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Feb 18, 2023
Advertisement “They’re so drip,” my high-school daughter said of a pair of shoes on her phone for half a second. I looked over and said I thought they were “lit”. Don’t try too hard to speak like younger folk. Credit: “You can’t say that, Dad,” she scoffed. And she’s right, I’m a mid-40s male. Of course, I can’t say “lit” or “drip”. What forty-something man or woman can say “that’s drip”? A surfer? Maybe a musician? A rock star? Is Pink 40? She could say it and I’d believe it. But still, I couldn’t think of anyone I know in their 40s who would qualify unless their delivery dripped with satire. Pun intended. Slang is designed to exclude. Am I being ageist? Loading If I am, I’m equally ageist of younger people. My daughter’s friend ran into her buddy, a six-year-old kid. As she went to hug her, the six-year-old didn’t hug her back and then said, “Awks. That’s a bit cringey”. A six-year-old! I get “awks” and “cringey” are in a teenager’s vocabulary because, at that stage of your life, just about everything can seem both awkward and cringey. But that kid is too young to understand the feeling of awkwardness, where there is nothing to be gained from an extended dire social situation, so much so, that it just needs to be ended. And then to verbalise cringey? Advertisement Another six-year-old asked for a “ginormous” hug – that works. But you can’t take that into a board meeting. “We’re announcing a ginormous profit.” Informal, I know, it’d be funny at least. Corporate jargon (old people slang?) doesn’t get to be ageist. It has an agenda, taps into emotions, and reinforces power. “Reaching out” is one example. I’d received a redundancy from an ad agency and had contacted an old boss, who thanked me for “reaching out” to him. I was touched, to say the least. Reaching out suggests a leap of faith, vulnerability and understanding. It felt as if he was engaged in my plight. But it turned out I was reaching out to everyone, with the final straw being from my accountant when I handed in my tax return. I wasn’t necessarily reaching out so much as asking her to do my taxes. And then she replied. “Moving forward...” Cool! The Fonz popularised the expression in Happy Days during the 1980s. Somehow, it’s still around. “Moving forward” is my other favourite corporate slang, the origins of which may have been someone who’d sat in on one too many committee meetings and had a light-bulb moment. But it also shows the hierarchy, where the person saying it has considered everything and has decided the matter is closed. That’s the problem with older people’s slang, there’s nothing fun about it. If you’re hearing this jargon, things aren’t “drip”, “bussin’” or “cray cray”. And thus, these words are only cool in their environment. Loading “Cool” – it’s the non-discriminatory, non-ageist word that’s been there and done that. As someone who grew up in the 80s, when I hear “cool” I think of a set of black sunglasses. That’s my level of association with what I’m describing. When I say “lit”, I think of a candle, past tense. But that’s not why I don’t feel older people can’t use it. “Lit”, although recycled from earlier in the 20th century is authentic to younger people. I was reading a book set in the late 1800s the other day and the word “singular” came up to describe a dapper character. Such words have their time in the sun: fab, hectic, ace, phat, super, legit – and then they become popular, and the next one is created. “Cool” came to prominence as a figurative descriptor for in-fashion, avant-garde and/or paradoxically popular over the 20th century. And now in the 21st century, it continues its run. Its longevity can withstand Kochie saying it three times on his morning show without a ding to its credibility. I think of it as a translatable word for everyone. No one cringes when grandma says it. And we love when a little cute-as-pie-four-year-old says, “dat’s cool!” “Cool” is no longer slang and I think in some sense has moved past colloquial since the early 2000s. It could be pushing the boundaries of use as a formal adjective to describe very fashionable shoes. Although most dictionaries I looked up disagreed. Either way, I can still use “cool” and kids understand or accept my usage. It’s awesome! So, I corrected my faux pas and said, “Those kicks are cool.” Amirite? Or for us oldies, Am I right? The Opinion newsletter is a weekly wrap of views that will challenge, champion and inform your own. Sign up here . Save