Dee-dubs! Learn the teen lingo

Learn how to de­ci­pher ado­les­cent adages

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE -

Teen talk is so bad, it’s sick. A rough trans­la­tion, that means it’s great, if you’re a teenager. If you’re a par­ent, on the other hand, it is quite lit­er­ally bad – a for­eign lan­guage that leaves mums and dads ‘rid­ing the strug­gle bus’, as their teen-talk­ing kids might put it. And that is why Mark Leigh, a fa­ther of two teenagers, wrote the book on the sub­ject.


As a reg­u­lar cus­tomer at Star­bies (the ‘af­fec­tion­ate’ nick­name for the coffee chain Star­bucks), Leigh heard so much in­de­ci­pher­able teen slang, he de­cided an en­ter­tain­ing guide was needed.

So he re­searched (with the help of his teen chil­dren) and wrote How To Talk Teen, a “totes awe­some” dic­tio­nary of teen slang.

“Eaves­drop­ping on teenagers’ con­ver­sa­tions, I was just think­ing ‘What are they talk­ing about?’ I wanted to know what they meant,” Leigh ex­plains.


A great ex­am­ple of teenagers’ ut­ter lack of spo­ken ef­fort is term ‘BT dubs’. Clearly the phrase ‘by the way’ is far too long for teens to bother typ­ing or say­ing out loud - but, un­be­liev­ably, even acro­nym ‘BTW’ is ex­ces­sively lengthy for this age group. That fi­nal ‘W’ is three whole syl­la­bles and, quite frankly, say­ing all three is a waste of pre­cious teen time.

So the trou­ble­some ‘W’ is short­ened to the eas­ier, sin­gle­syl­la­ble slang ‘dubs’. Sorted. In a sim­i­lar lazy vein, a teenager might use the bizarre phrase, ‘Om, nom, nom’ when tasty food is men­tioned. This ono­matopoeic gem orig­i­nates from the Cookie Mon­ster in TV’s Sesame Street, who made the sound when munch­ing his favourite cook­ies, mean­ing some­thing is ap­petis­ing.


A ma­jor con­trib­u­tory fac­tor to teen speak is text and so­cial me­dia, and young peo­ple’s need to get their mean­ing across with a min­i­mum amount of typ­ing (and ef­fort). “They want to con­vey the most in­for­ma­tion in as short a space as pos­si­ble, be­cause they may have a lim­ited amount of char­ac­ters and also be­cause they just can’t be both­ered to type,” says Leigh. Part of the mo­ti­va­tion for us­ing teen slang is also for young peo­ple to show peers they know the words, and to prove they’re cool. “A lot of it is sub­ur­ban kids try­ing to look cool and get one over on their peers, es­pe­cially if they’re us­ing acronyms,” Leigh points out. One such acro­nym is HFFA, mean­ing ‘hot from far away’ - the closer a per­son gets, the more unattrac­tive they be­come. Leigh sug­gests the plethora of TV chan­nels and US shows now avail­able means US slang is more widely used today, and cir­cu­lated via so­cial me­dia, so it rapidly be­comes ac­cepted par­lance. “It’s a com­bi­na­tion of all these things com­ing to­gether, and it’s only go­ing to get bet­ter or worse, de­pend­ing on how you look at it,” warns Leigh.

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