Translating Teen Speak

A few weeks ago, my step daughter (13 years of age) and I were driving in the car on the way home from school.  While every day is extremely dramatic for a 13 year old girl as it is, this day must have been a doozy.  She has now graduated into the realm of the word “like”.

Lord help me.

As we are driving up Hwy A1A, her story begins as such… “OH my God, so like Bre and I were like sitting on the um, the um, like, you know, the bus?  And, OH my God, this guy, he was like, um, he was like… wait… back up.  So, Bre has this boyfriend, and um, I guess her parents, like, don’t like her dating, but there is this other guy, and OH my God.  Ok, so we were on the bus and she, she was, she was like… wait, hang on.”

“Bre said, ‘Wait, hang on?” No response.  “Hello?”  Still nothing.  “Hey!”  I poke her in the shoulder.

I see at this point she has stopped her story completely and forgotten the outside world.  To do what?  Yes, take a selfie.  Really?  Right now?  You need to take a selfie, right this minute?

“Ok, sorry, I had post on instagram that I’m in the car.  (Really?)  Ok, so anyway, so we were on the bus, and this guy, like, you know, he goes, he goes (she is still texting on her phone by the way), OH my God, Tory stop texting me!”

“He told Tory to stop texting him?”

She looks at me in confusion.  “No, my friend Tory won’t stop texting me.  Anyway, so, wait… where was I?”


“Oh yeah, so anyway, we were on the bus and this guy was like, “Hey,” you know, he was like, “Hey can I have your number?”  No, no, no, no, no, no, wait, no wait.  Back up, that was a different time.  Ok, so Bre wanted HIS number, oh yeah, ok so Bre wanted his number but she was like, “OH my God, I totally can’t go get his number.  You go get it for me.”  And I was like, I was like, “Ummmm, ok.”  (Insert hysterical laughter)  OH my God, wait it’s One Direction, I LOVE One Direction!  Ok, so isn’t that so funny?  I had to go up to some guy I totally didn’t even like (correct usage here) and I was like, ‘Hey, so can I have your number?  My friend Bre likes you.”  (More laughing)

I’m a lost as to why this is so hilarious.  It sounds a little sad to me that this poor girl is too embarrassed to get a boy’s number and I didn’t really hear a funny line when my teenager eventually got his number.  Is there some cultural teenage reference I’m missing?  A hidden message, perhaps?

I respond, “I don’t get it.”

“What?  OH my God, it’s so funny!  I had to get this guy’s number, and like I TOTALLY don’t even like him!  But it wasn’t for me, it was for Bre!  Hahahahaha!”

Aaaahhhh, now I think I get it.  “Oh, so this guy thought you wanted his number for you?  But you don’t like him?  Right?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what I just said.”

It took the entire car ride home from school (30 minutes on a good day) to get the whole story.  It goes as such… Her and her friend Bre were on the bus on the way to school that morning.  Bre likes a guy but was too embarrassed to get his number herself so she had to get it for Bre.  But, here’s the funny part, this guy thought my teenager liked him instead of her friend Bre.

I think.  Still not one hundred percent on that one.

Ever since then, I have had to try and translate via facial expression and body language what she is trying to say as well as what my appropriate reaction should entail.

For example: Frantically waving arms while sentences end with her voice going up means this situation is negative and completely unbelievable.

Appropriate reaction:  “Oh no!”  Surprised and outraged face.

Texting on phone while talking and using only a handful of words besides he/she goes, like, um, and wait, and no other emotion such as laughing or growling.

Appropriate reaction:  “Hmm… really?  Wow, that’s crazy.  You don’t say?”  Bewildered face.

Talking about an upcoming event and instagraming her every move with a selfie.

Appropriate reaction:  “I am sure it’s going to be great.  You’re going to have a ton of fun.”  Smile indulgently.

Looking at you as though you just spoke in tongues with a “WhaaaaaaaaAAAT?” at the end.

WARNING: You have just used words with more than two syllables and you did not include the words he/she goes, like, um, wait, or OH my God.

Appropriate reaction: Laugh at look at of horror on teenager’s face and try to explain again using smaller words then continue on by defining the daunting mutli-syllable words when you are finished.

Now, I promise my child is not an air head.  Far from it.  She is incredibly intelligent, witty, and a straight A student.  Come on, we’ve all been there before.  In fact, I would wager that a majority of us still use the word “like” inappropriately in a sentence when we are telling stories.  When I was in high school, my Geography teacher had the “Like Jar”.  Or, as we students called it, “The Jar of Doom and Debt”.  Every time we used the word “like” incorrectly, a nickle went into the swear jar.  With inflation, I would guess that’s up to a quarter now.

I tell you what, that really helped me get rid of the “likes” in my sentence as well as teaching me to think about what I’m saying before it comes spewing out of my mouth.

Most of the time.  When I told my teen I was implementing the “Like Jar” she responded, “That’s ok.  I’ll just get a ‘Swear Jar’ and make money off dad and all his friends.  I’m sure I’ll have plenty left over after I pay you for the ‘likes’.”

Crap.  See?  Think before you speak.  Still struggle with it today.

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