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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Slang comes back to haunt boomers

Jun 28, 2022 10:48AM ● By Michael Murphy

An online dictionary defines slang as “very informal usage in vocabulary and idiom that is characteristically more metaphorical, playful, elliptical, vivid, and ephemeral than ordinary language.” 

Bro, that sounds like a bunch of jive talkin’ to me!

Slang is a low-level lexicon initially used by “beggars, thieves and cheats.” It was considered offensive in more civilized company back then. But of course, once young people, civilized or not, caught on that slang was improper, they provided the petri dish for slang to grow and gradually become culturally acceptable.  

Over time, each generation of young people has added to and removed slang from our ever-changing language. Researchers with nothing better to do have found that the percentage of people who currently use slang increases with each generation.

Recent indications are that the evolution of slang has reached a dead-end with the internet, which has reduced slang to nothing more than initialisms. LOL, which stands for “laugh out loud,” and OMG, meaning “oh my gosh,” are examples of internet slang which do not even officially qualify as acronyms. IDK (I don’t know) what is wrong with these young people when they can’t even make an effort to form slang into complete words! 

Baby boomers have had mixed results with slang coming from their generation. Expressions such as “What’s your bag?” and “Far out” thankfully only show up today in Austin Powers movies. But other slang expressions have come back to haunt them.

When boomers were kids, they thought calling a bald adult male “chrome dome” was funny. Ever wonder why it isn’t used much today?

In the ’60s and ’70s, “having a gas” was an expression used to describe when we were having a great time. Whereas, today we are much more likely to use the phrase with a whole different meaning. 

It’s sort of the same thing with “flip your wig,’ which meant to get really upset over something. Accuse boomers of flipping their wig today and he or she may reach up and check to see if it’s still in place. 

Boomers’ use of slang in writing and conversations today is limited, I imagine, for various reasons. It’s hard seeing boomers resort to internet initialisms such as LMDO (laughing my dentures out), WAYA (who are you again?), and GROGC (gotta run, oatmeal’s getting cold). 

No, I would say that when it comes to using slang, seniors should just stick with tried-and-true words like “cool.” 

According to linguistic anthropologist Robert L. Moore, cool as a multipurpose slang word grew prevalent in the ’50s and ’60s, which was just about the time boomers were entering high school. Moore points out that cool is still “the most popular slang term of approval in the English language.” 

Though nowadays it’s difficult to decide if one is “woke” or not, or if one should even want to be, there is no doubt that everyone, regardless of age, wants to be cool. 

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