Do you remember that moment in childhood when it dawned on you that your parents weren't that "with it?" I certainly do. It was at dinner one night when my mother asked why my sister didn't like the son of one of mom's friends. My sister responded, bluntly, "because he's a goober." I nodded in silent agreement. Mom was confused, and kept asking us to explain what "goober" meant. My sister and I tried, but mostly we just rolled our eyes at our hopeless mother - because come on, who didn't know what a "goober" was? Like, duh?
As I learned then, language often has a date stamp, and every generation produces its own vernacular that may make no sense to previous - or latter - generations. I admit I'm still not entirely sure what to make of popular phrases from the past like, "It's the cat's pajamas," "23 Skidoo," and "but good" (as in, "I'm going to get that guy but good").
Not surprisingly, the Internet has accelerated this process. Today members of the younger generation can communicate via text in a language consisting almost entirely of obscure acronyms, much to the chagrin of befuddled snooping parents trying to figure out if "OMG" is a reference to the latest designer drug or a newly minted sex act.
As a public service, and in an effort to bridge this generational language gap, I'm using this week's column to explain to readers about some of the more popular new expressions young people use these days. I do this with the understanding that newspaper readers are, not the hippest folks around, with an age range typically skewing somewhere between "still refers to the refrigerator as an 'ice box'" and "probably shouldn't be driving any more."
Since the so-called "millennial generation" has a reputation for narcissism, we'll open with "selfie," the term for a photo you take of yourself. True, people have been taking photos of themselves for decades, but the results were almost always poor, most often capturing little more than half a face and a blurry arm. Today, however, thanks to smartphones, "selfies" are much easier to take, and perfect for uploading to Facebook, posting to online dating websites, or sending out on Twitter when you're an unfortunately-named congressman looking to derail a promising political career.
Speaking of destroying lives on the Internet, another term you're going to want to familiarize yourself with is "Internet troll." This creature is not to be confused with the grotesque, hideous monsters known for living under bridges and in caves, only emerging to feast on goats, sheep or young children. These trolls are far worse. They're the people who leave intentionally insulting, racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise provocative comments on online message boards and other social media outlets for the sole purpose of eliciting an irate response. The Internet troll represents another fascinating manifestation of the online era: the need to come up with categories for different kinds of jerks the way Eskimos reportedly had different names for types of snow.
Another category of jerk you'll want to familiarize yourself with is the so-called "frenemy." From the name you can probably figure out that a "frenemy" is a person who's both a "friend" and a person named "Emmy." Ha! No, in reality, a "frenemy" is someone who purports to be a friend but proves to be just the opposite by spreading malicious rumors about you, stealing your boyfriend/girlfriend or ratting you out the National Security Administration.
How many of the newer terms and expressions you read in this column were you already familiar with?
One or two of them - 42.9%
About half of them - 14.3%
What, you think people actually READ your columns? - 14.3%
The voting for this poll has ended on: 04 Aug 2014 - 07:31
Much better than "frenemies" are "friends with benefits." Note that here the term "benefits" does not refer to health insurance or dental coverage. These are millennials, remember - they don't enjoy those kind of benefits. But they do apparently enjoy a wealth of commitment-free romantic relationships, which is why they came up with the term "friends with benefits." And when you're so busy sleeping with all your friends, who has time to go to the dentist anyway?
Which brings us to our final word, "noob." Short for "newbie," "noob" is a condescending insult directed at anyone who is deemed inexperienced, unfamiliar or otherwise out of the loop. If you need to be told what a noob is, it means you ARE a noob. Even if, ironically enough, most of the time you feel more like an "oldb."
Sadly, space only allows me to provide definitions for a fraction of the new terms and expressions today's youth are rapidly coining. You'll just have to wait until future installments for explanations of "jumping the shark," "pwned," "spoiler alert" and my personal favorite, "sideboob."
In the meantime, readers, don't worry about young people using lingo that you don't understand. When that inevitably occurs, just stop the offending whippersnapper, look him or her directly in the eye and respond with a hearty, "23 Skidoo!" Then, when you receive a quizzical look in response, turn away and say, dismissively, "OMG, what a noob.
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