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I’m a Cool Mom: Spilling the Tea on Kids’ Slang

Jul 24, 2019

Gnarly! Gag me with a spoon! Grody to the max! The slang of my youth brings back oh so many memories.

Yes, in middle school I, like, totally aspired to be an ‘80s valley girl. What was a valley girl? I didn’t care. All I knew was that she was cool and I, like, needed to be her. I even owned the pocket manual Fer Shurr! How To Be a Valley Girl — Totally to help me learn all the required lingo. That book incidentally is now available on Amazon for a whopping $133 because it’s, gulp, so vintage.

Hot tip: never let on that you know what the slang means, and for your own sake, never ever try to use it.

Now I’m the parent, also known as an “old” who just doesn’t get what the kids are saying these days. I do, however, understand the desire to have words of your own generation. It’s a natural rite of passage that begins as soon as young people start revelling in freedom — away from their parents, hanging with friends.

I’ll be honest, at first I found my daughter’s gen-Z lingo a little annoying. As a parent, I’ve spent my fair share of time reading her books, correcting her grammar and generally investing in her overall grasp of the English language, not to mention French immersion. So when she came home dropping slang I’d never heard before, my instinct was to tell her that those weren’t real words and to stop using them. But then I flashed back to my bodacious days of permed hair and parachute pants, and I decided to let my backbone slide.

For those of you who are still trying to make sense of what your kids are saying, or for a little taste of your future, let me break it down for you. Hot tip: never let on that you know what the slang means, and for your own sake, never ever try to use it.


One Mom's POV On Swearing: I Let My Kid Say ‘F—K’ And It’s Not A ‘F—King’ Big Deal


Yeet

[noun, adjective, verb, adverb, exclamation]

A word meaning yes, or hello, throw, jump, toss — or just about everything else. Also can be texted ad nauseam. I had to promise to say in this article that my daughter no longer uses this word. These expressions are out as fast as they are in.


Tea

[noun]

Gossip usually shared among BFFs. Used in such expressions as, “spill the tea” or “what’s the tea?” It was popularized by drag culture — specifically black drag culture — and there is never any actual tea, because my kid and her friends are only 11.


Gucci

[adjective]

Derived from the fashion brand which no tween can afford. The word means good, but sometimes substitutes as a greeting. When you don’t know what else to say, just blurt out gucci! (Not you, parents! Remember my hot tip!)


Cringey

[adjective]

Meaning embarrassing. As in me writing this article about kid expressions is really cringey. At this age, pretty much everything is cringey.


Lit

[adjective]

When something is lit up or popping or generally just great. As in, “that sleepover was lit.” 


Thriving

[adjective] 

The word generally follows the Oxford dictionary definition, but the context is a little different. Sometimes it’s meant as sarcasm as in, "all I’ve eaten today is fish crackers so I’m totally thriving."


Salty

[adjective]

While this sounds like something my English great-grandmother would have said, apparently the kids think they’ve coined it. It’s generally used to reference when somebody is being nasty, but can also mean that someone is feeling upset. As in, “the end of Toy Story 4 is making me a little salty.”


One rule I have for this juvenile jargon is that it should be saved for friends. It’s not cute when teachers or grandparents have to hear that your child had a “gucci summer.” But aside from that, I try not to judge. Soon enough “yeet,” “cringey” and “gucci” will get replaced with grown up expressions like “circle back,” “bottom lines” and “blue sky thinking.” Until then, I say let them have a language of their own. In fact, I think it is totally tubular.

Article Author Laura Mullin
Laura Mullin

Read more from Laura here.

Laura Mullin is a published playwright and writer and the Co-Artistic Director of the award-winning company, Expect Theatre. She is also the Co-Host and Producer of PlayME, a podcast that transforms plays into audio dramas now on CBC. She has worked in theatre, film, and television and lives in Toronto with her writer/producer husband and pre-teen daughter. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @expectlaura.

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