2015: Things I Heard The Kids Saying This Year

I teach ESL, or ELD, or ELL, or whatever we’re calling it these days. (That’s only the beginning of the acronym options, but I won’t bore you.) Call it what you will, my job is to teach English to kids whose first language is something other than English.

But sometimes, I get the process backwards, and I let the kids teach me the latest English. Then I can turn around and teach my own friends “what the kids are saying these days,” and we can all shake our heads and bemoan the fate of the English language like the bitter geriatrics we aspire to one day become.

So that you too can play grandma and roll your eyes at the next generation, I bring you 2015’s edition of the maybe-it-will-become-annual-but-no-promises list of Things I Heard The Kids Saying This Year.

1. twenty-one

Not an Adele reference. While I don’t plan to do the entire list in any order, it feels like the number one spot should be significant, and I seriously debated between this and the next one for which is the most annoying…. But twenty-one wins because I find it both annoying and mean.

It comes from a Vine, which I won’t link to, of somebody (presumably a teenager?) calling a little kid dumb for not being able to do math. They ask him to solve 9+10, and the kid answers “21…?”

Ever since this mean-spirited video went viral, the kids have thought it’s hilarious to say twenty-one in their whiniest, most drawn-out voice. I dread moments when I have to tell them to open a book to page 21, or answer problem 21, or anything with the number 21, because I’m guaranteed a nasally chorus of twenty-one‘s, giggles, chuckles, snickers, and snorts. Worse, there’s always one or two kids that will say it in response to any number they hear, doesn’t even have to be 21. They’ll still decide it’s an opportunity to release their comedic gold on the rest of us…

2. bruh

The etymology of this one is clear–bro turned into bruh, and occasionally breh. But the definition? As far as I can tell, it doesn’t really mean anything. It may or may not be used like bro, to refer to your buddy. But mostly, it seems to be used when you don’t feel like saying anything else. “How did you feel about that math test?” “Bruh.”

Yeah, I don’t know.

3. what are those

Soooooo ready for this one to die already… I believe it also comes from a Vine or video or something that I haven’t seen. I don’t need to see it; I already know how it goes. Person A points to Person B’s shoes, and yells, “WHAT ARE THOSE?!” I’m told the correct response is “BETTER THAN YOURS!” (Remember that, guys. Knowledge is power.) I have no idea why everyone’s running around making fun of everyone else’s shoes. But they seem to do it indiscriminately, whether or not the other person is actually wearing cool shoes, so the meanness factor seems low. It’s just annoying. Especially since I can no longer simply inquire about the identity of objects by asking, “What are those?”

4. goals

I discovered this one last spring, when we were reading a novel in class that the kids were super into. (The Unhappening of Genesis Lee) Any time the main character and her love interest (note: it’s not a love story, but it includes a love story) had any semblance of a cute moment together, the girls in class would squeal and yell, “Goals! Goals! That’s goals right there!” I eventually learned that was actually part of a sub-category known as relationship goals. There are also squad goals if you see a group of friends being cool, the way you wish you and your friends could be. I’m sure there are other classifications of goals too.

I think goals originated as an Instagram hashtag. Maybe? I don’t hate this one, though. I feel like it has its uses. I think it’s slipped out of my mouth “ironically” a time or two, which means it’s only a matter of time until I’m saying it sincerely.

5. on fleek

I feel like this one’s already gotten a lot of attention in the general knowledge bank, but it still seems like the strangest phenomenon. If it were just the newest way to tell somebody they’re on point, looking good, then fine, whatever. But on fleek is limited to complimenting somebody’s eyebrows. What? How did “nice eyebrows” merit its very own adjective??

My prediction: one of two things is going to happen. On fleek is going to die out quickly, buried in the time capsule of 2015 trivia. Or its definition is going to expand to a more general way to compliment somebody’s appearance, so shoes, lipstick, and haircuts will also have a shot at being on fleek.

6. bae

I feel like this one’s been around for a little longer than a year, but whatever, I’m including it on my list. Because I hate it. For those who haven’t been paying attention, bae is the new word for “babe.” Personally, I’ve never even liked the word “babe.” I can’t even really defend my distaste for it, but I’ll never use it. So now that’s been further cutesy-fied into bae? Ugh. No.

7. though

At first, it really bothered me that though had become a slang term. (And the way the kids spell it doe still bothers me! Say no to the female deer!) Basically, it’s become a way to comment on something, without actually formulating a comment. And it seems to be tonally based. Depending on my tone, “that shirt though” could mean that I love or hate your shirt. It seems lazy. Sentences no longer need a verb or adjective to be descriptive. All you need is a noun and though. But I have to admit… I’m getting sucked into this one. I’ve definitely been known to coo over baby photos, “Those cheeks though…” I won’t admit to times I’ve used it in less kind contexts…

8. wrecked

The internet tells me it’s spelled rekt, but… really? I’ve only heard this one from boys so far, and the best I can tell, getting wrecked means something bad happened? I guess I need more data.

9. pause

My new least favorite. Pause has just popped up lately, and seems to be the new “that’s what she said.” I don’t know where it came from, but using context clues and my middle school brain, I’m feeling pretty confident that I understand the usage. When a kid starts using it in my class, I just innocently ask if they’d like to explain the term to myself or any other staff members. They decline, and immediately quit using the word. Problem solved.

10 thoughts on “2015: Things I Heard The Kids Saying This Year”

  1. I am so glad you so eloquently described and permanently marked the internet with most of the slang I have been hearing from not only MY students, but my own 3 teenagers (and occasionally the 10 and 6 year olds) that has bugged the fleek out of me (hehe a new usage of fleek…). I was told the other day by my 19 year old niece that “on fleek” can also mean other things other than eyebrows but she’s from Idaho so does that count? 🙂

    The usage of “though” as in “OMG those pants though..” has been surprisingly easy to use by us adults and I have sort of adopted that one. Being a middle school teacher you gotta stay cool, talk the lingo (a little) and show you can relate. I’m sure we’ll have more convos of what words or phrases are new and weird as the year goes on! Nice blog!

    1. Just trying to keep the people informed on the important issues. 😉 I’m counting on you to help me keep track of whatever new terms crop up in 2016! (Idaho teens count… but they may count for less.:))

  2. I have always loved the witty and intelligent way you write, Kristine! So glad I discovered this blog of yours! I will read religiously.

  3. FYI: Husband dearest says “get wrecked” is linked to video game terminology, such as “getting pwned.”

    The Bae one is both annoying and amusing to me too. The amusement factor is that my mother used to call me that from infancy to early adulthood, as a Turkish endearment (knowingly wrong gender form, but it rolled off the tongue more easily after saying my name/nicknames). So funny to see what she said being now mainstream-ish — sorta.

  4. Delightful list Kristine. I am assuming “getting wrecked” refers to the use of mood altering substances (unfortunately) but then I am a child of the 60’s so that’s where my mind goes. (-:

    1. That’s totally what it sounds like, but I think Margaret is right and the kids are getting it from the gamer world… I dunno.

  5. Oh I forgot to mention! In another language Bae actually means POOP! So I use it with my kids to describe their baes as poop. It gets them rolling their eyes right away, and rolling them WAAAY back into their heads too. “oh my gosh mom, no!” It’s great.

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