Teen Speak: 10 Common Phrases Demystified

by Lori Gurtman | Lori Gurtman lives in Aspen, Colorado with her husband, two teenage children, and Old English Sheepdog. Reading and writing are her favorite escapes, but when she isn’t doing that, she can be found on the mountain: hiking, biking, or skiing. Lori is also a published author, freelance writer, certified proofreader, and college essay tutor—who is passionate about empowering her students to write from their hearts.

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Remember when your kids first learned to talk and you had to decipher their made-up words? Maybe they said cook or kie for cookie, or upee for pick me up. 

Once you were adept at knowing what they were saying, you had to inform the babysitter or family members looking after your children what these words meant, so they could give your offspring what they wanted.

My son had a security blanket shaped like a sheep that he referred to as bubba. Since he wouldn’t go to sleep without his bubba, it was important for anyone who was watching him to know what bubba was. My son was so attached to his sheep-blanket that we thought for sure he’d still have it when he got married. Thankfully, he retired bubba when he was eight years old.

By the time kids are in school, their made-up words tend to become a thing of the past. But when the teen years hit, it’s time for parents to once again learn a new language. 

Parenting teenagers is an entirely new ballgame, one that requires wearing many different hats. Here’s a list of some of my daily parenting roles.

Daily Parenting Roles:

Cop––I need to enforce rules, such as partying, driving, sex, homework, curfew, etc.

Parrot––I often repeat the rules because my children don’t listen the first time.

Cook––I’m always in the kitchen preparing meals and snacks to nourish their growing bodies.

House Manager––I need to make sure the kids help with household chores.

Cheerleader––I’m the proud parent rooting for my children during their in-school and extracurricular activities.

Detective––Let’s face it: teenagers lie on occasion, which is why it’s important to do my due diligence and check their whereabouts. For example, if my teen asks to sleep at a friend’s house, I’ll text that parent to make sure it’s okay and confirm that’s where they end up after a night out. I also track their phones to ensure their location. 

Translator––I’ve learned to decipher their language so I can understand what they’re saying to their friends.

Most of the above roles are self-explanatory and will need to be adjusted depending on how you see fit. 

My Job As A Translator

My job as a translator, however, was no easy feat––it required that I become a spy, another important aspect of parenting. To learn their language, I had to eavesdrop on their conversations. 

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t place a glass against their closed bedroom door and hold my ear to the rim. That kind of spying crosses the line, and if I got caught, my children would be wary of my behavior.

The best way to listen to my teenagers is when I’m driving carpool, or their friends are over and I’m feeding them in the kitchen, or when they’re hanging out in the living room watching TV. While spying, I always act casual and pretend I’m not paying attention to them. 

Raising teens is kind of like playing a game of chess. Your teens are smart, but to win, you always need to stay one step ahead of them.

For the past few months, I collected a list of ten common teen phrases I’ve heard spoken around my house. 

I suggest you familiarize yourself with the strange words and meanings your teenagers use. Make flashcards or a Quizlet if you must, so that you can mentally translate what your teenager is saying––but be warned: do not, under any circumstances, use their verbiage when talking to your teen, or your boss, or a client, or another adult—ever, because not only will you sound ridiculous, you’ll probably get laughed at.  

And remember, we were all teenagers once upon a time, and many of us sounded just as silly as our teens do now. 

Growing up in Massachusetts, I said phrases like, wicked awesome, goin’ to get a packie (that meant a beer or alcohol run), who’s having a bender tonight? (a party). 

I thought I sounded cool using teen vernacular, just like your kids think they sound cool using theirs. Hopefully, by the time our children leave our nest and become functioning adults in society, their slang terms will be long gone and replaced with proper English. 

For now, learning the slang phrases below will make you a better detective, cop, and spy when trying to figure out what your teen is up to.

  1. Teen: Is he or she throwing tonight? 

Adult interpretation: Is he or she having a party tonight? Assume there will be no adult supervision at this party.

  1. Teen: Yo, dead ass? 

Adult interpretation: For real?

  1. Teen: Peace out; Alright, catcha

Adult interpretation: Goodbye

  1. Teen: That’s dope; That’s fire; That’s epic.

Adult interpretation: That is amazing; That is wonderful; That is great.

  1. Teen: That’s sus.

Adult interpretation: That is questionable or suspicious behavior. 

  1. Teen: Yo, why you so butt-hurt?

Adult interpretation: Why are you so annoyed or offended?

  1. Teen: Why you actin’ so salty?

Adult interpretation: What are you so angry about?

  1. Teen: I could mess with that.

Adult interpretation: I would be interested in that.

  1. Teen: Wanna dip now?

Adult interpretation: Would you like to leave now?

  1. Teen: Yo, that shirt is drip.

Adult interpretation: I like your shirt. 

The teen years are just another phase of parenting. On the outside, your teenagers are wearing their lit (cool) attitude, speaking slang, and trying to figure out where they fit in. On the inside, they’re vulnerable, often limited in their capacity to see the world beyond their social bubbles, and most of all, they still need their parents unconditional love, support, and ears to listen to them—even if their words sound like nonsense.

Lori Gurtman, Author

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