Slang is a perpetual whirlwind of creativity among the young and avante garde. These groups are constantly breaking new ground with artistic expressions of their lives and the life around them. It’s impossible to be in a hip nightclub, or at a cutting edge art gallery, without the latest slang flying around like confetti. Why do people use slang? There are many answers as there are people who are continually reinventing English as we speak.
Teenagers Are Experts
One of the first signs of impending adolescence is the desire to put space between you and your parents’ generation, and the fastest way to do that is through the art of language.
Teenagers develop their own idioms and expressions that make adults scratch their heads, trying to figure out what the slang means (and if it’s something they should be upset about.
- Emo – If you’re “all emo,” it’s like being a drama queen (a slightly older expression.) Emo was a type of music that seemed to rip at the souls of adolescent angst. It frequently included wearing all black clothing, dying one’s hair pitch black, and having a complexion so paper white that it looked as if the teen had grown up in the basement.
To be emo was to be perpetually depressed, moody, and emotional, and perpetually at odds with society (even if it was nothing more than a pose.)
- My bad – If a teen has made a mistake, the phrase “my bad” is frequently employed as a cover. It means what it appears to mean: “I was bad!”
This is one of the phrases parents, especially mothers, might pick up on and use themselves, to the everlasting embarrassment of their children.
“Busted” Ain’t Broke
Some words have morphed from one meaning to another. Take the word “busted.” To the grandparents of today’s teens, the word was simply slang for “broken.”
The last decade or so reinvented “busted” to mean someone was caught, probably doing something they shouldn’t. If a store detective saw you stealing a candy bar and nabbed you, you were simply “busted” (and probably in a lot of trouble).
- Busted – “Busted” has changed yet again. This time, to say someone is busted is to mean they are ugly. It’s definitely not a flattering figure of speech!
Developing Slang Language Words and Phrases
Not all slang words are uniquely developed. Some are created based on other words, or other slang words.
A Change in Meanings
Some words in slang develop from meaning one thing, to meaning another:
- Ride – The word “ride” is of relatively recent origin. It was initially meant to mean a car, as in, “here’s my ride” (even if it’s not the teen’s car, any automobile that could carry him where he wanted to go deserved the title of “ride.”)
Apparently autos are in short supply, or teenagers have discovered the shoe leather express. The word “ride” has become more literal to this group: “How do you like my ride?” no longer means, “do you like my car?” Now it refers to sneakers (particularly of the brand name and expensive variety.)
- Tope – If something is “tope,” it’s cool to the teenage contingent. So what’s a tope? It’s a combination of “tight” and “dope,” both words meaning something that’s beyond cool.
So if you’re tope, you’re somewhere in the stratosphere of utter coolness.
- Frenemy – This term is a combination of the words “friend” and “enemy.” It is a person who appears on one hand to be your friend but, at the same time is antagonistic towards you.
- Supersize – Starting with a way to order a bigger order of fries, “supersize” now is used to point anything, anyone or any idea that is excessively large.
Combinations of Meanings
Other slang words are developed outside of the usual context of words and are just combinations of thoughts that create a new word.
- Greycation – Having your grandparents join your vacation.
- Bro-tox – Men getting botox
- Iceman – A friend with nerves of steel
- Tarhead – Someone who is involved in oil-based recreation such as car racing.
- Affluential – Having both money and power or influence
- Flamed – To have taken everything too seriously
- Awesomity – The highest state of awesome
New Activities Need New Words
Some slang comes from a need to describe new recreational or Internet activities including social networking such as:
- Friend and Unfriend – Adding or removing someone to a circle of communication such as in FaceBook or other social media networks.
- Follow and Unfollow – To add or remove someone to the list of people whose posts you view on Twitter.
- Ollie – A skateboard trick where the rider and board leap into the air
- Planking – Laying your body on top of an object and balancing there while stretched out and stiffened.
Gangsta vs. Wanksta
African American takes on slang are far-ranging, and travel well beyond the circles of black teenagers.
- Gansta – A “gangsta” is a type of black rap music that’s extremely popular with teens of all races, and the gangsta is someone is who is both tough and cool at the same time.
“Gangsta” is hardly a new word; in fact, it’s at least two decades old. But a new take on someone who aspires to the gangsta style, but fails miserably, is a “wanksta.”
- Wanksta – The derivation of “wanksta” is somewhat sexual, as are many teenage aphorisms. To “wank” is someone who masturbates excessively; so being a “wanksta” is not exactly a compliment, even outside teenage circles.
Slang language is the voice of the people. It’s changing daily so be sure to keep your ears open and stay aware of the meanings…and keep checking since they may change tomorrow.