New Lingo

By Chandra Orr

May 21, 2010 6 min read

"OMG! Her tweet said her peeps just pwned that noob."

Does it sometimes feel as if you only understand every other word that comes out of young people's mouths? Well, in theory, you're not supposed to understand.

Teen slang has long been a means of bonding with peers and distancing adolescents from adults as they forge their own paths in the world. It's insider lingo, meant to confuse -- and even challenge -- the older crowd.

Like every generation, today's teens have a vocabulary all their own, and it takes a big cue from technology. From terms coined while playing online video games to acronyms meant to make text messaging simpler, modern teen talk is a product of the digital age.

But that doesn't mean you can't decode the jargon.

As it is with any "foreign" language, the best way to learn teens' language is through immersion. Join a social networking site, such as Facebook or Twitter. Set up an instant messaging -- or IMing -- program, such as MSN Messenger or Yahoo! Messenger. Learn to use the text messaging function on your cell phone. You won't be alone.

"The fastest-growing group of people joining social media are people in their mid-50s and higher. They are learning and often being taught by their children or grandchildren. It's a wonderful way to bond," says Phyllis May, author of "ReFired Not Retired: Re-Ignite Your Zest For Life" and host of "The Fiery Retiree" on the VoiceAmerica Talk Radio Network.

If it all seems a bit overwhelming, start small. Ask your grandkids for a cell phone primer.

"Ask your grandchildren to teach you about texting. Have them show you how to send and respond to messages. They will enjoy being the experts," says Amy Goyer, AARP's family expert and author of "Things To Do Now That You're ... a Grandparent."

Don't worry about becoming a whiz overnight. Start with short messages -- e.g., How RU 2day? -- to keep in touch during the busy school week. While texting to the teens in your life, use the youthful acronyms only as you feel comfortable.

"If it's intimidating or you just don't want to use shortcuts, don't. You don't have to use them," May says. "I don't. I'm too much of a stickler for spelling."

"The fact that you're making an effort to understand their world is what counts," Goyer says. "Grandkids will be impressed and have fun with it."

When you're ready to step it up, join an online social networking site, such as Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.

"I talked with a grandchild recently who thought it was surprising but great when her grandmother sent her a friend request on Facebook," Goyer says. "Many grandparents tell me that these social networking sites are the best way to keep up with their grandchildren's activities and send messages of support for whatever they are up to."

By being active in texting and social networking, you naturally will pick up the modern vernacular, but even then you may hear terms that test your vocabulary.

"Don't let it overwhelm you," Goyer says. "If a grandchild says something you don't understand, look it up."

Websites such as Teen Chat Decoder and No host ever-growing lists of the latest lingo. Better yet, go straight to the source.

"Ask your grandkids. They are really the experts," Goyer says. "Show an interest in what they are saying and what it means."

A word of caution: You may be hip to the latest lingo, but in-person teen-speak is best left to teens. Teens don't expect you to be cool. The younger crowd certainly will appreciate your efforts to forge a connection, but don't try to join their world, May says.

"You'll sound like an idiot, and that's a turnoff to them. Just be able to communicate and know what they're talking about," May says.

Goyer agrees: "It's good to be able to understand them and throw in a term every now and then, but don't overdo it. Teens will see right through it, and your coolness will turn into ridiculousness."


Teen-speak: Ever wonder what all those acronyms and abbreviations mean?

OMG: Oh, my goodness/oh, my gosh.

LOL: Laughing out loud.

ROFL: Rolling on the floor laughing.

SMH: Shaking my head.

W/E: Whatever.

NE1: Anyone.

TTYL: Talk to you later.

BRB: Be right back.

BBL: Be back later.

AFK: Away from keyboard.

ATM: At the moment.

GTG: Got to go.

BFN: Bye for now.

FTW: For the win.

IDK: I don't know.

RL: Real life (as opposed to online life).

BFF: Best friend forever.

BF4L: Best friends for life.

POS: Parents over shoulder.

PAW: Parents are watching.

CTN: Can't talk now.

NMU: Not much, you?

IMO: In my opinion.

PWN: Own.

N00B: Newbie, beginner.

GR8: Great.

W8: Wait.

THX: Thanks.

U2: You, too.

411: Information.

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