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Anne: welcome to the American Slang podcast, where we will explore language and culture in different regions of the United States. Slang is a type of informal language that’s typically spoken in a certain area or by a group of people. Culture is dynamic. Language is dynamic. And in this podcast, we will explore the connections between them and the way new words and expressions emerge in different places in America. I’m Anne, I’m a virtual educator and currently work online for the United States Government, teaching English as a second language through the American Embassy. You can find out more about my courses and educational resources on my website. In this episode, I talk with Helen about Internet slang and a variety of new words that come from online chats and comments and that have transformed into spoken English.

Anne: Today. We’re talking with Helen. Helen grew up in California and she lives there now. She lives in the Bay Area. She studied ethnic studies at UC Berkeley and she’s going to be talking with us today about Internet slang. Okay, so Helen, maybe you can, uh, introduce this idea of Internet slang. Where is it coming from? How is it emerging? It’s sort of the shared culture. And then in California, how we’re seeing it actually spoken in spoken English, right?

Helen: So it’s really interesting because.

Helen: A lot of times culture is developed in a certain geographic location. But the geographic location that this culture is being created is the Internet.

Anne: Right?

Helen: It’s like in the cloud. So it’s really interesting. Um, a lot of, uh, internet slang originated from texting. Before people had things like iPhones, when you had the little keys and it took forever, or when people were using like, AIM which is actually how I learned how to type, is using which is AOL Instant Messenger.

Anne: AOL Instant Messenger.

Anne: Sure.

Helen: That was back in like, the early 2000s. Um, and so in order to make that more doable, people would shorten things, um, by using acronyms. Um, so that’s one thing. And then a lot of stuff is also being spread now through the use of memes, through things like TikTok and YouTube, different, like, social media platforms. When things are going viral, it’s like everybody is seeing this thing and then people start to adopt that language. In California, we say out loud a lot of things that are acronyms that usually you would only type. Um, I don’t know if it’s only California or if we do it more or not.

Anne: Um, I can tell you.

Helen: But we definitely say a lot of stuff.

Anne: Yeah, it’s fascinating how these acronyms are becoming incorporated into the spoken language. And so let’s give the listeners some examples, uh, of how this might be heard. Right, so you would type in your phone in an instant message, like BYB right. But then in California, you might say that to your friends, like, BRB. Yeah. Oh, sorry. B-Y-I said B Y I’m going to let you say the words, okay. Because obviously I’m not familiar with them, but BRB meaning be right back. Uh huh. Right. But you wouldn’t tell your friend be right back. You would say BRB.

Anne: Right.

Anne: And they would know exactly what you’re talking about. Right. So in some ways it’s like this secret language that’s shared but that everyone knows. That everyone knows. Exactly. Okay, so let’s get some, um, examples. So, for example, um, IRL.

Helen: So IRL stands for, • “In real  life,” and people use that. Um, like for example, if they met someone and have been talking to them online and then they meet them in person, they would say, I met this person IRL. Or you could say, like, I finally got to see this piece of art, IRL. And it was amazing. But people say the letters IRL for in real life.

Anne: Yeah, that’s one that I’ve never used before. But I think it’s really interesting. But it reminds me of the dating apps and perhaps how the dating apps have changed our language, right? How we’re thinking, oh, I’m chatting with this person and then finally I’m meeting them.

Helen: We also say stuff like, oh, I would definitely swipe right or swipe left. Because of tinder.

Anne: Because of tinder.

Anne: Okay.

Anne: So if you’re seeing someone out in public.

Helen: Public or something and you’re like, oh, they’re hot, you’d be like, I’d swipe right? But if they’re not, then it would.

Anne: Be I would swipe left. So even Tinder has sort of changed the way we’re speaking.

Anne: Definitely.

Anne: It’s really funny.

Anne: Lol.

Helen: So lol means laugh out loud, which I mean, usually if you type lol in a text, it just means that you probably, like, breathed air out of your nose. It doesn’t mean you’re actually laughing. It’s like, Ha, that’s kind of funny.

Anne: But, um, do you ever text LMAO?  Yeah. Laughing my ass off, right?

Helen: Yeah, but we don’t say that. But people literally say, lol.

Anne: That’s kind of funny, right? Yeah. So instead of actually laughing, they would just say lol.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: And that would be sort of sarcastic. It’s not that funny, right?

Helen: People will be like, someone sent me this work message and asked me to do this thing.

Anne: Lol.

