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The ever-changing language of youth |
North Hills

The ever-changing language of youth

Dave McElhinny
| Tuesday, February 5, 2019 1:30 a.m

No wonder communicating with kids can be difficult.

During a round of the home version of “Family Feud” at my house, this became clear.

My wife was reading the questions and asked, “Name something that gets ripe.”

Before the words had cleared her lips, my youngest son slammed his hand on the buzzer and shouted, “Armpits!”

The game came to a screeching halt as uncontrollable laughter erupted from all of us. He didn’t understand why it was so funny. The two reasons for his confusion were: A. because we clearly don’t have enough fruit in the house. B. Slang flies around my house constantly, including body odor being referred to as “ripe.”

Later that night, when we finally stopped laughing, both of my sons and I had a long discussion about slang words. It turned out to be educational for them … and downright eye-opening for me.

English is a constantly changing and evolving language. Words have multiple meanings and change with each generation.

I’m sure that when my parents heard “13-year-old me” utter phrases like “That girl is fly and her friend is Phat. It would be gnarly to chill with them,” they likely thought something was wrong with me.

In fact, to this very day, when letting somebody know I understand what they’re saying, I respond either with “word” or “I dig.” Neither of those is used as they were originally intended, but just about everybody gets my meaning.

The problem is that this constantly changing language can leave adults in the dark

I overheard a teen talking on the phone the other day and he said, “She’s just thirsty so she threw shade her way because she’s a dime,” I took to google for translation. It turns out, this boy was saying, some girl was jealous so she said mean things about another girl because she’s pretty.

So I decided to dig into this issue and go undercover straight-up “21 Jump Street” style to infiltrate today’s youth and learn their secret language. Here’s what I discovered.

Dave McElhinny is the North Bureau Chief for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at

Dave McElhinny is a Tribune-Review news editor. You can contact Dave via Twitter .

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