There are days I just sit and stare at my son, baffled by some of the sentences or words that leave his mouth. There was a time when “legit” rolled off of his lips as frequently as “mom.” Then there was “this is lit” and now he’s into the word “bruh” — a word he even uses when he talks to his five-year-old twin sisters. I mean, I get the meaning of bruh, or “bro” as I knew it before, but why use it to talk to your sisters?
I blame it on YouTube. I blame it on the internet. I blame social media for why half the words that come out of my son’s mouth sound like a foreign language. And the kicker, at the end of it all, he usually says, “You just don’t understand, mom.” He uses the tone that only a teenager reminding us of how out of touch we are can muster — like when I didn’t get why he kept saying “salty.”
While I do not understand some of them, I’ve found myself actually using some of them, namely the word legit, in my own life. I am often mortified after the word has left my mouth, but if it’s said within earshot of my son, I gain a few cool points back, and so can you! Teenage slang is not new, of course — we used it too, and I’m sure our folks felt equally clueless at times — but it has definitely changed over the years. Now, it’s our job to keep up, not only for the cool points but to also bond a bit more with our teens. (And because we really just need to know what the heck they’re saying.)
There is so much to keep up with when we have teenagers, so much to stay ahead of, and learning their lingo can be last on the list. But there is help out there in the form of a full-on guide of teenage slang. It can be exhausting; I was way late in learning what “FOMO” meant, for example, and now there’s “squad” … not like “mom squad,” but their friend group. Gone are the words like “gnarly” or “duh” — simple, understandable words, no? But these words like “fleek” “Hundo P” and “FOMO” are harmless, just like the words from our childhoods in the ’80s and ’90s.
We are living during a more “woke” time not only as parents but as teenagers. We have kids who care about what is happening in the world and their lingo reflects that. And then there are terms that we should especially know as a way to create open dialogue with our kids when something just seems off with them. I’ve been in the habit of asking my son about slang I don’t understand. Like, “low-key” — that one was new for me, as many of my son’s words have been as of late, and so we had a conversation about it. Afterward I felt old and mildly out of touch, but that’s not something I shared with him (and that’s okay — they don’t need further confirmation of how uncool we are).
In “Teen Slang: The Complete Parent’s Guide,” the authors note, “While many expressions are innocent and even hilarious some should catch our eye as parents. They are not necessarily wrong, but they show that your teen may be involved in activities that require more maturity and advice from you as their parent. Many warning expressions involve dating or interest in new relationships. Some of these terms also reveal that your teen is experiencing some type of emotional turmoil or stress within their friendships or lifestyle. While you may not necessarily need to intervene, it’s always wise to at least be aware of what your teen is experiencing.”
The takeaway here is that we must keep the lines of communication open with our hip youngster (even though nobody says “hip” any more, probably) every step of the way, even when they might push us away – er, refuse to “spill the tea.”
My son really wants a “bae” and doesn’t understand why we won’t exactly let him quite yet. For now, as his parents, we will teach him how to be the best “bruh” he can be before he is given the “bae” of his dreams and not “throw any shade” at his approach. Until then, like generations of befuddled parents before us, we will try to keep up with the ever-changing word landscape that our teens are growing up with.