Groovy! Yes? No.

21 10 2010

I can remember making fun of my mother when I was about 12 because she said, “Right on!” at a baseball game. In retrospect, I stand by that, because it was pretty funny. I mean, it was 1996, and we were not at a Black Panther rally.

I never thought, back then, utilizing the hip new lingo that Cher from ‘Clueless’ had taught me, that one day, language would leave me behind. But it would seem that it has.

A lot of my classmates in the cuckoo’s nest social work school interned in high schools. One of the biggest obstacles was not that they couldn’t relate to their students, or the bureaucracy of the Department of Education. It was that they had no idea what these kids were talking about.

At the time, I laughed it off, because I was working with senior citizens. The unusual terms I heard included “silly goose” and something about “the Charleston.”

But now I have to deal with it. And I’m trying to remember those talks we had in class.

One of my casework professors was very insistent that this “language barrier” be confronted. Tell the kids you are unfamiliar with the terms they’re using. Allow them to teach you.

Or hit up Urban Dictionary. A youth worker’s best friend.

Back in my day, it was good to be “tight” with your friends. I learned the hard way that now it’s bad. “Me and her, we’re tight.” “How nice! Oh, you’re angry and want to kill each other? Not as good.” Yeah, “tight” has gone from meaning “close” to meaning “angry.” I was not even consulted.

One of my girls told me that a boy in her school had ‘violated’ her. Fortunately, she was able to explain what this meant, before I filed a report. Turns out she had not been sexually assualted, but treated with disrespect. OK.

A mother called me, frantic, because a friend of her daughter had called the house and threatened to “eat their food.” Well, yes, that would be bothersome, and rather rude. Oh, a quick internet search–“eat your food” actually means “cut someone in an attempt to do murder.” That is serious.

Nothing has disgusted me more, though, than when the kids want me to take them seriously. “Miss, I’m not playing. I am DEAD ASS!” I’m sorry, but you’re what? That’s just gross.

I can’t ask my girls about their “boyfriends,” because that just sounds silly. I have to ask, “How are things with your boo?” (Side note: I cannot bring myself to do this.) A 14 year old girl can be heterosexual but have a “wifey.” Really, they’re just friends.

If they were boys, they would probably follow up the “wifey” declaration with a hearty “no homo.” Because nothing makes you look straighter than constantly fretting that people might think you’re gay.

If anyone really gets mad at a girl, she might drop the s-bomb. That’s right, call that other girl a “smut.” That is not a typo. I’m not trying to say slut. Apparently “smut” is not just for porno anymore. It can be a person.

English is constantly evolving. Young people are asserting themselves and declaring themselves a part of their young culture by using words and phrases in ways they were never used before, leaving their parents, teachers, and social workers behind.

For real. I’m dead ass.

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16 responses

21 10 2010
mjfrombuffalo

My husband, a 5th-grade teacher, was just telling me last night that “minute” was suddenly “a really long time,” but now it’s back to a short period of time (like “a hot minute”). That time, Opposite-Day meaning just didn’t catch.

21 10 2010
socialjerk

That’s a good one! I had this problem when a woman told me she hadn’t seen her abusive ex-husband in “a minute.” Turned out that meant about a year, but I had to ask for clarification.

I hope that the kids are still doing Opposite Day.

21 10 2010
imagineme

I spent 26 months in the Bronx in NY working with teens. Your story sounds familiar!

21 10 2010
socialjerk

I’m on my 17 month here, and hoping to stay for a while. (But one never knows.) I’m glad you could relate! Thanks for reading!

21 10 2010
hipsnpits

I’ve often thought English classes should use lyrics from rap songs to teach similes and metaphors.

21 10 2010
socialjerk

I had a great English teacher in high school who did this–not rap necessarily, we each had to pick it out a song and analyze it like a poem. I chose Avenues & Alleyways by Rancid. Good times with alliteration!

21 10 2010
Fos

I asked one of my foster Carers for a clarification on language the other day!

She told me “sick” meant good for a while but now it means something is bad.

I lose track!

21 10 2010
socialjerk

Really? I say “sick” to mean good all the time! Oh dear…I had a cousin in New Mexico who always said “bad” to mean something was good. No one I grew up with said that, and it caused a lot of confusion.

22 10 2010
cb

I think it’s a part of ‘growing up’ when we realise the slang of our youth isn’t ‘in’ anymore. I learn so many new words as a foster carer!

22 10 2010
socialjerk

But…I’m with it! I’m hip! I’m…oh never mind.

22 10 2010
Carolyn

I was going to say it was a sick column, but now I’m confused. I will have to consult with my 17 year old niece (if she’s talking these days). 🙂

22 10 2010
socialjerk

You should probably text her, if you want a response.

25 10 2010
Carolyn

Well yes, as she does have that sucker surgically attached to her hands. However, if you have seen me text, you would realize that this was a painfully bad idea. I do this with the speed of a snail going uphill in January using molasses as its vehicle of choice 🙂 🙂 🙂 She did my hair Saturday night (for a Trampy Vampire social work party) and she says here (in Calgary, Alberta) I could still use the word sick. If I thought it was really necessary ‘cuz I’m really too old to talk like that.

22 10 2010
DorleeM

I can totally relate to what you are saying:) I often have to ask clients what they mean by certain terms. Thanks for this great post!

22 10 2010
socialjerk

Thank you for reading an commenting! I’m glad I’m not the only one who is occasionally lost 🙂

23 10 2010
Doris

I’m glad I work with elderly… so, as you can guess, I am way behind in terms and slangs if I was to switch to work with youth… I think I will stick with my old people… I have to guess what they are trying to say when they have advanced dementia, but for the most, they don’t seem to mean: “I want to kill you!” Or I hope so 🙂

Doris

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