Do you speak teen?

Most par­ents don’t un­der­stand a lot of what teenagers are say­ing, so here a lan­guage expert de­codes some of the more pop­u­lar and per­plex­ing teenage slang terms. By LISA SAL­MON

Gloucestershire Echo - - FAMILY MATTERS -

IF YOU have teenage chil­dren, chances are they lit­ter their speech with ever-evolv­ing words and phrases you just don’t un­der­stand. And then there are the acronyms teenagers use to seem­ingly speak in code.

But while it may be per­plex­ing for mums and dads, young people at­tach­ing their own mean­ing to words is noth­ing new.

“Slang is, by def­i­ni­tion, just in­for­mal lan­guage,” says Jen­nifer Dor­man, from the lan­guage app Babbel (

“Ado­les­cents are gen­er­ally the pri­mary driv­ers of lan­guage change – they’re more dar­ing and creative with re­gards to lan­guage, and they in­no­vate much more than speak­ers in other age brack­ets.”

Jen­nifer ex­plains that such lan­guage cre­ativ­ity is part of a teenager’s cog­ni­tive devel­op­ment, which sees them as­sert­ing their in­de­pen­dence from their fam­ily and forg­ing strong so­cial con­nec­tions with peers. So when a teenager uses a slang term in the cor­rect con­text, it shows their af­fil­i­a­tion with a spe­cific group, or even a gang.

“Pep­per­ing their every­day speech with slang terms known pri­mar­ily or ex­clu­sively within the peer group helps to so­lid­ify the new so­cial bonds,” says Jen­nifer.

But if you’re not part of the gang and are ‘just’ a parent, you may need help trans­lat­ing teen-speak, so here Jen­nifer ex­plains some of the most pop­u­lar teen slang:

POS · Par­ents over shoul­der

To­day’s teen will use the POS ab­bre­vi­a­tion to sig­nal that a parent is near and can see what’s be­ing typed on a de­vice. Other ab­bre­vi­a­tions in­clude PWOS (par­ents watch­ing over shoul­der) and PWOMS (par­ents watch­ing over my shoul­der).

skrrt · Rapidly leav­ing/ ex­pres­sion of ex­cite­ment

The easiest way to un­der­stand 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 pop­u­larised in rap songs, to con­vey the rap­per try­ing to get away from some­thing.

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 thing, like a sec­ond Twit­ter ac­count, or a se­cret phone.

can­celled · No longer rel­e­vant

Spot­ted by the New York Times al­most a year ago, this one has since made its way across the pond.

It’s fre­quently used when speaking about celebri­ties who’re con­sid­ered no longer rel­e­vant, or have said or done some­thing un­ac­cept­able, but it can also re­fer to other things – from a fashion trend through to an emo­tion.

It’s thought the term is a di­rect re­sult of ‘sub­scrip­tion cul­ture’, where any­thing can be can­celled at the click of a but­ton.

OBNR · Open, but not re­sponded

This is an ex­am­ple of text slang, which typ­i­cally refers to a mes­sage that’s been seen, but not re­sponded to. You might be sur­prised by how many text ab­bre­vi­a­tions there are,

but the real­ity is that teens are ad­dicted to their phones – a Babbel sur­vey found that in the UK, 44% of teens use their phones while on the toi­let.

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’s re­late­able/ a form of agree­ment

Sur­pris­ingly, this doesn’t re­fer to teenagers be­ing moody. In­stead, this is a term used to con­firm some­thing is re­late­able, or re­flec­tive of your own state. For ex­am­ple, com­ment­ing ‘big mood’ on a meme would mean that you agree with the im­age and feel the same.

flex · Show­ing off

If you’re flex­ing, you’re 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

If some­one is ‘shook,’ they’re shaken (or shooketh) to their core (and prob­a­bly ex­ag­ger­at­ing for dra­matic ef­fect).

stan · To ap­prove or en­dorse

To ‘stan’ some­thing or some­one is to en­dorse or ap­prove of them. This is ac­tu­ally a ref­er­ence to the Eminem song Stan, about an overly com­mit­ted fan.

bare · Very

‘Bare’ is used to add em­pha­sis. If some­thing is de­scribed as ‘bare good’, then you’d as­sume it’s very good or excellent. It can also be used to im­ply there’s a lot of some­thing. In this in­stance you might say ‘bare people’.

beef · To be en­gaged in an ar­gu­ment/ have a dis­agree­ment

To ‘have beef’ is to have an ar­gu­ment with some­one, or to be hold­ing a grudge against them. If some­one’s fallen out with a friend, they might say they ‘have beef’ with them.

al­low · Stop it, don’t do that/i don’t want to

Con­trary to the stan­dard dic­tio­nary def­i­ni­tion of ‘al­low’, the slang ver­sion is used to ex­press a neg­a­tive opin­ion or an un­will­ing­ness to do some­thing. The phrase ‘al­low that’ is of­ten used to say no to some­thing, or ex­press an­noy­ance.

For ex­am­ple, if you ask a teenager to come to the supermarke­t, you’ll prob­a­bly get ‘al­low that’ as a re­sponse, in­di­cat­ing they don’t want to.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion break­down: Slang terms and the rise of text speak means talk­ing to your child can be a frus­trat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

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