Every generation has their own, unique way of influencing language, like creating slang that only their peers will understand. Today, as Gen Zers enter teenhood, many Xennials and Millennials will be hard-pressed to understand exactly what it is on earth they’re saying. With new cultural reference points and trending speaking styles coming from celebrities, shows and memes – basically, the internet – now may be the time to follow in Oprah and Gayle’s footsteps and freshen up on your teen slang.
So you can get down with the kids – linguistically, at any rate – Jennifer Dorman, Instructional Designer in Didactics at leading language app Babbel, shares some of the most popular teen slang today, along with definitions:
Skrrt: Rapidly leaving / expression of excitement
The easiest way to wrap your mind around this term is to think of the sound a car makes as it’s driving away at high speed, with its wheels screeching. It’s pronounced similarly to ‘skirt’, but usually in a high-pitched tone, and was first popularized in rap songs to convey the rapper trying to get away from something, or someone.
Waste man: Worthless person
A waste man is a negative term to refer to someone who makes poor decisions, acts poorly or is not doing much with their lives.
Finsta: Fake / Fun Instagram
This term is another attempt by teens to deceive their parents and was originally used to refer to a ‘fake Instagram’ account, which would be used for posts you don’t want your parents, or wider family, to see. The meaning has since grown to include any secondary or fake item, like a second Twitter account, or a secret phone.
Cancelled: No longer relevant
Frequently used when speaking about celebrities who are considered no longer relevant, or have said or done something unacceptable, “cancelled” can also refer to other things, from a fashion trend to an emotion. It’s thought that the term is a direct result of ‘subscription culture’, where anything can be cancelled at the click of a button.
Mans: In reference to someone
Although misleading, this term is not referring to the plural of ‘man’. It actually refers to anyone you want to talk about or when referring to yourself in third person. For example if you were hungry: “Mans is hungry”.
Tea: Juicy gossip
This is one of many current popular slang terms that originally came from black LGBTQ ball culture, eventually co-opted by Gen Z. When someone asks you to “spill the tea”, they’re asking for juicy gossip.
Mood: Something that is relatable, or a form of agreement
Surprisingly, this doesn’t refer to teenagers being moody! Instead, it’s used to confirm that something is relatable, or reflective of your own state. For example, commenting “big mood” on a meme of a sad Keanu would mean that you agree with the image and feel the same.
Flex: Showing off
If you are flexing, you are showing off. And your “flex” is your power move, whether you’ve earned the right to make one or not. Hence the phrase “weird flex, but okay”.
Shook: Shaken, surprised
When someone is “shook,” they are shaken (or shooketh) to their core (and they’re probably exaggerating for dramatic effect, to be fair).
Stan: To approve or endorse
To “stan” something or someone is to endorse or approve of them. This is actually a reference to the rather Gen X Eminem song, ‘Stan’, which is about an overly committed fan.
“Slang is, by definition, just informal language. In that sense, slang shouldn’t be considered “degraded language” but, rather, a variant of the predominant variety used by a community of speakers. From a sociolinguistic perspective, adolescents are generally the primary drivers of language change. They are more daring and creative with regard to language and they innovate much more than do speakers in other age brackets. This tendency to innovate language is part in parcel of the cognitive development that teenagers experience during adolescence, which sees them asserting their independence from their family unit and forging strong social connections with peers. Peppering their everyday speak with slang terms known primarily or exclusively within the peer group helps to solidify the new social bonds”, says Dorman.
Of course, if you’re already familiar with the above, you can challenge yourself and learn the same phrases in another language! Babbel, the world’s top-grossing language-learning app, got a complete makeover this summer with a fully refreshed and intuitive interface to visualize progress and motivate learners, individual content, custom learning paths, and more.