5 Slang Words I'm Clearly Not Qualified to Use

Slang is a tricky thing. It's a constantly evolving subset of language that's most commonly used as the calling card of the generation gap. Buzzwords get hokey and old, but real honest to goodness slang stays with you, and in many cases marks you with the unmistakable stink of age.
Can you dig it, Jive Turkey?
Of course, no one really talks anymore -- so there's this interesting thing happening lately where in our text/type culture it's probably possible to appear "with it" as long as you can wield the lingo within the correct context for the situation.

For example, whenever I hang out with my surfer buddies -- I tend to fall back into the terminology I used to use during the time when that was the major cultural influence on my world, much the same way as someone who's "lost their accent" living in a metropolitan city tends to have it come back out whenever they visit their hometown or run into old friends (which is sort of a regular occurrence here in the south, where you'll meet intelligent, well-spoken women at your office who somehow devolve into raging hillbillies when you unexpectedly bump into them at the Florida-Georgia pre-party down at the Landing).

In my case, it's the subtle things that creep into my everyday speech that give me away. Like if you talk to me on the phone on a regular basis, but then you start to notice that instead of saying things like "Goodbye" or "Catch Ya Later" I'll end every conversation with the word
You should immediately bust me on it.
Because not only are things like "Late," "Audi," or "Laterhosen" not really a part of my normal speech patterns, but they're really not even a part of the world that I live in. Sure I still try to catch waves now and again, but even when I surfing a lot more when I was younger, it was still never really something I said a lot.

Best I can tell, "Late" is a West Coast thing that sort of caught on in the surfer community. So much so that when people wanted to try to appear as if they fit in with that culture, it was one of the words they would try to use.

At the same time, just because it's accepted slang for the culture doesn't mean that just anyone could use it effectively, and it was that lack of authority in using the language that became sort of a litmus test for finding out who was "keeping it real" and who wasn't -- kind of like the word "Word" in hip-hop culture.
Or to put it another way -- Fred Durst surely has many homies, and might even have
a posse, but I've never really bought into it when his lyrics tried to tell me about it.
At the same time, one of the tricky things about slang is that it's hard not to be drawn to it sometimes. I don't know exactly what it is (and this will probably make me sound like a dork to admit) but I would really love to be able to wield the term "late" more often. To my ears, it sorta sounds cool. Or perhaps better said -- the people I've known who used that term appeared cooler in my eyes for using it.

Because when you get right down to it, that's how slang usually works.
It's not like every Beatnik in America got a letter in the mail one day that directed them to start using the word "Daddy-O" at the end of every sentence. Most likely there was a day when one guy started saying it a lot, and another dude hanging around him thought it sounded kinda different and cool, and started using it too. Two became three, and it went from there.

I think as people we're sometimes drawn to the appearance of security and wholeness that comes from being part of a scene (especially when we're younger). Especially in today's society, where it's not really enough just to ride a skateboard, listen to goth music, or live in the Hills -- authenticity (or at least the appearance of it) becomes a much more important type of currency if you want acceptance.

But that doesn't mean there wasn't a day when some guy came back to his dorm room and started tossing the term around with his friends where they didn't all look at him in confusion and say, "Dude, why do you keep saying Daddy-O? What the hell does that even mean?"

At the same time, the strength of any scene is it's ability to spread like a virus among it's membership, to the point where everyone in the scene sounds like everybody else for that short period of time where it feels like some sort of natural momentum (which immediately proceeds that point where it becomes a fad, and everybody runs away from it like the plague -- trapping anyone who still tries to use it on the wrong side of the cool-meter, immediately outing them as wannabes or posers).
Especially if they're older.
There's an awkwardness that comes with new language, especially with something that's as fluid as slang tends to be that gets exponentially higher when you're a little too old to be a natural part of the culture you're trying to buy into.

Back in the day, that was the whole point. Young people didn't want to sound old, and adults found the words their kids used to be immature. The divide was actively maintained by both sides, creating a strange little balance that most of us had to transition through as we grew older.

Now in this Internet age, the gates are a lot more open. Sure Facebook was created for college students, but once it opened up to the world it was easy to find situations where teenagers were conversing with what might have previously been considered senior citizens. Chris Hansen and the "To Catch a Predator" crowd aside -- the crossover that's come with the information age means that everybody understands what LOL means.

There are plenty of sites where discussion groups or chatrooms aren't age specific. From the movie chatter on Ain't It Cool News to the political vitriol that follows most every new article published on The Huffington Post, the odds that the comments section is being filled with talk from only one age group are becoming smaller and smaller.

