By L.A. Kohl
October 24, 2005
(published in the Wed., Oct. 26, 2005 edition of the "Bullseye")
No, this isn’t an exposé of naughty slang terms, even though to most people the word “wicked” is synonymous with evil, immoral, and the like. Most parents, and anyone who works with youth, have been enlightened to realize that “wicked” is a slang word that has nothing to do with being evil. Kind of like the fact that anything “hot” or “cool” has nothing to do with temperature.
I find slang terms rather interesting, especially the way they change from generation to generation. A writing course I took years ago stressed that you should avoid using slang in writing, because they become dated so quickly. However, they never told me I couldn’t write about slang terms!
In my teenage years, everything bit. Not literally of course, but if you had a test to study for over the weekend, that was a “bite”…if nobody asked you to homecoming, that was a “real bite”…and not passing your driving test; well that “bites like a big dog." (We compared lots of things to big dogs in those days…don’t ask me why.) “Scumbags” were pretty common, but it was a term you hoped no one ever used when revering to you. “Gag me” was one of those slang terms that you could speak, or just do the actions behind someone’s back if you were too reluctant to say it out loud. Just point the index finger in your open mouth, and everyone knew what you meant. I know, it all sounds silly now, but at least I wasn’t a teen during the “far out” and “groovy” generation of slang. Gag me with a spoon!
Now that I’ve got teenagers of my own, I get to hear my fair share of the more modern lingo. I’ve discovered that lots of things are “sweet," whether or not we’re actually eating dessert. My pre-teen daughter likes the word “dude” - it doesn’t matter if she’s talking to a little sister or not, they’re still a dude. “Awesome” has been around for several years, and surprisingly, it means pretty much what it was originally intended to mean. “Totally awesome” used to be the ultimate in awesomeness, but I think it’s been replaced with “totally wicked." They have the same definition; just a new way of expressing it. Of course, the Bullseye’s “Fatty Friends” have taught us that the word “phat” is a positive term, which has nothing to do with a person’s weight.
There is one slang word that never seems to age – “cool." Can’t you just hear the Fonz, Ritchie, Potsie and Ralph on “Happy Days” using that word? The Fonz himself was the epitome of cool-ness. Even though that show was about teenagers of the 1950’s, I’ve heard today’s teens using “cool” on a regular basis. I think it’s rather astonishing that in the ever changing world of teen lingo, there’s at least one word that remains ageless and unchanging. Now that’s wicked cool.