Tweens & teens


Speaking ‘teen' as a second language

By Lisa M. Schab, L.C.S.W.

Did your teen ever tell you he'd just be "kickin' it at the crib" when you asked him about his plans for the night?

"Teenspeak" doesn't have to be a barrier between you and your child if you keep it in perspective and stay on top of the vocabulary.

("Kickin' it at the crib" translates to "sitting around at home.")

Adolescents intensify slang because it is part of separating from parents, identifying with peers and defining themselves-all times that make it ripe to create a culture-within-a-culture, complete with its own music, dress and language.

Some parents are outraged by their teen's use of slang. Some take it in stride.

Decide how important this behavior is to you and remember that picking your battles is an important part of effective parenting. You may choose to accept teen jargon because you have to put your energies into a more consequential homework or curfew problem. Or, you may not mind if your kids talk this way with their friends, but insist on traditional language with you. You need to find the limits that are comfortable for your own home environment.

In the meantime, it can help to understand what your teen is saying (ask if you don't know) and don't hesitate to use a few of his words yourself if it serves to bridge the gap between you.

Your child may look at you like you're crazy if you ask him, "So, what's hangin'?" or tell him he's got a "really sweet board," but this tongue-in-cheek effort may also cause you to share a laugh together. (The translation of "What's hangin?" is "What's going on?" and a "really sweet board" is a top-of-the-line skateboard.)

If you need some help with vocabulary and rules for usage, tape this column to your refrigerator. Keep in mind that slang words and phrases are ever-changing, and can vary from community to community.

Here are a few translations to get you started:

Greetings. If you want to greet someone, forget about the old-fashioned "Hello," and use "Yo," "Hey" or just a simple, "S'up?" ("S'up" is a shortened version of "What's up?" which is used as a greeting and means "What's going on?" It is used in place of "How are you?" and can also be shortened to, "Whazzup?" or "What up?") "What's hangin'?" has the same meaning. If you want to say, "good-bye," you can use "later" (short for "see you later") or "peace."

Adjectives. If something is wonderful, or what has for many years been referred to as "cool," it may now also be called, "hot." "Phat" and "dope" can also mean "cool," as can "radical" or "rad," "awesome," "shibby," "sweet," "tight," "crazy," "bad ass" and "kick ass." However, while a "sweet ride" can be used to describe a "cool car," depending on what side of town you're on, the phrase "hot tit" may refer to the same thing.

It's important to note that describing things and people may involve different adjectives. For example, an attractive girl would not be described as "cool," but "hot"-as would an attractive guy. (Either may also be a "hottie.") Also, if a "hot" girl is "really hot" she would be "fine," and if she's even "hotter" than that, she would be "smokin'." A "really hot" guy, however, could be "fine," but would never be "smokin'."

If something is the opposite of "cool," as you can see by now, it would not be "hot." Instead, it would be "disgusting," "gross," "nasty" or "grody." If it's "silly," it could be "bogus," "lame" or "lame-o," and if it's "boring," it could be "brain dead."

When describing a person negatively, the same words can be used, for example an unattractive girl would be "nasty," or, if very unattractive, she could be "rank."

People. These terms vary from school to school, but some of the more generic include: "preps" (nicely dressed, clean cut), "druggies" (kids who do drugs), "punks" (those who listen to punk music and dress like the band members), "gothics" or "goths" (kids who wear a lot of black-dress and make-up), "nerds" (those into computers) and "brains" (very smart kids). A good friend could be called a "dog," "homie," "homie G" or "bro." Most men are "dudes," as in, "I saw this dude," or "Whazzup, dude?"

Emotions. When someone is excited, they can be "psyched," "pumped" or "stoked." When they are angry, they are "ticked off," "pissed," "pissed off" or "p.o.'d." Someone who is tired is "wiped out." A sad person is "down," or "bummed."

Verbs. Want to know what your child is doing? "Chillin'," "chillin' out," "hangin'" or "kickin' it" would indicate "just sitting around not doing anything special." "Let's bounce" means "let's go," and "I'm out" means "I'm leaving." "Let's hang" translates to "let's get together."

If you don't like the way your child sounds when he uses "teenspeak," don't worry, fads will change again.

In the not too distant future, "phat" and "S'up" will go the way of "groovy," "far out" and "neat-o Frito."


Lisa Schab is a licensed clinical social worker in Libertyville and the stepmother of two, ages 20 and 24. She can be reached at (847) 782-1722.


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