We are a nation of slang slingers. Eight out of 10 Americans say they use slang, but half admit to not even knowing the meaning of the slang terms they use.
Many of us incorporate slang into every conversation; about 22% of those surveyed said they do. Only 10% said they rarely use slang.
But why would we use a slang word if don’t know it’s meaning? “I think there is another segment of the population that doesn’t want to seem hip or uncool for not understanding the latest batch of popular slang words, so they simply so just go along with using the term instead of asking someone to define it or Google its meaning,” Daniele Saccardi, campaigns manager at Preply, told USA TODAY.
So what are the most popular slang words tossed around? The word most would use in a sentence – according to half of those surveyed – was “ghosted,” which means to quit communicating with someone without an explanation. That’s followed in popularity by “salty,” a term for being exceptionally bitter or angry; “on point,” a phrase meaning exactly right; “woke,” alert to social justice; and “goat,” an acronym for greatest of all time.
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Not all slang is equal. Some is annoying. The slang phrases most disliked – 29% agreed on this – were “OK, boomer,” a response to someone out of touch, and “bae,” a term for a significant other. (How does this term of endearment get no love?)
Next most annoying phrase, according to survey respondents: “Bye, Felicia,” a dismissal spoken by Ice Cube’s character in the 1995 comedy “Friday,” followed by “on fleek,” meaning very good; and “woke,” also a popular term as mentioned above.
The coronavirus pandemic led to “an uptick of slang words,” Saccardi said, with the most popular ones being “rona,” an abbreviation for the coronavirus; “jab,” for vaccine shots; “quarantine and chill,” a romantic time during the shutdown; “quaranteam,” your limited circle of friends seen during the shutdown; and “covidiot,” someone who ignores COVID-19 health and safety guidelines.
Slang often leads to new words being added to the dictionary. For instance, among the 455 words added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in October were “amirite” and “FTW.” Two COVID-related additions: “super-spreader” and “vaccine passport.”
The most common slang term used is different across generations. “Woke” was most common among boomers, with “ghosted” most popular for Gen X (those born 1965-1980); “salty” was tops among millennials (born 1981-1996); and “low-key” for Gen Z (born after 1996).
Most annoying slang phrase by generation? “Mansplain” for boomers; “bae” for Gen X; “Bye, Felicia” for millennials and Gen Z.
We found that the percentage of people who currently use slang increases with each generation, from 65% among baby boomers to 77% for Gen X, 83% for millennials, and 92% for Gen Z.
Most said using slang on a date must be done sparingly. Nearly two-thirds (63%) said it would be a dealbreaker if slang were used regularly on a first date. However, even more (64%) said it was OK to use slang even on an intimate date.
More than half (54%) said slang is inappropriate at work, especially in front of the boss (58%). That’s good business sense, as 56% said they wouldn’t hire someone who used slang in an job interview.
Perhaps we should rethink how dispense slang, because as the survey found, our use of wordplay is savage – a popular slang term for not caring about the consequences – and suggests we may be so thirsty (a slang term for needing attention), we don’t care if we misuse a term.
And TBH (to be honest), that can make us sound extra (over the top) rather than on point.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @mikesnider.
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