Lost in translation

Lost in translation

After hours of negotiations that rivaled the Paris peace talks, we recently upgraded our home wireless and satellite TV service — and managed to shave money off our monthly bill in the process.

I was feeling quite smug — who says tech is only for the young? — until it was time to come up with a security question for our account.

The helpful 20-ish-year-old salesman suggested we use a favorite movie or singer.

My mind went blank, as it always does with any “favorite” question. (It involves decisions.)

My husband jumped in with his: Bruce Springsteen.

The salesman smiled and said, “Bruce who?”

I thought he was kidding. “You know, the Boss, Born to Run, Born in the USA,” I said helpfully, unable to come up with any titles that didn’t start with the word “born.”

He apologized and said, “I’m really bad with names.”

Then I realized that Springsteen’s last huge hit was probably released before he was born. I’m not sure if he is a millennial or a GenZ, but we clearly had a gap.

Being a parent, of a certain age, I know I’m not the coolest but I try. I’m familiar with current music, although I admit this is a relatively recent development.

When my kids were young I could sing every song on the “Raffi” CD but I couldn’t hum a bar from Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” or Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River.” (In my defense, I did know who they were.) There was no time for pop culture.

As the kids grew, though, I managed to return from the land of Thomas the Tank Engine and Barbie movies back to the world of grownup music. I could sing “Put a Ring on it.” I discovered Adele and Drake. I finally knew that Pink was an actual person.

My kids started to like pop music, like The Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get it Started.”

And now that they’re both teens, they help keep me current. I even recognize songs (if not always the right artist) from their phones or video games.

But I have yet to master teen slang — which goes in and out of style faster than a Snapchat. When I came across a popular internet meme last year, I couldn’t wait to tell my daughter.

“Have you heard of ‘on flick’?” I asked her.

She looked at her brother and they gave me that patient smile reserved for parents who try so hard to be cool but just — aren’t. “It’s ‘on fleek,’” she explained.

(According to the Internet, which is very reliable, the word “fleek” means smooth, nice or sweet and traces back to 2003 or so. But it went viral in June 2014 after a girl named Peaches posted a video on Vine about her eyebrows being “on fleek” — sort of a combination of fleek and “on point.”)

Then there was the time I used the phrase “true dat.” My daughter collapsed into giggles, apparently at the thought of me using it and not knowing it was so last decade.

The other day I overheard my daughter’s friend tell her something like, “It’s on my Snapstory. Today we blasted sweatshirt in the band room.”

Those words did not make sense to my brain, but I eventually learned that she had posted something on her Snapchat feed and played a song really loudly in the band room.

I need a translator.

Just to keep us guessing, teens adopt new meanings for the slang we thought we knew.

Take “lit.” When I was younger it referred to someone who had too much alcohol (or something else), as in “He’s lit up.” But now it means that something fun or exciting is happening, i.e.: “That party is lit.”

Same with “legit.” For years it’s been a short form of legitimate, meaning honest, straightforward, for real. But it, too, now means something like “fun.” (Apparently there are many words for fun.)

We asked my daughter’s friend to use it in a sentence. “Oh nobody says that anymore,” she replied.

I give up.

All I know is that Bruce Springsteen is still on fleek.


Julie Wurth blogs about kids and covers the University of Illinois for The News-Gazette. Leave a comment below, or contact at 217-351-5226, jwurth@news-gazette.com or Twitter.com/jawurth.

Sections (1):Living
Topics (1):People


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