The Latest in Teen Slang: So Ill, So Fly, So Salty

The Latest in Teen Slang: So Ill, So Fly, So Salty

There is nothing more pathetic than parents of teenagers trying to speak their slang-uage. So I swear I was not attempting this the other night at dinner with our teenage daughters when I referred to someone’s style as “saucy.” Apparently saucy is making a linguistic comeback, so of course they think they made it up. I told them I’ve always liked “jaunty” too. This led 17 and 14 to decide I needed an emergency slang update, which I agreed to because although I don’t want to speak it, I do want to understand it and know if I am unwittingly speaking it, if you catch my drift.

The last time I got a slang update was a few years ago, when our eldest mentioned that a girl she used to be friends with was now “so emo,” and then had to explain to me what emo meant (black-clad emotionally intense and depressive kids who listen to music like that too). I had thought emo was a new kind of Furby, something electronic but soft.

Emo’s still used, but it’s old and therefore passé, like plain old English. “Epic” and “random” are kind of uncool and elementary school. “Uber,” “wicked,” and “sweet” (awesome, great, cool) are aging too. Fresh variations on great/cool (because isn’t there always a need for those?) include “sick,” or, newer and therefore better, “ill,” as in, “Those boots are ill!” I love these—it’s just so teenage to give a word an opposite meaning, they of the oppositional point of view. And then there’s “fly,” as in “He’s so fly…,” which when you hear it said in that dreamy tone you know what it means.

But my favorite might be “salty,” as in “Don’t get all salty on me!” which I deciphered in the old sailor meaning of dirty talking, but actually means having lots of (bad) attitude. The fact that they say this to each other, like parents admonishing their children, cracks me up. “Chillaxin,” of course, is a contraction of chillin’ and relaxing, which is a little redundant but not totally, and “dumb,” is the new “very” (“It’s dumb cold out today.”) In my girls’ circles, “ballin’” means awesome too (“That party was ballin’!”), but I’ve heard it can mean flaunting riches and, uh, something completely different, at least on Staten Island, where I come from.

My 17-year-old, an animal rights passive activist, wants people to start using “lemur” the way they do “dog” and “cat,” as another name for friend, as in “Don’t be talking about my dog,” and “All my cats are going to the show,” and now “Schuyler, you know you’re my lemur.” She thinks lemurs are under-recognized. Her 14-year-old sister is still trying to rally support for “drippin’,” yet another awesome/cool, which she got from a character named Michael on “Zoey 101″ (starring the younger Spears, Jamie Lynn, in her carefree days before motherhood):

Michael: That idea’s drippin!
Chase: It’s not gonna catch on!
Michael: Yes it will. Hey, hey, nerd! Would you say drippin?

Which to me is very “frindle” (the title of the Andrew Clements book, in which a bored boy makes up a new word for pen, and it catches on). That is to say, the drippin’ episode may be derivative.

I wanted to test my slang retention and so I took this quite lame and yet fun slang quiz on the Good Housekeeping site. No, I don’t usually frequent GH. It was just the first slang quiz I found. I did pretty well, because this was after my update session with the girls. Here’s what the quiz told me at the end:

“Congratulations, you’ve earned the title of coolest mom ever!” [Wow, really? Me? I'm feeling jaunty.] “You got most of them correct.” [That is ill.] “You are down with your teen’s lingo.” [I am not making this up.] “That’s a plus when you are trying to navigate through your adolescent’s world.” [How true.] “While you may be able to talk the talk, be careful not to overdo the walk.” [Huh?] “Nothing embarrasses a teenager more than a parent who is trying too hard.” [Except for one who dances in public.]

To wash the taste of that quiz out of my mouth, I had to go watch an old music video by The Shins, featuring their beautiful song, “New Slang.” Enjoy. I mean it.

Photo by big1992

Trisha is co-owner of Small Batch Books, a private publisher of memoirs and commemorative books. She also writes a weekly food blog for AOL’s KitchenDaily. Formerly, she was executive editor of Wonder more


  • Sehena

    I am never having kids! ever!

Follow Us