Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog

‘Young’ words

13 Comments

Two teenage boys in hoodies

Kieran McGovern strikes out against youth culture and the decline of the English language with his Top 10 most annoying words in common use amongst today’s youths – with a word of warning to those… not-so-young.

Words are like clothes in that there are some that are only really suited to the young.

Here’s my top ten verbal equivalents of short skirts, low cut trousers and hoodies. These should be avoided by anyone over the age of… well, you decide.

  1. Dude – meaning: male person. Has become pretty universal amongst young Americans and increasingly in the UK, too. A great word with a long pedigree, like a baseball cap it does not suit greying hair.
  2. Awesome! – should only be used for that which truly inspires awe. This does not include the a new cover for your mobile phone.
  3. Banging (great) safe (excellent) ‘hood (neighbourhood) homie (friend) – this job lot of street slang is the private property of teenagers. Sounding like a wannabe gangster is inexcusable if you have a mortgage.
  4. Cool! – the exclamation mark is the line in the sand here. Describing something as ‘pretty cool’ is acceptable but not squealing c-o-ol!
  5. Wicked – (meaning great) Life is complex enough without calling bad things good and vice versa.
  6. Chillin – perhaps a controversial one but I think the world would be a better place without the phrase ‘chill out’.
  7. Skank – horrible word meaning someone of low class, sometimes also used to suggest sexual promiscuousness. Don’t use, ever!
  8. Gay – meaning rubbish, as in ‘that’s so gay!’ As used in the school playground it doesn’t generally have a sexual connotation, but best avoided.
  9. OMG, LOL etc – I know they’ve just entered the OED but there is something a little embarrassing about ageing fingers typing this kind of text short-hand.
  10. Whatever! – this is irritating enough coming from truculent teenagers, unacceptable from anyone old enough to vote.

What do you think? Am I being unfair? A language despot? Or are there more words you’d like to add?

Kieran McGovern blogs at English Language FAQ.

Bookmark and Share

Author: Oxford University Press ELT

The official global blog for Oxford University Press English Language Teaching. Bringing teachers and other ELT professionals top quality resources, tools, hints and tips, news, ideas, insights and discussions to help further their ELT career. Follow Oxford ELT on Twitter. Find Oxford ELT on Google+.

13 thoughts on “‘Young’ words

  1. I never realised that there were age restrictions on words. Thanks for putting us straight there, dude.

  2. Great list, Kieran!

    And if I can add one more – ‘(it) rocks’, as in ‘Gavin’s new blog post rocks!’ Maybe more common in tweetworld than in regular conversation, but one that – like ‘awesome’ – is way way past its sell-by date.

    Also ‘well’ as in ‘He’s well out of order’ or ‘I’m well p***ed off about that’ – you really have to be under 20 to get away with that.

    Mind you, isn’t it astonishing how ‘cool’ manages to transcend generations and be more or less OK for people of all ages to say? And it’s been up there for 50 years now.

    I remember Robert Mitchum – Hollywood star of the 50s/60s – being described as ‘the King of Cool’ and thinking then, what a well excellent … um… awesome description. It rocks!

    Oh dear…

    • Steve McQueen was the King of Cool, a.k.a. The Cooler King in “The Great Escape.” Robert Mitchum was Old Rumple Eyes. My heroes.

    • Apologies for the delay – somehow managed to miss my own post!

      Yes, cool does seem indestructible. There’s a lovely Julie London from the 50s ‘Something Cool’ which plays on literal and metaphorical uses of the word. Generally I suspect that American slang has a greater shelf life – even The Beatles couldn’t save ‘gear’ from extinction.

  3. Well, how about a post about the most annoying words or expressions of the grammatically correct or the ostentatiously learned? After all, it IS a two-way street, isn’t it?

    Why would anyone want to increase the burden on any reader with expressions such as “with which” or the construction “not only/but also” and the like?

    Personally, I don’t object to those top 10 words if and when they are used in their [proper] context. After all, those words are unlikely to be used in most formal or semi-formal contexts anyway.

    OMG, if some dude decides to use those words because he thinks they’re awesome for his kind of writing or speaking, we should be chillin’. It’s just so gay (ghey?) to home in on those words and brand the user as some kind of word-skank. They’re hardly ‘young’ words, I think. Whatever!

  4. I have to disagree with skank!
    I was skanking last night and it was awesome!
    A wicked Czech SKA band were strutting their stuff and I was skanking with the rude boys 🙂
    It was banging
    Grey Gareth aged 40 and 5 months
    Oh and surely wicked has meant good for so long that most people understand it.

    • Hi Gareth,

      “Oh and surely wicked has meant good for so long that most people understand it.”

      Funny you should say that. The Oxford English Dictionary records “wicked” being used in a positive sense as long ago as 1920.

      Don’t believe us? Check out http://oxford.ly/l22NgF

      So perhaps you’re right – I think we know the meaning by now 🙂

      Thanks for your comment.

  5. I’ll be doing less of the squealing now but actually shouldn’t we be descriing something as book? As in – Buy me something book – Predictive text for cool. 🙂

  6. Pingback: What’s your Word Bug? « Oxford University Press – English Language Teaching – Global Blog

  7. I enjoyed reading the comments.
    Good collection of ‘young’ words…

  8. Groovy (or, less common, “Groovie” or “Groovey”) is a slang colloquialism popular during the 1960s and 1970s. It is roughly synonymous with words such as “cool”, “excellent”, “fashionable”, or “amazing”, depending on context.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s