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By Callie Gordon, Lillie-Beth Brinkman, Helen Ford Wallace
QUESTION: There are some words that I have picked up from my children and so I use them frequently. Words like “awesome,” ”gross,” and “I’m chillin’” are some of the expressions. They are horrified when I use any of their phrases. I thought I was being cool by talking their lingo, but apparently not. What do you think?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: Ha!! Maybe don’t use “I’m chillin.” You are cool, you don’t need to force it by using a certain lingo! As the kids say, “be you and do you.”
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: First off, “awesome” has been around a long time, so I don’t think this generation can claim the word as its own youth slang. We can debate whether it’s cliche or overused, but I don’t think it belongs specifically to your children’s generation. The other expressions you mentioned have been around for awhile in some form or another, too.
With that being said, it’s never a good idea to try to relate to your children by sounding like them. The words and phrases I hear more often these days among my children and friends include “YOLO,” for “you only live once”; “cray-cray” for crazy; “boss” (as in “she’s boss,” or really great, I think); texting language in general; and “I know, right?” or “IKR” for short.
But then again, by the time I or most other adults have heard them, the words are passe.
Children need to have their own lingo, and they need you to sound like the adult. Sometimes, I’ll joke with my children by using one of their age group’s words back to them, but I play it for laughs only. “YOLO,” right?
HELEN’S ANSWER: Everyone likes to be creative with words, and it is fun to try to put creative twists on phrases. Teenagers use their lingo to identify their generation and sometimes to talk with words their parents do not understand, so when we are using their words, we might not use them in the context that we should. Probably it is better to stick to the words we know and leave the children’s and grandchildren’s words and phrases to them.
That being said, I know it is hard to listen to catchphrases over and over without trying them out. Some of the expressions are great ones, and as a grandmother, I have had fun repeating them, so that my grandchildren will think that I am “totally awesome.”
GUEST’S ANSWER: Kathy Walker, local volunteer and community leader: Having grown children and now grandchildren at this stage in my life, I turned to one of my granddaughters to inquire as to her take on this question. Emery tells me “kids feel weird when their moms and dads try to say words like they do.”
She then added that they actually feel embarrassed when their parents verbalize words and phrases reserved for children and adolescents.
Rather than parrot their expressions, perhaps it would be useful and fun to offer synonyms and words of substitution in conversation with your children. Instead of “gross,” perhaps use “disgusting,” or for “awesome,” use “extraordinary.”
Make a vocabulary game out of the situation. In the end, child and parent will enhance their language skills and present their best foot forward in social situations.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.