Anne: Oh, wow. Yeah, that’s really funny. •

Helen: FML. FML means fuck  my life or F my life.

Anne: Sorry, I may have to put no, kids can listen to them or you can just bleep it out. Yeah, I can bleep it off. That’s true.

Helen: But it means F my life. And so it’ll be like if something bad happens, like on, uh, the way here, I missed one of my flights and that was an opportunity to say.

Anne: FML. Yeah, it’s kind of a euphemism. Like it’s a way of saying it a little bit lighter. Right?

Helen: And it just means like, this sucks.

Anne: Yeah, this sucks. Yeah, but I like it. It doesn’t sound bad as it sounds really? Like okay, so then we have Face Palm.

Helen: There’s like ah, an emoji of someone, like, smacking their forehead because something is dumb. Um, but people will literally say face palm.

Anne: if they think something really dumb. Ah. Mhm. Okay.

Helen: OMG. OMG means oh, my God. Or oh, my gosh. And, uh, yeah, people say that all the time.

Anne: Yeah. OMG. OMG.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: It’s just a way of showing surprise, right?

Helen: FOMO.

Anne: FOMO.

Helen: M is fear of missing out. And so, um, yeah, people if you hear that someone is going to an event or something like that and you want to go or something, then you might say, I’m having FOMO right now.

Anne: Yeah, okay. I’m having FOMO right now. Right.

Helen: Yolo. Yolo means you only live once. That is something that is not actually popular anymore. It was maybe like ten years ago or something, but it’s kind of a.

Anne: Rap it was a rap song.

Helen: It was included. It was popular before then, but then it was like a lyric in a popular Drake song. Um, but now it’s like something that people just say ironically because it’s kind of out of fashion.

Anne: Yeah.

Helen: So someone will do something, they’ll spend money on something or whatever, and they’ll be like.

Anne: Yolo. Yeah. Yolo. You only live once. Really fun. Okay. Selfie is basically a picture of yourself, right?

Helen: You take of yourself and, um, you.

Anne: Would just be like, selfie to emphasize.

Helen: Or like, let’s take a selfie.

Anne: Yeah, right. Selfie. Okay. JK.

Helen: JK is just kidding.

Anne: But people say JK they don’t say just kidding anymore.

Anne: JK.

Helen: I mean, they say just kidding sometimes, but they also say JK.

Anne: Right? It’s like, okay, that was a joke kind of thing. Just kidding. Okay.

Helen: BF. BF is boyfriend.

Anne: Mhm.

Helen: And BFF is best friend forever. But just means like, your best friend.

Anne: Mhm.

Anne: Mhm. Okay, perfect.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: A lot of people I realize that those are things that a lot of people are familiar with internationally, right, in the international community.

Helen: Okay?

Anne: DM.

Helen: M is a direct message. So, um, there’s like a common thing that you’ll see on memes or something where it’s like, oh, I might just slide into this person’s DMs, meaning I’ll send them a private message. Usually when you say slide into someone’s DMs, it means for dating purposes, showing that you have dating interests or romantic interests in them.

Anne: Um, you would say, I’m going to slide myself into their DMs.

Helen: I’m going to slide into their.

Anne: DMs. I’m, uh, going to slide into their DMs

Helen: Or like, this guy just slid into my DMs.

Anne: Okay, so the collocations slide into someone’s DMs, is something  that you should be aware of.

Helen: It, ah, means, um, for dating or waiting for me.

Anne: Okay.

Helen: NSFW you means not safe for work. So it means like, there may be nudity or something like that. And that’s usually from places where you browse memes and stories and stuff like Reddit or Injure or something like that. Um, and there’ll usually be like a disclaimer on the title saying NSFW. Um, don’t open this at work because there might be like boobies or something.

Anne: Right?

Anne: It could be potentially offensive at work.

Anne: Okay.

Helen: You don’t want to get in trouble.

Anne: So how would I use that in a sentence? Like if I were going to say it out loud?

Helen: Um, you might say, like, oh, I was looking at something that’s a little NSFW. And then sometimes people just use it, like not necessarily about an image, um, but like a conversation or the way.

Anne: That they were talking to each other.

Helen: Was a little bit NSW.

Anne: Uh, okay. Right.

Helen: BTW. That um, means by the way and so people say BT dubs or.

Anne: BTW. So very casual, very colloquial expression. Meaning just like if you want to change the subject, for example, or if you want to bring something up. Right.

