Lost in Translation: Top Teen Terms and Why They Matter

by ENN Staff

Editor’s note:  This article was researched and crafted by the entire ENN staff.  It is not a comprehensive list of teen talk, but hopefully will provide education and entertainment to readers of all generations.

OKLAHOMA CITY – You are ‘finna’  read as some teens ‘spill the tea’ on the words and phrases which they use that  you may not know — or understand.

So don’t ‘dip’ on us. Just because you may not be hip to this new lingo, the odds are that your generation was responsible for its own unique words and phrases and, eventually, changed to the English language.

 You feel me, right?

Languages change.  In fact, a defining hallmark of any language is its ability to create new words to express new ideas said Dr. Byron Ahn, a professor of linguistics at Princeton University. 

“Language is really impressive,” Ahn told EPIC News Network.  “One of the things linguists love about language is that there are multiple processes for creating new words out of existing words or existing bits of words.”

Take the word “hangry” for instance. It is a simple combination of the words “hungry” and “angry” that combine to describe the condition of a person who is acting out in anger only because they are hungry. 

“Over time that meaning will shift, I predict, to mean something less obviously angry and maybe even less obviously hungry and just be something slightly different in the future.  That would be unsurprising to me,” Ahn said. 

The Princeton linguist added the meanings of words can even change to mean something the opposite of their original usage.  The word “nice,” Ahn said originally meant “foolish” but is now used when you wish to describe something as pleasant. 

This change happens because of the way we learn language.  In the “hangry” example, Ahn said the newly minted word is obvious to those of us now, but a child may not know what “hungry” or “angry” means when the word is used in front of them.  They will initially learn only the definition and in a few generations the origin of the smooshed-together words will be less important than the new definition applied to the word itself. 

“Literally used to mean something quite literal,” Ahn told ENN, “But literally has also been used for a long time as an intensifier for something being really true regardless of how literally true it is.”

With all that in mind, we now introduce you to the words and phrases in today’s teen talk that are contributing to our ever evolving language.

FINSTA – If you want to know how I really feel you should check out my finsta.  That would be, a fake Instagram account. The account that is usually locked and limited to your closest friends where you can be real, unlike many public Instagram profiles that present the most polished version of the user.

DIP – To leave an event.  Imagine you are at a party and want to announce you are leaving.  A different generation might have proclaimed “peace out,” but today’s teens will tell their friends “I’m gonna dip.”

SPILL THE TEA – To anyone familiar with the phrase “to spill the beans,” this is the same definition.  Why tea instead of beans? Maybe it’s because you can sit around and gossip while drinking tea. Maybe it’s because ‘spill the beans’ decided to retire with the phrase ‘cool beans.’  If you want a friend to “spill the tea,” you are asking them to give you the inside details about an event or to share the latest gossip.

FINNA – For someone who says they are “finna” something, you can understand them to mean they are going to get around to doing that something.  Finna dip? You’re about to leave the party.

GOAT – This is quite different from the farm animals, today GOAT stands for the “Greatest Of All Time.”  Often used to refer to someone who is at the top of their game, typically in athletics. Now imagine if you could teach at goat to play basketball…that really would be the GOAT goat.

BET – This has nothing to do with gambling, but if you hear someone say bet, it’s a good bet, they are simply agreeing with what you just said.  “Bet” used this way is an updated version of commenting “word” in agreement in the 90s.

NO CAP – If you are ‘no cap’ you are angry.  As is, I’m being serious and not lying or exaggerating about how I feel.

WOKE – If you are “woke” to an issue that means you are in the know.  You are enlightened to the situation you are facing. 

DOPE – This has nothing to do with the recent passage of Oklahoma’s State Question 788.  Instead, dope means something is cool.

OOP – This is something of a verbal punctuation mark.  It is the exclamation point to a comment. Instead of saying “wow” after hearing someone’s fantastic tale, reply oop to let them know you are in the know.

SKSKSKSK – If you are a teen and reading through this you may want to comment with this one.  It is basically just a laugh. Described by one ENN student as one of the more cringe-worthy things to say or text, it is mostly used to annoy people. Originally, this phrase came from the VSCO girls (Click here if you don’t understand VSCO girl). After they drop their hydro flasks, they say ‘and I oop! Sksksksksk.’

Related Articles