Here’s what teens say in their slang
“A mere company but don’t give us a contract”? “Ten, total loss. I win”?
Attorneys love to use profanity. “Guess it’s just salt-a-minute”? As far as English instructors are concerned, these “explosions” are no big deal and can often leave their students with the impression that they aren’t competent in reading and writing — and are at best amateur linguists. And this isn’t true! Spanglish is booming — both at home and in the workplace — and the kids are front and center as the modern slang heroes.
“We’re not trying to have a baby,” 16-year-old Lydia Graczyk said when I asked her about the consequences of coming up with a ridiculous — but deadly convincing — fake slang term for sex.
When I tell Lydia and 13-year-old Vincent that what they just say is probably a direct result of them being Mexican-American girls from New Jersey with Latino parents, she’s pretty amused. And maybe it’s because she’s a teenager, but when I ask Vincent to define “pig,” he doesn’t even bother, and instead tosses out a random word for piggie, spider and marsupial. Plus, I couldn’t do a better job at explaining it either.
While previous generations may have developed their artistry over the years, it was millennials who brought it home to their parents — including Lydia, Vincent and their Latinx friends at Fernwood School, a bilingual day school in Hackensack, New Jersey. At the top of their vocab list: what can only be called “the most narcissistic catchphrase of our generation.”
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All photos: courtesy of Ki Sung Won for Ki Sung Won Photography