Anne: Yeah.

Helen: By the way, like, this thing happens.

Anne: Yeah.

Helen: Oh, BTW this thing happened.

Anne: Yeah. So I love that.

Helen: Tbh, to be honest.

Anne: To be. honest . It would be like “TBH” I hate her.

Anne: And I teach test preparation, so this would be like the don’t say Tbh on an exam.

Anne: Okay?

Anne: You should say to be honest, don’t say any of these words. These are not exam preparation words. FYI. FYI is for your information. These words are not for exams. Okay. Another funny one was a Yo or no, I yo.

Helen: Uh, I don’t know if that’s an internet one.

Anne: Um okay, then Yeat

Helen: Yeat is the one that I really like. It means M. Um, it can be like an exclamation, like, I don’t know, I don’t even know what that would mean.

Anne: But you’re amazing.

Helen: No, it’d be like someone is like, yeah, I guess they think something is cool or whatever and they’ll be like, Yeat

Anne: Um, it’s really weird.

Helen: Or it can also mean to kick or push or something. So if you like yeet someone off a bridge, then you push them or kick them off a bridge. Oh, really? There are memes that talk about like, someone should be yeated into the. sun…so liked kicked into the sun or something.

Anne: It almost sounds Scottish or something. I’m not sure.

Helen: I have no idea what the origin is, but I see it on memes all the time and I think it’s Gen Z. 

Anne: Very like Gen Z acronyms could potentially be controversial. I wanted to ask your opinion about this. We are shortening the American language. We’re shortening vocabulary into BRB. It seems to me like there could be some dumbing down of the English language through these acronyms. Do you think that could be true or do you think it’s just fun, it’s creative, it’s playful? Or do you think that by using these we could sort of, I don’t know, be changing the language in a way that could be potentially dangerous for the future of vocabulary?

Helen: Uh, I mean, I haven’t thought about it that much, but I think I probably would lean towards like it’s just fun. It’s like a way for people to express themselves really quickly.

Anne: Yeah, it’s really efficient, right?

Anne: Yeah.

Helen: And I think in California we tend to talk pretty quickly, especially when you’re really excited about something and you’re like, oh my gosh, like on the year. I don’t know. Um, I think it’s really cool to see the younger generation is like creating all this new language very rapidly through internet and technology and I personally think it’s good and fascinating. If that’s a way that people are connecting to each other, then that’s awesome.

Anne: Yeah, I think when I hear these expressions, I think they’re really entertaining and honestly kind of fun to use. Very playful I can imagine being with a group of friends and just saying some of these and just connecting with people and laughing and thinking it’s hilarious. Right. And just sharing that kind of vocabulary that makes communicating, I don’t know, something.

Helen: And I think people always have, there’s always pushback to like evolution of really anything, um, kind of like judgment from people, uh, that change is bad, but I think that change is inevitable and we just kind of have to embrace it.

Anne: Yeah, change is inevitable. Language is constantly changing.

Helen: Living and breathing.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: It’s a dynamic force. And I think you make a really good point about how the younger generation is changing the way we speak, the way we interact. Right. And we have to kind of understand.

Helen: It and go with it and celebrate it. How great that they’re taking such an active role. It’s like such an active role in the evolution of our language and finding new ways to communicate.

Anne: Mhm.

Anne: Mhm. Yeah, that’s a really cool perspective. I would love to hear everyone’s perspective, all the listeners. If you have comments, we’d love to hear from you about what you think about these tech words. And this has just been an incredible conversation. I’ve learned so much. Thank you for shedding light on the new words that are coming about. You got it. And I can’t wait to start using them. I’m going to call some friends in the States and see if they understand me when I use so. And then we’ll kind of decide, is this a California thing? I think it also depends on age group. Oh, age group, for sure.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: So the younger generation, right? Mhm.

Helen: Yeah, I think if you talk to like your niece and nephew who will probably know any of them, they will for sure.

Anne: Probably.

Anne: Yeah.

Anne: Okay, so I’ll make a call to my nephew and I’ll start using a bunch of these and they will laugh. I think they’re going to be so entertained. Like, Annie, where did you learn these.

Anne: Words?

Anne: Thanks so much. Until next time, everyone. Thanks for listening.

Helen: Yeah, thank you.


Anne: Be sure to follow the American Slang podcast. Future episodes will be about unique diversity slang and slang from, uh, Louisiana and Mississippi. And perhaps some slang from Minnesota.