Ready to be in on the latest vernacular I hear young people in Walla Walla use?
I’m relieved that I am hearing my students say the latest popular phrase less now than at the beginning of the school year (I’ll get to that little gem later), but this has me thinking about language and how it changes through the years.
As a middle school teacher I have the privilege of hearing new phrases and language daily. I generally can guess at the meaning, though I admit (but never to my students!) that some of what they say is mystifying.
Here are some of the more popular phrases out of an online dictionary I hear from the Walla Walla’s middle-school set:
Newb: Or is it noob? This is said only by boys to other boys in response to saying something foolish, as in, “You’re such a NEWB!” I’m going to guess this comes from “newbie” because no one ever gets upset.
Baller: OK, I will admit my generation used this word in a far more adult way than the sweet innocent children of today. The first time a boy shouted this to another boy within my earshot I put on my teacher scowl face, ready to intercept any other innuendo that might accompany this offensive word. Except that baller is now no longer offensive. Who knew? Apparently it is someone who is good at basketball or other sports.
Yo mama: This remains a cross-generational, widely used phrase that usually brings about good natured laughter, as in “Who borrowed my pen?” Then some eighth-grader will holler out, “Yo mama!”
Ain’t nobody got time for that: OK, I teach grammar, but I know I can always say this one for a laugh. My students mentioned this ridiculous video on YouTube with the same title and, well, after watching it you may find yourself saying it, too. Of course, because it was brought to my attention by eighth-graders, I screened it. Yep, I couldn’t show it because of inappropriate language. First rule of YouTube: Screen before showing.
Trolling: This was a great mystery to me until I looked it up in the Urban Dictionary. The group of boys who frequently use this word (“You are trolling!” “Don’t be a troller!”) couldn’t or wouldn’t explain the meaning beyond messing up someone else’s video game. Trolling is basically being mean on the Internet, something my generation never even had to imagine but kids today live with every moment. They don’t even know how nice it all was before Facebook or cellphones — but that’s another story.
Cool: I am so glad this is still ... uh ... cool. My dad says cool. I say cool. My seventh-graders say cool. My 5-year-old says cool.
That’s so cool.
These are popular phrases today. The only thing I guarantee is that nearly all of them will NOT be popular in a year. Remember “whatever,” “talk to the hand,” “the bomb,” “groovy,” “neat” (which I still use), and “far out?” My protective technique when it comes to slang is to avoid using it all. Or to just stick with cool.
Oh, and the now not-so-popular phrase that earlier this fall seemed to be sweeping our school? “I’m going to punch you in the face.” Can you believe that? And not said in a threatening way, but usually said sweetly by a girl who would never, ever actually punch anyone in the face.
I knew this was truly a slang term when my 8-year-old came home from her very nice school and kindly said she was going to punch someone in the face if she didn’t have a snack soon.
OK. I’ll get right on that snack — and it would be cool if you don’t use that phrase!
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla middle school dual language teacher. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.