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Understanding the urban slang words children are using including glow-up, tea, extra and sheesh




Glow-up, fire and lit - just some of the words born on the internet that are now finding themselves among our children's vocabulary.

And rather than referring to lights, flames and illuminations the trio are slang words or phases, often used by Generation Z, for very different reasons.

Most commonly referred to as urban slang, the increased presence of YouTube and other social media videos, is said to be behind numerous new words, phrases and acronyms rapidly creeping into day to day conversations between young people.

Some of us may recognise a small handful - such as 'extra' to describe something that's over the top and dramatic, 'sheesh' to express exasperation and the word 'period' thrown down boldly at the end of a sentence to help declare a strong statement, which comes from the American word for a full stop.

There may also be others such as 'glow up' that avid fans of the makeover programme with the same name - once fronted by television presenter and former Strictly Come Dancing winner Stacey Dooley - could take an educated guess at thanks to its connection to popular culture.

The BBC reality competition searched for Britain's next star make up artist with the phase used, mostly among younger generations, to describe exactly that - an incredible transformation.

The phase 'glow up' is used to describe an incredible transformation. Pictured: Former contestant Bernardo Ferreira. Picture: Vanessa Skinner/CRC
The phase 'glow up' is used to describe an incredible transformation. Pictured: Former contestant Bernardo Ferreira. Picture: Vanessa Skinner/CRC

But there are others however more likely to leave us scratching our heads.

Tea - no longer just refers only to that quintisessential British hot drink but is instead now another word for gossip.

Albeit it's origins do stem from the traditional cuppa with 'spilling the tea' used to describe someone spreading gossip while 'sipping tea' is another way of saying someone is listening to rumours.

How many of these urban slang words do you understand? (49425773)
How many of these urban slang words do you understand? (49425773)

For parents keeping half an eye on their children's inboxes and message exchanges on tablets and mobile phones, it is worth pointing out that more familiar acronyms found in 'text speak' such as LOL (laugh out loud), IMO (in my opinion) and DM (direct message) have now been joined by a raft of other letter combinations that can warn of the presence of of mums and dads.

KPC (keeping parents clueless), PAH (parent at home), PAW (parents are watching) and the ultimate PITR (parents in the room) can signal a warning to message recipients that some topics may be off limits because of watchful eyes.

Language experts at language course platform Busuu.com say families can often have a difficult time trying to keep up with their offspring, but particularly in today's fast paced world..

The website, which has translated almost 40 common Generation Z words, says slang terms frequently come in and out of fashion and every generation has its own set relevant to a certain time or era.

But it admits that wider outside influences such as the internet and the growth of social media platforms including Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat are influencing young people's dialect more than ever before.

Lead language expert, Federico Espinosa added: “Languages like English are always changing, with younger generations coining new words and phrases every year. Sometimes, these even end up in the dictionary.

“Older generations might not follow popular culture and social media as much as their younger relatives, which can make it difficult for them to keep up with the new language."

Social media and the internet is said to have encouraged a growth in urban slang among teenagers
Social media and the internet is said to have encouraged a growth in urban slang among teenagers

But thanks to the internet, for those parents requiring an instant translation there is plenty of help at hand.

Alongside Busuu's efforts to explain tens of the unfamiliar words are dedicated websites such as Urban Dictionary which can also offer confused adults an instant translation service.

The crowd-sourced directory was first set up 22 years ago by Californian Aaron Peckham who wanted to compare the slang used by different university students.

Today the site has millions of entries from across the world but one of the very first, according to the New York Times, was 'the man' which was described as 'the head of the establishment put in place to bring us down'.



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