Spilling the tea: Decoding Gen Z slang 

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Words no longer mean what they used to — cap doesn’t just refer to the apparel but can also mean you’re accusing someone of lying. Gen Z speaks in a special type of lingo that leaves outsiders confused and scrambling to keep up. Decode this mysterious vocabulary of theirs by learning Gen Z slang and staying young at heart.

Decode the cryptic lingo of Gen Z to understand how they communicate. Stay trendy with the times by using these slang terms. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

What’s the tea on Gen Z slang?

Gen Z slang, which constantly seems to be evolving, is largely influenced by social media and pop culture. Phrases from music, TV shows, movies and even viral videos of people cooking outrageous food or doing funny things can catch on and become a part of the Gen Z language. For example, “tea” was popularized from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as the show often used that word to describe gossip. Next time you hear a young person ask, “What’s the tea?”, chances are they’re not referring to the actual drink but prompting you to gossip.

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How laugh out loud has evolved

Lol, short for laugh out loud, is probably the oldest instance of slang that’s still relevant today. Expressing emotions has gone past lol — there are countless ways Gen Zs are reacting to things online and in person. 

Did you just eat something that’s unimpressive or just okay? “Mid” would be the right descriptor for that. If you hear someone chewing loudly on a brownie, that may give you the ick; ick is used to express disgust for something that puts you off. Salty doesn’t refer to the taste of food but jealousy; you’d say that you’re salty that you didn’t get a concert ticket. 

See something that’s pleasing to look at? Aesthetic is the word you’re looking for. You can use it in the context of, “That’s so aesthetic.” When you want to compliment someone for doing something awesome or for killing it, you can tell them that they “slayed”.

In the case that someone is being overly dramatic, telling them to “take several seats” is an indirect way of telling them to calm down. If you say something unbelievable that others suspect is a lie, they’d say, “That’s cap.” You’d refuse the accusation with “no cap” These clever catchphrases are quick and creative ways of communicating your feelings that go beyond the conventional.

Do you have rizz?

Romantic relationships are a major topic among the youth as they venture into the complicated world of feelings for the first time. Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of slang that centers around the process of finding a partner.

Getting to know one another is the first phase of dating. These days, most conversations start through social media or “sliding into DMs”. This refers to sending a direct message on social media to someone you’re interested in and initiating that talking stage. During this phase, you’re trying to woo your crush. That’s where your “rizz”, short for charisma, comes into play. 

Be careful not to be too much of a “simp”, someone who is overly invested in their crush and would do anything for them. Now that you’ve expressed your interest, here comes the hard part — reciprocation. If they’re not into you, they might ghost you. Ghosting is stopping communication out of nowhere. This disinterest may be because you’re showing red flags, a term that describes warning signs that you wouldn’t make for a great partner. 

However, sometimes things are in the grey area. You both like each other but haven’t “DTR” an abbreviation for determined the relationship, and that’s where you get stuck in a “situationship.” Situationship is slang for an undefined romantic relationship. All these relationship terms show the reality of dating for Gen Z, unnecessarily complex with too many layers to follow. 

But wait, there’s more

There are a bunch of other terms that you should familiarize yourself with if you want to be in the know. Gen Z has embraced that sometimes — or really, most of the time — in life, you just have to fake it to make it. That conveys the essence of being “delulu,” short for delusional. You may hear it in the context of “delulu is the solulu.” This sounds like a bunch of gibberish, but it stands for delusion is the solution. 

Lowkey is another popular slang that has stuck among the younger crowd for years. It’s what you say when you state an unpopular opinion. For example, eating vanilla ice cream with olive oil and sea salt is lowkey delicious. You’ll definitely hear objections to this controversial statement, but if someone agrees with you, they might defend you by using the phrase, “Let him/her cook.” That means you’re onto something, and you should be allowed to expand on your thoughts. It has nothing to do with actual cooking or grilling.

Gen Z is undoubtedly the generation of trends and fads, and they’ve come up with something that captures exactly that. When you’re in your “X era” — the X being whatever trend you’re trying out — it means that you’re in a period of life defined by that trend. For example, you can be in your healthy era or your glow-up era, glow-up being slang for self-improvement. It can get confusing when two or more slang terms are combined in a sentence, and that’s when you really have to use your decoding skills.

Don’t be a Boomer

“Zoomer” refers to Gen Z, while “Boomer” refers to the Baby Boom generation. They both have a mocking connotation to them; Zoomer is used to describe this generation’s digital obsession, and Boomer describes Baby Boomers as grumpy old folks who are not technically inclined. Familiarizing yourself with all this slang may be your saving grace to not be called a Boomer and a chance to look cool to your children.

Stay trendy

Self-expression and technological savviness are defining traits of this unique generation, and their creative vocabulary is proof of that. Understanding the slang the younger demographic uses gives you a chance to peek into their fun and chaotic world. Now that you have the tea on Gen Z, you can finally keep up with them in a conversation, feel young at heart and stay trendy with the times.

Jennifer Allen is a retired professional chef and long-time writer. Her writing appears in dozens of publications, and she has two cookbooks, Keto Soup Cookbook and Keto Diabetic Cookbook and Meal Plan. These days, she’s busy in the kitchen, developing recipes for various publications and traveling. You can find all her best recipes at Cook What You Love.

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