Lost in translation

Recently I added a new term to my vocabulary: “Whatevs.” I started doing this after I heard my 13-year-old and her friends saying it. They also use words like “stan”, “ship”, “awks”, and “bruh”. I don’t know what all of these words mean, although I have an inkling – sometimes. Sometimes I flat out don’t know what they’re saying, and it bothers me.

It bothers me because it reminds me that there was a time when I walked around making the shape of an L on my forehead with my thumb and forefinger, baffling my mother in the process. I also used words like “sick”, which meant “cool”, and “word”, which meant “yes”, and “Talk to the hand”, which meant, “Leave me alone.” There was one point when my mother banned me from saying “Doh!” like Homer Simpson. Because I did that, too.

And now my kids are paying me back. My seven-year-old is saying this stuff, too. He and his friends have conversations in their own vernacular, which completely confuses me but which the three-year-old seems to understand, because she tries to interject her own thoughts in her own little language (which I also don’t fully understand). Basically, my kids are speaking in a foreign language and I need a translator.

Last night I googled “teenage slang” and read a list of the words my kids are using, and none of it made sense until I got to the final word on the list: “Hangry.” I know this one! It’s a portmanteau of “hungry” and “angry” and I experience this feeling quite a bit, myself. Then I googled “hangry” and learned that it was coined in 1918, so my kids think they’re so original and trendy but they’re using a slang term that originated over a century ago. That made me laugh pretty hard. So hard that my 13-year-old came into the room.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked.
“Talk to the hand, bruh,” replied.

Katherine Granich

Editor, Tots to Teens

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