In other words -- old fogeys will never be mistaken for the cool kids, but when you remove the face to face differences between them and reduce it all down to text interaction with avatars and emoticons, the lines do seem to get a lot more blurry.
All that being said, context matters.
Just knowing the words isn't enough -- it's about how you use them. And while in some cases typing the occasional "FTW" or "lollercoaster" won't get you voted off the island, it does tend to set you far apart from the online crowd if you should choose to spell correctly or have a general idea how punctuation works.
A problem that gets even worse when you try to translate it to actual speech.
Add my 30+ years of existence on this planet and my inescapable whiteness to the mix, and what you get are a whole bunch of slang words and phrases that I'll pretty much never be able to say in public without looking like a complete idiot.
  1. Haterblockers -- While I'm sure I have haters out there that would require the kind of blocking that a good pair of dark sunglasses could provide, it's just not the kind of thing I could ever spin into an actual phrase that could be said. I can use it ironically; you know -- honky it up for comedic effect or whatever, but if they ever opened a store that sold nothing but Haterblockers, all I'd ever probably be able to say when I'm in there is "One please."

  2. Chillax -- In my defense, this never sounds good out loud. Having taught eighth grade, I got to hear this word waay more than I ever really wanted to; and it's just one of those things that's really better when typed. That being said, despite the fact that I understand what it means to "chill" and I'm well versed in the idea of "relaxing" -- I'm still not really 100% sure what chillaxing actually is.

  3. Bro-tocol (see also; Broseph, Bromance) -- During my surfing days I was able to throw the occasional "Brah" around without worry. Online I tend to use the word "bro" pretty regularly (in rotation with other qualifiers like "dude" or "man"). But "bro" in real speech is a little trickier. And despite what it might sound like -- "Bro" and "Broseph" are not related. Whenever I go into Endo, invariably someone (usually Ralph or Matty) will say "What's happening, my brother?" -- which I've come to like, but I've never been called a "Broseph," and to be perfectly honest, I feel pretty good about it. "Broseph" to me comes off as fratty, which is not really my thing. Don't get me wrong -- It's funny to type, but do people actually say this to each other -- or is it just something you use when making fun of Matthew McConaughey?

  4. Righteous -- While it fits squarely into the sort of late 80's surfer/stoner culture I lived and worked around when I was younger, a guy named Brian Garrepy forever ruined the word "Righteous" for me by making it too funny to use without retelling his story. Basically we threw this party at Gristina's house where Brian got totally wasted and passed out on the front lawn. Like most people who pass out on lawns at parties, you sort of don't realize they've done it until someone says something like "Hey, has anyone seen Brian?" (Either that or someone shows up late and says "You do know there's a guy passed out on your driveway, right?") So we go out there to check on him, and he's just gone, so we pick him up and start asking him if he's ok and stuff, and he looks up at us with basically a mouth full of lawngrass and dirt and this completely glazed donut look in his eyes -- probably trying to figure out where he was, so we asked him again, "How you feeling, dude?" at which point he sorta pulled himself up to a wobbly standing position, looked us in the eye, gave the thumbs up and said in a complete stoner voice "Righteous" and then fell flat on his face passed out again -- where we basically left him until the next morning.

  5. Sugar -- "Sugar" is something you used to hear a lot more of down here in the South. I don't know why, but it's kinda fallen out of style in recent years -- but every now and then you'll hear it from a waitress or something and maybe it's just me, but it's kind of awesome. The problem is that "Sugar" is kind of a chick word. It's a rare place where a guy could start tossing that word around and not come off like some kind of sexist a-hole. Not that I would use it in that way, but that I guess dudes can't really say it right. A man saying "Sugar" is pretty much equivalent to tossing out "Toots" or "Missy" -- which just doesn't really fly anymore. Luckily, women never seem to mean that word in a demeaning way. And, although the women who do use it probably say it to every single person they meet, whenever they drop one on you there's something about it that makes it feels like it was said especially for you -- which is probably what makes it so cool.
There are probably more words like this out there, but these are just the ones I can think of right now. The odd thing about the list I came up with was that while I was putting it together I realized that a bunch of mine were sorta reigonal -- which means that there are probably a lot of different ones, depending on where you live in the world.
So what are some of yours?
Of course the older I get the worse almost any kind of slang is gonna sound coming out of my lips, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, you know?
Because lord knows the ladies never go for a guy who's squaresville.

[Listening To:  Deftones"Korea" ]


Satorical said…
Random thoughts about slang:

I have always despised the term "hater." Figures, right?

"Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen."
--Mean Girls


I don't know that slang was every my problem so much as quoting too many goddamned movies. Once, Werdna noted "There are days when you don't say anything original." I think it was an expression of amazement more than an insult, but it did make me rethink some things.
whatigotsofar said…
I've been trying to spread 'bitchcakes' but I can't find any takers.
Werdna said…
@Satorical- didn't mean to be insulting, more of an observation or expression of amazement.

Re: "Late" I went through the whole 12 steps including denial and acceptance with it. Now unless it is a professional call or meeting, I'm probably using Late. It seems to be some kind of California thing. I never heard it out here until my second roommate in 1995. And I hated it...

