Slang puts space between generations

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Far out! Only a jive turkey would pass up the chance to read the Huffington Post article “14 Teen Slang Terms Decoded For Middle-Age Parents.”

Some of the slang terms were fairly innocuous acronyms, such as OOTD (Outfit of the Day), PAP (Post A Picture) and GOAT (Greatest Of All Time); but phrases such as THOT and “Netflix and chill” are a little too risqué for me to discuss in this forum. (Check them out for yourself online.)

On the plus side, articles such as the Huffington piece give parents a fighting chance at making sense of their kids’ texts, both for the sake of clear interfamily communications and for the purpose of spying on the little darlings.

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Of course some parents would rather remain blissfully ignorant of any signs that their babies are growing up and facing decisions about illegal substances and physical intimacy. (“I’d love to snoop on Junior’s smartphone, but it’s been a whole week since I had a colonoscopy and I really need to schedule another…”)

Sociologists tell us that slang is a way for teens to put space between themselves and their parents’ generation. Does that even work? Usually we get more of a blending of eras, as when doting parents observe ambitious teens achieving the Nobel Prize-worthy goal of shrinking “relationship” to “ship” and say, “Poor little tyke is plumb tuckered out.”

Fine. Give teens 10 years and they’ll be trying to DECREASE the space. (“Hey, favorite empty-nesters, do you think I could crash in the basement for five or 10 years?”) Give them 30 years and they’ll be trying to put space between themselves and cholesterol, mortgage balloon payments, ear hair and their own kids’ college tuition.

If teens are really so embarrassed by their folks’ musical tastes, clothing and technological cluelessness, perhaps parents should double down and create their own acronyms to embarrass their teens in front of their peers. Off the top of my head, I can think of IBYBB (I Brought Your Baby Book) and SIWYBTCFYLS (Sweetie, I Washed Your Bra That Compensates For Your Left Side).

I would caution parents against learning teen slang solely in order to be The Cool Parent. For one thing, hot phrases expire even faster than that $50 casual dining gift card you forgot was in your wallet. For another, actions speak louder than words. You could be the Cool Parent even if you said, “Prithee, let us ply thee and thy confidantes with a veritable endless supply of free intoxicants.”

Language evolves, but not everyone is onboard. As one of my high school English teachers might say, “Language is fluid — but so is the specimen I just gave at the hospital, and I’d rather not see that splashed across the media, either.”

I try to stay neutral in the slang controversy. Oh, sure, back in the day I sometimes used phrases such as “He’s a spaz” or “Right on,” and I dated a girl who said, “Grody to the max” — but I assure you those words were all used in their loftier context from Shakespeare’s sonnets and the Sermon On The Mount.

I hope this column inspires you to chat with your children about slang down through the decades, and to be more active in their tumultuous social lives.

“I don’t know…they say root canals are lovely this time of year…”


Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at and visits to his Facebook fan page, “Tyree’s Tyrades.”