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English Communication: Modern Slang

English Communication: Modern Slang

In previous blogs, you heard about some slang terms and acronyms inspired by (or only used on) the internet and text messages.

But American slang doesn’t stop there.

shutterstock_182446319Every era has the same, funny pattern: the young people create new vocabulary of their own–to the dismay and confusion of their parents and grandparents. Depending on your point of view, these new words are either creative and fun, or they ‘corrupt the language.’ You can probably think of words in your native language that young people love, but that older generations dislike or simply don’t use.

Whatever your opinion of the merits of slang, it can be helpful to know these words in order to understand what people are saying.

Of course, while there’s no danger in understanding these words, be careful in using them unless you are confident that you know what they mean. Mistakes can be embarrassing!

Here are some slang words you might hear around town or on TV:

  • YOLO (Acronym for a sentence): ‘You only live once.’ Often used as a reason for deciding to do something–usually something enjoyable or irresponsible. For example, ‘I really should stay home and study… but I’m going to go to the party instead. YOLO!’ (Dr. Antonia’s opinion: Probably OK also for people over 25 years)

  • Peeps (Noun): People (especially your friends). For example, ‘What are you doing?’ ‘Oh, just hanging out with my peeps.’  (Dr. Antonia’s note: In American vocabulary, we describe the chirping sound of a baby chicken to be “peep, peep.”  Thus use this if you are young in your preteens or  teens or early twenties  and your friends are in their preteens or  teens or early twenties.)

  • Swag (Noun): This word has multiple possible uses, but a common meaning is ‘style: being cool in how you talk, dress, and present yourself,’ For example, ‘Look at those shoes. That guy’s got swag,’ (Dr. Antonia’s note: Youthful people have swag — teens, young adults.)

  • Fail (Noun or interjection) Used to express disapproval of something. For example, “My internet keeps cutting out. Comcast fail!” or “I left my phone at work. Fail!”  (Dr. Antonia’s opinion: Probably OK also for people over 25 years.)

  • Hater (Noun): Someone who is negative and criticizes others. For example, “Don’t be a hater. You’re just jealous.”  (Dr. Antonia’s note:  Sometimes you are with someone who has only negative things to say about other people.  That’s a downer for all. “Don’t be a hater.  You’re just jealous.”  That’s a relatively nice way to ask the other person to stop being so negative.  And a good time to change the topic of conversation…)

  • Meh (Interjection): Wikipedia rightly calls this term ‘an expression of indifference or boredom.’ For example, “Do you want to go to a movie?” “Meh. I’ll go if you want to.”  (Dr. Antonia’s note:  It is hard to know exactly how to pronounce “Meh” the interjection.   So listen for this in the media and among young native English speakers.)

  • Whatever (Interjection): Used to express “It doesn’t matter” or “I don’t care what you say.”  The second usage is usually rude or impolite.  For example, “I really wanted that job, and I didn’t get it. But whatever,” or A: “You need a haircut.” B: “Whatever, Mom.” (Dr. Antonia’s opinion: Probably OK also for people over 25 years.  Depending on tone of voice and body language,  this can communicate casual acceptance of fate or can communicate resentment about fate.)

So the next time you’re browsing the internet or watching TV, be on the lookout for these slang gems.  It’s never a bad idea to increase your English vocabulary and cultural literacy… and maybe gain a little swag while you’re at it.

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Be sure to watch our English Speech Tips videos and Accent Reduction Tip videos  for more English pronunciation and accent reduction exercises.

Contributing editor: Amber McKinney, MA

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