YOLO, swag, on fleek, bae, surfbort, yaaaaas, #winning — there are dozens of new words and phrases teens create on a near-regular basis. So many, that it’s hard for anyone in their 30s or older to keep track. Everyone knows it, and it’s been a trend ever since “cool” stopped being about temperature and started being used as a term of approval in the 1940s jazz scene.
But there’s another old-school area hidden in the older generation’s lexicon you may have never even thought about. For every new phrase young people come up with, like turnt up, basic and amirite, there’s a sea of outdated — older readers may prefer the term “retro” — phrases out there.
Before everyone started switching to “txt me k bai,” there was “ping me.” Ping was slang for sending an electronic message — think instant messenger or earlier — to someone, usually as a reminder.
Ping me next week before the meeting.
Why did people use ping? According to PCMag, the word dates back to early naval battles when submarines first located enemy ships using sonar. The transmissions would make a bright pinging noise, and that sound turned into an expression of sending a computer message to someone else.
This isn’t necessarily old slang. It’s a term for going around from one place to another in search of pleasure or entertainment, according to Meriam-Webster.
He won the lottery and decided to gallivant around the city.
Google suggests it’s a word that reached a peak in usage just before the 1950s, dipped in popularity and has since rebounded. While an older crowd may know the former meaning, younger TV watchers are probably more familiar with the American comedy series “Galavant” — the fairytale satire named after the show’s leading character.
What’s the 411?
Before the dawn of smartphones and the Internet, when all your answers could be found online and a contact book made it unnecessary to memorize phone numbers, you’d have to dial the number 411 to reach directory assistance on a telephone. From there, 411 turned into slang for relevant information.
Did you watch the news? What’s the 411 on that police chase downtown?
Now that the 411 directory service is largely a thing of the past — 411.com is still an online phonebook in the U.S. — “Give me the 411” has mostly been consolidated to a simple “What’s up?”
To the max
Anybody who lived through the ’80s will remember a brief time when “to the max” was all the rage. As in:
Let’s party to the max this weekend.
This restaurant is grody to the max.
The expression spread like wild fire, propelled into conversations by teens who probably listened to Frank Zappa’s single “Valley Girl” on repeat. Then, the term disappeared overnight, kind of like the planking fad or Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Similar to planking, no one is all that sure where it originated either.
Like a broken record
Cassettes, 8-track tapes, laserdiscs, records — they’ve all become obsolete. Even CDs are facing their demise now that streaming music is easy and convenient. With that in mind, there’s a whole new generation that will probably not know what cassettes and records look like. More than that, it’s likely more and more will forget what they even are.
There’s nothing physical behind your favorite songs now. It’s all just formless information floating on the Web or on a server somewhere. How could a teen know that a broken record would skip back in a song continuously, repeating the same thing forever? In the same way, parents still might call their children “broken records” when they repeat the same requests over and over.
No, you can’t borrow the car. Stop asking. You sound like a broken record.
Then again, today’s teens might still know the phrase for that reason. At least there’s that.