Communicating With Teens

A Guide for Anyone Old Enough to Think Phat Starts With an F





            Have you ever walked out of a McDonald’s empty-handed because the 16-year-old behind the counter didn’t understand your request for a cheeseburger and fries?  Do you consent to unintelligible pleas from your teenage daughter, having no idea whether you’re allowing her to go to a school dance or a beach in France? Have you ever wished you could do more than wag your finger at the boy who rides his bike through your lettuce patch?

If so, Communicating With Teens is for you. This self-study guide will have you conversing with teenagers in months, possibly weeks if you’re under 30. Those of you who speak English already know how to spell and pronounce many teen words. You’ll soon discover that several words from the teen and adult languages even have similar meanings.




            The first step toward communicating with teenagers is learning the intonation. No matter how well teens know a subject, they’re never so presumptuous as to speak with any semblance of authority. Instead, they end every statement, even every clause, on a higher pitch, giving it the appropriately tentative ring of a question. For example, “If you want the tattoo guy to think you’re old enough to get a tattoo? Just pull your pants up to your nipples?”




While the English language consists of 954,312,605 words, the teen lexicon is limited to roughly 37. Here are the most common teen words and their translations. Memorize them, and you’ll be on your way to fluency.


awesome -- 1. awesome. 2. good. 3. not the most despicable thing on Earth.


d’oh -- I’m an idiot.


duh -- 1. I should have known that. 2. You should have known that.


go, goes -- 1. present or past tense of the verb to say, as in,  “Zachary goes ‘awesome’ every time he sees the wing nut bolted to Taylor’s tongue.”


like -- 1. no meaning, but inserted randomly at least every 11th word in teen conversation, as in, “I’ll have like a cheeseburger with like no pickles.” 2. say or said, when preceded by the verb to be. For example, “I was like, ‘Does that wing nut get in the way when you’re trying to get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth?’”


mhhrrr -- 1. hello. 2. goodbye. 3. yes. 4. no. 5. please. 6. thank you. 7. I’m so excited I could wet my boxers.


nothing – response to any adult inquiry about what a teen’s been doing. Possible meanings include nothing, designing a car that runs on Red Bull, and inciting a riot because the school cafeteria replaced the Monterey Jack in tacos with Jack-flavored cheese food.


so – very. Used at least 29 times more frequently by teens than speakers old enough to drink, including before nouns, verbs and “not.” For example,  “I’m so not doing the grind; it’s like so ‘90s.”


this -- replaces “a” and “the,” which teens rarely use. For example, “This telephone pole got in the way when I was backing up this car.”