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J’adore/ J’abhor

Parlez-vous teen slang? The language barrier has always been a problem when it comes to parent/child communications. Do you find the way your little darlings speak totally basic or, like, lit?


J’ADORE teen slang, says Ali Agnew, Muddy Kent editor

Firstly, a universal truth. Teenagers absolutely rock. They are easily the most adorable, interesting and misinterpreted sector in the ages and stages of humankind. And likewise, the language they use is full of character, invention, honesty and humour.

In between writing jobs, I worked in two big state schools, helping out during English lessons and every single sentence uttered by a pupil was punctuated with ‘basically’, ‘wait’ and ‘like’.

But banging on about how it’s just lazy teen speak or debasing our great language (oof) is just a way for grown-ups to flex (that means flaunt their power/show off, doncha know). Don’t forget you were just like them once.

‘Talk to the hand’, S’up?’ and ‘Not!’ were things my friends and I would say back in our sixth form days in the heady ’90s when it was acceptable to wear knee high socks and butterfly hair clips.

It’s hardly surprising fad words come and go thick and fast in today’s social-networked, meme-ified world. Teens are the ones most susceptible to social pressure so most likely to conform to language trends. What we say and how we say it is wrapped up in an expression of identity.

And if you want to get all science-y about it – yes, language evolves and new terms enter the mainstream. But it’s not strictly accurate to blame teenagers for debasing linguistic standards. Studies show teens don’t actually influence language half as much as is often claimed.

Best of all, it’s v. fun, as a teacher or parent to join in. The hilarity – OK, horror – that ensues is priceless. Even merely telling my 12-year-old daughter that I was writing this piece generated a facial expression of such absolute mortification. She would have found it less painful if I picked her up from school in those knee-high socks and butterfly clips.

So have fun with it. Like, don’t be salty (upset). Be trill (true and real). At the very least you can use it as a torture tool on your own kids. But above all, like, remember that those teens around you are the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). Yeet.


J’ABHOR teen slang, says Rachel Jane, Muddy Berks editor

Blame the journalist in me – or simply call me an old bag – but teen speak has NEVER been more infuriating. I’m not expecting old school BBC English from my teenager, but something that sounds like a sentence would be just peachy. And don’t get me started on the abbreviated, acronym-riddled texts that ping back and forth. I break out in a sweat when there’s an absence of punctuation and grammar, so you can only imagine the extreme twitching when I get one letter or word jumble answers.

Look, I get it, teen speak is nothing new. Every generation has talked code in front of their parents to make mum and dad feel geriatric. Don’t worry kids, the fading eyesight and grey hair are doing a great job of that already. To me, your language skills are far from ‘lit’, they’re just plain dumb. Especially, if you think slipping them into your exam paper or interview will somehow fast track you to a job at Google.

Let’s rattle through some examples. ‘Basic’ now means mainstream in a bad way; GOAT, not a bleating four-legged friend, but Great Of All Time; ‘Gucci’ is cool; lit is great; ‘dead’ means overwhelmed and who knows what goes down in the DMs? (*Ahem* but I think we all know). It’s not just slang, it feels like today’s teens have just landed from another planet. Is that how it’s supposed to feel?

Giving this rant air time, I’m acutely aware of how uncool I sound. Music, film, and media are cultural touchpoints for each generation. Back in my day, if something was bad it was good; we regularly encouraged people to take a chill pill and ‘like’ was used in every sentence, sometimes multiple times. We’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt.

I’m not suggesting teen slang shouldn’t exist. But if they could keep their lost in translation babble to themselves, and use proper words, just occasionally, I’d have some reassurance that their school years haven’t been a total waste of time. And that the future of the English language is safe in their hands.

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