But obviously now I can't stop. Full adoption. I think I went through the same thing with sick but I've mostly dropped sick.

I'm not sure I have problems with slang normally. I would guess haterblockers I'm still in denial about.

I also do not get the bro/brother/broseph etc. But I know people that use it.

It is possible I will come out of denial or hatred on some of these.
JerseySjov said…
i used to say 'rad' a lot, but then i went through a phase where i didn't think anything was rad so i stopped using it.
i'm a fan of using oldie slang like 'neato' and 'nifty'

ever see the family guy with the digression about "fast talking high trousers"?

my roommate is taking a class on slang and it's the funniest thing ever. she read me an article about the use of slang in hip-hop where the word 'pig' was interpreted as a dissertation about the conflict between muslims and jews since they both cannot eat pork, when it actually clearly was talking about coppers.
The Kaiser said…
I don't think I can get away with using ANY slang out loud in a non-ironic manner.
It just doesn't work. If I changed how I dress I could probably use biker-related slang, but as it is I just don't visibly fit well enough into any sort of category that can get away with it.
I make up for it with jargon.
Heff said…
Lay me down a smackum yackum !
Monster said…
I have a small obsession with replacing the word "cool" as often as I can. A successful attempt:

When I caught myself saying "cool?" like "do you understand?" to my kids, and worse, expecting the response of, you guessed it, "cool", I switched to "Capice." It works better, and there's something awesome about two little white kids answering "capice" back at their father in a public place.

A failed attempt:
I need some word for "hunky dorie" in the workplace besides "cool". I've tried Golden (and it's related Shiny), Brilliant, Square (ironic, I know, but this is square as in "squared away)... among others. Still no go. Any Hexacordinal suggestions for something I SHOULD use?
Hex said…
Sartorical -- Haterade is just a stupid idea. Who comes up with these things?

Movie quotes make my world go round. Never stop doing that.

WIGSF -- I like the thought, but you gotta help the rest of us out here a little bit -- is it an adjective, a noun, or what?

How 'bout some usage suggestions?

"Bitchcakes you, pal"
"What the bitchcakes is going on here?"
"Oh baby, I'm gonna bitchcake your brains out tonight"
"Pass Interference!? What kind of bitchcakes is that!!"
"Hey, check out the bitchcakes on that one."
"It hurt like 8 Bitchcakes on a Bitchcakes boat"

Come on, bro -- don't leave us hangin!

Werdna -- the problem that I run into with non-Californian "late" is that people who aren't surfers don't know what you're doing. I get a lot of "Late what?" -- which kind of kills the mood, you know?

Jersey -- I would love to take a class on Slang. That would be a blast!

"Rad" always sounds skater-ish, which is probably why it never really stuck for me. However, because they apply in the music world, I completely abuse terms like "Shreds" and "Rips"

Kaiser -- Are bikers protective of their slang? I mean, if you throw out something like "Sissy Bar" in mixed company, do they hand out beatdowns?

Heff -- Check it, blood. Bro was ON! Didn't trip. But the folks was freakin', Man. Hey, and the pilots were laid to the bone. So Blood hammered out and jammed jet ship. Tightened that bad sucker inside the runway like a mother. Shiiiiit.

Monster -- I don't know, but I hear "Bitchcakes" is available.
Frank said…
I just hate unnecessary abbreviations, like when people call their parents "rents."
Amanda said…
I really love "fucktard". I don't know if it is slang really, but I love to say it and I think I get away with it, but it is real, real rude so I sound like a complete bitch when I call a fucktard "Fucktard".

I cannot get away with "rock on", but somehow it is endearing when your brother says it to people.

I use "dude" too much. Sometimes it wears me out.

When I was with my youth group this one girl used to say "for the love!" which I adopted for a while.

Mostly I'm just old and white I guess.
The Kaiser said…
I don't really think that "dude" and "cool" count as slang anymore. They're just part of the American idiom at this point.
Hex said…
Frank -- I'm normally with you on that, except for the word 'Tard, which is hard not to love.

The other thing I've noticed myself doing a lot lately in speech is going with the first letter abbreviations of profanity the way a lot of radio guys do -- it's particularly effective at work, especially in situations where you have to say something like

"Who the F authorized this S!?"

Amanda -- Fucktard is a gem. I've gotten away from it recently, but I also love the hell out of Motard, which is someone too dumb to be a moron, but too rational to be a retard.

I also get a lot of mileage out of the ultimate southern insult, which is "Bless their heart" -- which is what you say to distance yourself from something awful you want to say abotu someone, i.e.

"So and so's a degenerate crackhead, but bless his heart he tries his best."

The yankee equivalent of this I believe is "No disrespect," which I say a lot too.

Kaiser -- agreed, but I think "Dude" still has some flexibility to it, where it can be used in a lot of different ways.