embarrass your teen, use this phrase frequently in conversation in front of their friends to describe anything—even if it’s not perfect. “Wow, that One Direction band is on fleek, aren’t they, honey?” This will always result in your teen rolling his or her eyes and shouting dramatically that you’ve ruined his or her life.
Definition: one’s clique or group of close friends.
Correct Usage: “Squad” is primarily an online term. Your teen may post a picture of his or her friends and tweet, “Hangin’ with squad.”
Incorrect Usage: “Your mom and I are part of the squad, right?”
Teens never use the definite article with this term. It is simply squad. And family is never squad. Should you use this term to describe your family, your teen will issue a counter-term for you: weirdo.
Definition: Crush, boyfriend, girlfriend, and less often, a close friend. May stand for “before anyone else,” or possibly an abbreviated version of “babe.”
Correct usage: “Bae is looking good tonight.”
Incorrect usage: Calling your daughter Bae. Don’t do it. Ever.
I wonder what people do with all that spare time they gain by omitting the “b” from “babe”? That, and if any boy thinks it’s a good idea to call one of my girls “bae,” I have a better idea for them: get off my porch before I remove you from my porch. With my chainsaw.
Definition: (1) Gen-Xers use this term to describe someone who is extremely intoxicated. (2) Teens usually use the term to describe something that’s amazing.
Correct usage: “The concert’s going to be so lit.”
Incorrect usage: “Doing laundry—it’s lit!”
If my daughter ever comes home Gen-X lit from a Millennial-lit party, her social game won’t be any-kind-of-lit for weeks.
Definition: someone who is only interested in things that are currently mainstream, trendy, and popular. Spawned the phrases basic b!tch and basic bro.
Correct Usage: “She’s so boring and basic.”
Incorrect Usage: “This is so awesome and basic.”
So let me get this straight: if you’re not into alternative pop culture, then you’re basic. But if everyone’s into alternative pop culture, then wouldn’t it be mainstream? Then everyone would be basic, right? Oh, teenaged conundrums…
There’s an ocean of teen slang terms floating around Twitter and in our kids’ texts, but my brain hurts from trying to understand just these five. I guess I’m just getting older. Things are no longer “rad”, and they’re certainly not “far out.” Yes, sometimes I think it would be easier to understand Chewbacca than teen English, but communicating with your teen is worth the effort.
Even when we’re not on fleek.
Aaron Saufley, author of ‘The Jumbo Shrimp Gospel’ and ‘Deep Roots’, is a husband and dad who happens to moonlight as a hospice chaplain and preacher. He thinks Netflix is the greatest human invention next to pizza. He loves hanging out with his family, and when he has the time he also enjoys writing, a good cigar, craft root beer, smoking a mean rack of baby backs, movies, and trying not to die while running. Follow Aaron on Twitter.