Teen speak

American slang and a sense of belonging.

Multiracial group of people by a table.
Photo by Diva Plavalaguna: https://www.pexels.com/photo/multiracial-group-of-people-by-the-table-6150432/

Michigan State University Extension’s Building Strong Adolescents program states that a key purpose of teen friendships is to provide young people with transitional emotional attachments, which allow them to separate and attain independence from their parents. Teens gain a sense of belonging through their adolescent years by enjoying friendships. During those adolescent years, they may become members of groups such as leaders, artists, athletes, gamers, etc. One way they demonstrate their belonging with other youth is through the creative use of words, also known as slang.

Slang has been around for many years and even dates back to the 1800’s. If words weren’t considered proper English, they were considered slang. Slang is wittier and more clever than standard English. Over many generations, unique slang words have been created that unite different generations in a sense of belonging to those times. See if any of these are familiar to you: chill, crib, gnarly, diss, dude, basic, boujee, fam, FOMO.

Slang is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a noun. Slang is a language peculiar to a particular group and/or an informal nonstandard vocabulary composed typically of coinages, arbitrary changed words, and extravagant, forced or facetious figures of speech. For teens, slang can provide them a sense of connection to other teenagers during their time growing up. It is different than dialect, or industry specific speech. It is a creative way of expressing thoughts and feelings by re-assigning new meaning to old words or inventing completely new words. Using them signifies you belong; you are a part of the current teen scene.

University of Massachusetts Amherst has a large list of American slang words. In addition, University of Massachusetts also had a SLANG Lab that studies social language. The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) also has a few articles and information related to American slang and history.

In summary, just chill if you think your teen is using bogus language. They are not trying to psych you out, but they just have some lowkey feels about seeming cheugy!

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