Decoding 'Teenish' – A Primer for Parents

By Vidya Pradhan 

Zomg! Woot, you totally pwned me n't, moran! I just smurfed the pools with you. I drank your milkshake. Don't go crying GBCW on me now. eom

The above passage sent my spellchecker into a frenzy as it swamped the page in red underlines. If your head just exploded from the effort of decoding this new vernacular, welcome to the world of obsolete parents whose children have (d)evolved the language of Wren and Martin into a barely verbal, gloriously-encumbered-by-grammar,emphasis-laden perpetual display of oneupmanship. (The only reason this 40-year old mom was able to penetrate this was thanks to lurking on pro-Obama blogs!)

Every generation has its lingo (as Swati correctly points out in the comments), which it uses to defiantly define itself, but there are some very interesting features about this new dialect, almost entirely a product of the SMS, Instant Message culture.

First is the ease with which spelling errors are embraced into the vernacular. Both "pwned" and "moran" are slips of
the thumb which were absorbed with lightning speed by the digital generation. In fact, the errors give the words an
added emphasis, such that "pwned" is a mega term for "owned". I "pwned " him trumps I "owned" him and a moran is a
bigger fool that a moron could ever be.

Second is the divergence of the written and spoken language. Parents through the ages have struggled to communicate
with their teenage children as the generation gap makes its regular and cyclical appearance every couple of dozen
years or so. But never has the generational slang actually gone non-verbal, till now. Just try to read the above
passage aloud to see what I mean. Moms and dads, if your teenager is not talking, maybe it is because he really
can't say aloud what he's thinking, literally.

Third is the speed at which these assaults on the language quickly make their way into mainstream lingo. Maybe it is
a pathetic attempt on the part of us over-the-hill adults to be cool, but respected technical and political blogs have incorporated pwned and eom as part of their shorthand of communication.

Will it last? Slangs of every generation die out as quickly as they are created. ("Cool" is now so uncool; the new term to express approval is "sick", I believe!). And if the experience of the artist now known as Prince who was formerly known as a Mars/Venus symbol who was formerly known as Prince is anything to go by,eventually the lost sheep feel the need to come back to the fold and buckle down to their English teachers' dicta.

Meanwhile, if you are still interested in making sense of your teenagers' angst, you had better make the urban dictionary your new best friend. And if what you are feeling is a sense of outrage over the murder of the Queen's English, Geeta Padmanabhan reflects on the relevance of grammar in our next article.

ZOMG:  ZOMG is a varient of the acronym "OMG", meaning "Oh My God".The "z" was originally a mistake while attempting to hit the shift key with the left hand, and type "OMG"

W00T: W00t was originally an truncated expression common among players of Dungeons and Dragons tabletop role-playing game for "Wow, loot!" Thus the term passed into the net-culture where it thrived in video game communities and lost its original meaning and is used simply as a term of excitement. 

Pwned: A corruption of the word "Owned."It basically means "to own" or to be dominated by an opponent or situation, especially by some god-like or computer-like force.

n't: universal negative. One can say this at the end of a statement to completely reverse the whole thing. Commonly used to disprove a friend and make him/her seem foolish. 

Moran: A misspelling of moron. Maybe, the way morons spell moron?

Smurf the pool: Originally to use a pool cue to mark the face of your opponent with blue cue chalk.Another way to say "Owned".

Drink your milkshake: Inspired by the 2008 film "There Will Be Blood", the phrase "I drink your milkshake!" is used to indicate oneupmanship or getting the better of someone.

GBCW: Good Bye Cruel World.

EOM: End of Message. Used to signify the end of the post.

Glossary courtesy Urban Dictionary 

3 thoughts on “Decoding 'Teenish' – A Primer for Parents

  1. Archana

    Well said Vidya, Being a mother of two boys does take you on a roller coaster ride with their language,I so try hard to understand. Talk about Generation gap.. and I thought I was cool .DANG..hahaha. hope to read more of such articles.


  2. Swati Prasad Siddharth

    Well, Vidya. We had our own version in our times. Lingo!

    Having said that, I do not think our parents had to do much other than wince at the wanton destruction of the Queen’s English.

    Today I am largely left wondering and pondering on the meaning of the words. By the time I figure that out, I am way beyond wincing. It is not even English to begin with! I wonder if the French, Russians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese and other linguistic groups have the same issue!



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