A quick apology for the lack of Featured Poet or Procrastination Station last week — it was the first week of term so I was absolutely snowed under, and ONS had to take a little bit of a back-seat while things settled down. However, I am really, really happy to be back teaching — I love doing it, and with every new class that walks through my door, I start a new learning curve.
One thing I’ve learned this week is that slang is a crazy but fascinating beast, a rapidly evolving and essential part of our language. Listening to my new students talk is mind-blowing — most of them are school leavers, so 16 or so — when I was their age the terms du jour were things like “epic,” and “legend” for good, and “shabby” or “poor” for bad. A song we particularly liked was a “tune” (with the ‘u’ pronounced quite long), whereas a teacher we particularly loathed was a “piece” (as in “piece of work,” I assume — “she’s a real piece, like!”). Ugly people were “munters” (although this was a term I found too hysterical to actually use), but now they’re “fugs”, apparently. And it seems that “epic” can now mean something very long or boring. Working out what my students are on about is a real task, despite the fact that only seven years ago, I was exactly where they are now. For those of you who are also struggling to comprehend the speech of The Yoof, check out these gems!
When I was a teenager, like “epic,” the word “solid” meant something very good. Originally it meant a strong bond or friendship — if you were close to someone, you could say you were “solid.” Then it just seemed to engulf anything we thought was awesome.
Now, apparently, “solid” means difficult. I have been making the mistake of giving exercises to students and feeling pleased when they told me “this is, like, solid.” However, I have now cottoned on that “Miss, this is solid”, is actually a complaint. Oops…
“Shan” is a Scottish expression that as a youngster, I always took to mean “shady” or “dodgy” — e.g. “this neighbourhood looks a wee bit shan.” At that point in my life, I was too afraid to use any Scots slang for fear that it might get me into trouble re: my pesky English accent. I always sounded like a bit of a moron saying it anyway, but I was very aware of what it meant.
Apparently “shan” has now become “shannage” — but “shannage” seems to be a more damning term. Where for me “shan” just meant something a bit dodgy, my students say “shannage” (in fact, they have a tendency to yell it) for anything they disapprove of… so it seems to have become just another term for “bad.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used in a sentence yet — generally they use it as a response along the lines of “that sucks” — e.g. Student 1: “I lost my phone yesterday.” Student 2: “Aw, shannage!”
This is Scots obviously — they mean “told over.” This is not an expression I’m familiar with at all, but apparently it means ‘to be tattle-taled on by someone.’ In my day the expression for this was “grassed up” or “dobbed in” — both reasonably traditional, I reckon. Now, you say “I’ve been telt ower”, or “my mate telt me ower.” Yesterday I had a student who was misbehaving, and when I reprimanded him he said “are ye gan te tell me ower?” My response was: “am I going to what?!” Needless to say, when the explanation came, I felt really rather old.
Across the Atlantic…
Those of you on the other side of the pond need not feel left out — the slang I’m learning feels rather Scot-centric, but fortunately I have a US informant in the form of my bestie Lucy! She’s over in Edinburgh for a few days and has been giving me the lowdown on the latest Californian slang…
When she first came out with this one I thought it was absolutely hilarious, and having tried it out myself I am pretty sure it only works in an American accent! I remember a time when, if things were considered “good,” you could say they were “the bomb” — but again I think this American expression rather passed us Scots by. Apparently now “the bomb” has evolved into “bomb-dot-com” — for example, you could say: “so-and-so’s new album is, like, bomb.com!” This would mean you like it a lot and think it’s good… I think!
As you can probably guess, “turbo” and “deluxe” both mean “good” too. I’m told that if you really, really like something and want extra emphasis, you can stick the two together and say “it’s turbo-deluxe!” High praise indeed!
OK, I am utterly behind the times so I was not aware of the popular online phenomenon “FML,” or the expression, and I have no idea which spawned which. Basically “FML” stands for “fuck my life,” and can be uttered at a time of distress or embarrassment. e.g. “I just tripped and fell over in front of everyone! FML!” The website of the same name exists for people to publicly document their traumatic or embarrassing stories… stories which always end in “FML!” Apparently it’s worth a read!
For those of you who are interested in this stuff, the Guardian’s Education section (yeah, I’m a geek) ran an article yesterday called “Know Your Teenglish.” I am skeptical about some of the expressions they claim teenagers use — do people really call Facebook-account-hacking “Frape” (as in, Facebook-rape)?! “Neek” is apparently a nerd crossed with a geek… but has anyone this side of 1989 ever used “nerd” in the first place?! And “cool beans,” another of the examples of ‘new slang’, was an expression I used frequently from the age of about 12. The fact that said article is only a selection of “the best” from an entire book on the subject makes me feel rather queasy. But hey, this wouldn’t be the first time the Guardian majorly failed in their efforts to “get down with the kids”…
Anyway, I want to know what slang you used as a teenager… or maybe you are a teenager, and you can tell us a thing or two about what’s cool/hip/awesome/sweet/sick these days? Are there any other expressions I should be aware of in order to avoid looking stupid in front of my students? You know where the comments box is…