Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What did you say?

Every generation of teenagers manages to create their own language. And so we now have Earbaby's lexicon which she shares among her friends (and when she's in a good mood, her family).

EB has always had a flair for dramatic language. But now with her merry mix of friends who come from all over the city and look like the United Nations, she pulls phrases, slangs, and sayings from everywhere and I sometimes have to stop and ask "what exactly does that mean?"

Two of her favorite words these days are ratchet and basic. And you don't want to be either one.

"Ratchet," for those who don't have their urban dictionary handy, the word means the same as cheap, ghetto, low-class. Twerking a la Miley Cyrus and other teenagers, in which there is a lot of butt shaking and grinding, sometimes alone, sometimes with partners (hello Robin Thicke), well, that's low-class, skanky and ratchet. Finding someone's cheap hair weave on the floor of girls' bathroom is hilarious -- and ratchet. As are dirty bathrooms, mice found in lockers and other such cringe-inducing subjects EB and her friends mention about their surroundings, in and out of school.

Then there's basic. Think generic. EB has described a former friend as "basic" and although teens strive to conform, they also should have something that makes them unique. That's a delicate balance, but being basic, or like everyone else, means you bring nothing to the table and you're interchangeable with anyone else. And yet, sometimes EB dresses basic, leggings or skinny jeans, big shirt and Uggs boots. She dresses like everyone else, sometimes and will even joke, "I'm basic today."

Teenage language is ever evolving. I find it interesting that Oxford Dictionary just recognized "selfie" in the lexicon, meaning of course those photos everyone, and I mean just about everyone, takes of themselves.

Some words sneak into the regular language and that means that teens start looking again to redefine words. Sick and ill are actually good things for clothes, music, artists. Slice, burn, sizzle are all what happened when you get one-upped by a friend's witty remark. Most things are easily figured out by the context in which they're used, but I'm constantly listening closely and checking if I need an interpreter.

By the time EB is a parent, she will have forgotten the slang of her youth. I can't say I remember mine, although some words never go out of style. For instance, cool is always cool.

Between twitter, snapchat, instagram and all other social media which are quick hits, words are becoming more flexible in both their usage and meaning. And if you're not paying attention, you might have someone come at your neck, you'll be sliced and burned.

And a perfectly acceptable response to something you don't understand is still: "Huh?"

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