Teens these days drop so many “lits,” “fams,” and “wokes,” that you never know if they’re giving you a compliment or secretly planning to set your house on fire. It’s partly the natural evolution of language and part byproduct of text messaging and social media.
Note that several of these words — woke, squad goals, to name a few — have roots in black culture, with specific meanings and history. There’s an active debate on whether using these words, if you’re not black, is a form of cultural appropriation that co-ops black culture to seem cool (think fashion, music) while ignoring historic racism. Read in before you speak — and the Internet has plenty to offer here.
Below is Blend’s (a mobile messaging platform) results from searching through nearly a half million chats for the most popular slang words/phrases recently. These include a few of my own from living with a teen and working with a millennial!
1. Fam – A person’s group of friends, but can also sometimes be used to reference just one member of that tight inner circle.
Example: “What’s up, fam?”
2. Lit – Used to describe something that is hot and happening. Similar to “cool,” but with an added emphasis on the fact that it’s fresh and current.
Example: “Jesse’s party last weekend was totally lit, why weren’t you there?”
3. Turnt – Describes an excessive state of excitement, hype, or overall craziness. When used to describe a person, it might also mean they’re intoxicated, either via alcohol or something else.
Example: “You should have seen Casey at the game last night, she was turnt.”
4. Goals – This one is actually super easy. It literally means the same as “goals” normally would (something to strive for, or desire) but it’s used as an adjective rather than a noun. You can think of it as meaning the same as “desirable” in most cases.
Example: “The way that couple looks at each other is goals.”
5. AF – This is a bit of a weird one, since it’s never used on its own, but instead adds emphasis to something else. It’s short for “as f**k”, but it’s a cleaner way of saying it, and is a lot less likely to get a teen a scolding by their evil, evil parents!
Example: “Omg, I stayed up to watch “The Bachelor” last night and now I’m tired af.”
6. Clap back – A snappy comeback. It’s the kind of response where you know exactly what to say to make the other person steam, and it’s the perfect way to win an argument.
Example: “He kept teasing me, but he wasn’t expecting me to clap back!”
7. Thirsty – This means desperate, impatient, or overly eager. It’s the kind of feeling where you just can’t wait anymore, and a lot of times it’s used when someone greatly desires a relationship or affection from a specific person.
Example: “You see how James acts around Claire? He seems thirsty.”
8. Shade – Shade is kind of like an insult or a diss. It’s usually used by saying that someone “threw shade” or “is throwing shade,” meaning that you’re putting down someone else, leaving them in the dark, or overshadowing them.
Example: “Kanye just threw shade on Jay-Z on Twitter, this is going to be great.”
9. Savage – Someone who says something without a filter. If you’re “acting savage” you’re probably being more raw and public with your words or actions than people are comfortable with, though it can also be a compliment if you’re arguing with someone and drop a particularly great insult. It means you don’t care what other people think.
Example: “She just broke up with her boyfriend in the middle of the cafeteria while we all watched. Savage!”
10. Squad – Your squad is your closest group of friends. It’s kind of like “fam” but more focused on just the very most trusted of your friend group. When you see “squad goals” it’s basically a shorter way of saying “I wish my friends and I were like this.”
Example: “Taylor Swift and her friends are totally squad goals.”
11. Fire – This one is going to sound super obvious. I describes something that’s “hot.” In fact, it can be used almost universally interchangeably with “hot,” in terms of describing something that is new and awesome.
Example: “Beyoncé’s new song is straight fire.”
12. Salty – Finally one that I actually recognize! Okay, so “salty” is used to describe someone who is angry or bitter, and usually at a specific person. If you drop your phone and crack the screen you get mad, but if someone bumps you and you drop your phone and crack the screen, you get salty.
Example: “She totally ignored me at the party last night, I’m salty af.”
13. Woke – “Woke” means you’re knowledgeable, aware, and “with it.” You’re not naive about the topic at hand and are above all smart and tactful. It’s the exact opposite of ignorance, and is usually used as such. It was used to describe being aware about racism and police violence, say after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. In the ensuing years, it’s been used more broadly, even ironically.
Example: “If you care more about the Kardashians than the national housing crisis, you need to get woke.”
14. V – Easily the simplest term on this list to explain (and remember), “V” literally means “very,” providing emphasis to any statement.
Example: “I saw him playing basketball at the gym last weekend, he’s v good.”
15. High Key – Saying something “high key” is saying it in a way that makes it clear you don’t care that everyone knows it. It’s a bold declaration. It might also be extremely obvious to everyone already, but it’s something you just feel the need to say. It’s the opposite of low key.
Example: “Yo, high key, it’s almost midnight and I need to get some sleep.”
16. Low Key – Something you need to say or express but would prefer if nobody else knew about it. Kind of like asking someone to keep something “on the down low,” in that you don’t want them to tell anyone about it. The opposite of high key.
Example: “Low key, she told me she’s breaking up with her boyfriend tomorrow.”
17. Thot – Someone, usually a girl, who has lots of love interests. Kind of like a more socially acceptable way of saying “ho.”
Example: “I’ve seen her with a different guy every weekend, she’s a thot.”
18. Sus – Short for suspicious or suspect, it’s used to describe something that’s shady or scandalous.
Example: “I’m not surprised he lied to you, I told you he was sus.”
19. LB/FB – Short for “like back” and “follow back.” On social media, getting other people to interact with you is the whole point, so putting LB or FB is a subtle way of saying that you want someone to check out your posts or page and return the favor.
Example: “I just started a new Instagram account so lb/fb.”
20. Hundo P – Literally short (but actually longer) for 100%. “Hundo P” and 100% are used to describe something that’s really awesome, or totally certain. It places emphasis, kind of like “totally.”
There now, feel v woke high key talking teen? Just don’t make my mistake and try to use these words with, or even in front of, a real teen. According to my daughter, “that’s v embarrassing. Not gucci Mom.” By the way, gucci is the new “good.” Sigh.
If you think you know this stuff, hundo p, here’s a guide to those unfathomable emojis. First, beware the eggplant.
By Jennifer Jolly for usatoday.com/tech | Photo: Pixabay CCO