Are you out of touch, speech-wise? Do you make clever remarks that you think are hip, only to have your children and grandchildren roll their eyes in a combination of pity and embarrassment?
Well, worry no more. Here’s a bit of a guide to some slanguage which may make you sound a little more hep to the jive. A warning, though: even if an expression is contemporary as can be now, our speech changes so fast that by the time you finish reading this column, it may be out-of-fashion.
Let’s start with expressions of appreciation and dismay. Hard to believe, but terms like “cool,” “hot,” “groovy,” “right on,” “boss,” “outta sight,” “right on time” and “awesome” have all passed into the Museum of Outdated Slang.
Today’s (and maybe yesterday’s) informal speech requires that approval be expressed in terms of how “sick” or “dope” something may be. Something really outstanding and popular may be described as “straight fire.”
Negative connotations maybe new to you, too. To say that something is mundane and a bit boring, it’s “basic.” If you’re not sure of someone’s intentions, it’s “sus,” as in “suspect.”
Your “fam” is not your relatives, but your closest friends. A “GOAT” is not a shaggy four-legged animal with a cranky disposition, but the “Greatest of All Time.” So presumably, a “sick GOAT” would be a pretty good thing to be, strange as that may sound.
“Bro” or “bruh” means a close friend, and the term originated with black men expressing a brotherhood with other black men. But you sometimes can hear some whiter-than-snow middle age guy using it in an effort to appear “lit” (awesome). It usually makes young people kek (laugh out loud).
Today’s argot has a political dimension, too. You’ve probably seen or heard the term “RINO,” which stands for Republican In Name Only. That refers to all formerly moderate members of the GOP, a tribe now almost as rare as the real rhinos. Both are being hunted to extinction.
A fun new term is “snowflake,” intended to apply to too-tender liberals who think there are incredibly special and melt quickly under the pressure of reality.
On the left some new terms are “micro-aggressions,” “triggers” and “safe space.” A “micro” is anything – even unintentional – which makes members of a certain group feel bad or stereotyped. The term has evolved to the point where it’s being applied to anything that may hurt your feelings, even if you deserve it.
Triggers are topics which could make you uncomfortable. Originally it applied to scenes of graphic violence – in a film, for example – which might engender a traumatic memory for a victim of such violence. But now it’s gotten mushy and applies to anything which might offend someone or challenge his or her opinions.
For example, warn me ahead of time if you plan to say that not every Italian has a lovely singing voice. That’s very sus.
“Safe space” means a place – usually on a college campus – which is a haven from “marginalization” for gays, women and other folks who feel aggrieved. It could literally be a room with comforting items such as cookies, coloring books and blankets. To some people, this is where snowflakes come from.
That’s enough wisdom for now. I’m going to amscray; hit the road; agitate the gravel. Slang, like clothing, runs in cycles. I want to be ahead of the curve for once.
Jim Tortolano’s Retorts appears on Wednesdays.