I have always considered it part of my responsibility as a parent to stay abreast of the current pop culture. I listen to the music my daughters enjoy, embrace their devotion for NSYNC, and even help tape the many pictures torn from magazines onto the walls. And while I refuse to finance such trends as Beanie Babies and Pokemon, I can converse about TY tags and Pikachu. Yet no matter how hard I try to be “hip” and “with it”, it is the ever changing landscape of language that continually trips me up.
Face it, every generation adds to and redefines the English language as we know it. In fact, language has strayed so far in meaning from its original origins, you can imagine a teen from today praising Thomas Edison for electric light: “Yo Tommy! I’m givin’ you your props for that totally phat light dope. Ain’t no dissin’ you, it’s da bomb!” I do believe Mr. Edison would turn out the lights, lay back down and roll over in his grave.
There are so many terms in use by today’s kids, I thought it may be useful to provide a brief translation for you. It may help the next time your child turns to you and says, “You are so phat Mom. You ain’t no scrub.” (Hint: That’s a compliment.)
SPANK: When I was growing up, this was not a word that carried a single good connotation. If anything, you moved as fast as you could to get a book down your pants before your parents caught up to you. Nowadays “spank” means good, great, fabulous. “What a spank tongue stud!”
SCRUB: Ask any Mom and she’ll tell you this involves all the glamour only a brush and a toilet bowl can provide. Ask a teenager and they will quickly inform you it defines any guy or gal who is undateable, ambitionless, basically a toilet bowl with legs.
DOG/DAWG: Suffice it to say I grew up defining dog quite simply: Woof. We even stretched it to describe a person whose appearance caused eyeball assault. These days, kids use it to define a good friend. “Hey man, you are such a dawg!” Hmmmm, I still don’t think it sounds like a compliment.
PROPS: Being a Theater major, these were always the bits and pieces of scenery on the stage. Today’s slang for respect, as in proper respect, you hear it quite a bit in the sports arena, “They are only paying me $14 million this season. Where’s my props, man?”
DOPE, PHAT, DA BOMB: All are now terms used to transfer favorable status to someone or thing. “That macaroni & cheese was da bomb, Mom!” When I was growing up dope was the term given to illicit drugs, phat described the period of my life when I actually ate Crisco out of the can and da bomb had to do with nuclear warheads – definitely not something favorable.
Computer terminology is quickly redefining and adding many terms:
BURN: This is typically what happens to the food when I have invited guests for dinner. This is also the new term given to the process of making your own CD’s on your computer. “Hey dude, can you burn me a copy of that new Bulging Snot tune?”CD: Even a two year old knows that a CD is the round shiny disc that makes Winnie the Pooh appear on the screen. When I was young, a CD was what my grandparents kept all their money in. Well, that and a couple dozen shoeboxes in their closet.
NAPSTER: The place on the web where your college age children spend their all their time downloading music instead of attending class. Personally “napster” is what I call my child when she is taking her afternoon break from riding my nerves.
Language will continue to be reshaped and expanded as each generation rides the pop culture wave over top of it. My advice? Don’t go trippin’. Just grab a teen homey, chill and don’t dis ‘em. Give them their props and they will have you talking like a phat baller in no time!
(Translation: Just invite a teenager over, relax and don’t put them down. Treat them like a human being and they will have you performing great slang-speak in no time!) Ain’t I a spank dawg?