Millennial slang is both 'convenient' and 'scary'

Reena Devi
Lifestyle Reporter
Preetipls Deepavali music video. Photo: Aloysius Lee

“The latest season of ‘Stranger Things’ is lit, fam.”

If you did not understand the first line of this piece and the conversations of millennials around you, you’re not alone. For example, words such as “woke” are part of millennial slang. It is also social media personality Preeti Nair’s favourite word.

During an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, the millennial explained that “woke” has two different meanings: “Actually waking up and getting your act together, or paying attention and being very self-aware,” she said.

Her best examples of using the word?

“Yo, why is everyone sleeping on ‘Teen Wolf’ tho? I be streaming dat for one week straight. Stay woke fam! Yo, it’s 2016 and Toggle did blackface…? Get woke.”

Nair will be discussing how Millennial slang redefines the way language is used and how it shapes our perception of the world, along with award-winning poet Joshua Ip, 35, at the upcoming Singapore Writers Festival running from 3 to 12 November 2017.

Nair, 23, is best known to Singaporeans as Preetipls who became an overnight sensation with videos ranging from a parody of “Orchard Road’s Fashion Police” to videos addressing serious topics such as Racial Harmony.

According to her, the use of such slang is “convenient” but “scary.” “It waters down several emotions into a single word… Generally, they are exaggerations of emotional proclamations which youths use ironically most of the time,” Nair said.

She describes the use of this slang as “pretty scary” because “it trivialises everything, which makes us able to consume and process information on a large scale, easily”.

For example, millennials use the word “dead” to describe how they feel when they see something that looks really good. The word “fam”, which is short for family, is the term used to refer to their “squad” or inner social circle. “Low-key” describes something that you do that you don’t want everybody else to know, akin to a guilty pleasure.

Photo: Joshua Ip

“Lit” can refer to something in broad terms ranging from amazing to exciting. It is also Ip’s favourite word. The co-founder of literary non-profit Sing Lit Station believes this slang is “more modern than baby boomer slang”.

“Just like Gen X or Baby Boomers, we ruined language for the previous generation by updating it for the times.” Generation X slang included phrases such as “I rock”, “I rule”, “dude” and “word”.  Baby boomers used words such as “groovy”, “funky” and “far out”.

According to him, there is a difference between millennial slang in Singapore and overseas. “Millennial slang in Singapore has co-mingled with Singlish, which shares the same characteristics of being fast-changing and quick to adopt characteristics of its different melting-pot constituents,” he said. 

For example, he cites “rabz” which is short form for “rabak”, originating from the Malay language and refers to a situation out of hand.

“Being multiracial, an immigrant nation, and with no dominant culture of our own, Singaporeans are very quick to pick up on fun new turns of phrase and adapt them into their daily lingo – whether millennial slang or Singlish,” Ip added.

However, millennial slang is very specific to its generation because “we are the generation that has had access to the Internet since the beginning of time”, said Nair.

“Almost every word in the millennial slang ‘dictionary’ comprises of several different emotions and expressions all packed into a single word… these words can mean so many things yet nothing at all, all at once,” she said.

On that note, maybe you will low-key enjoy the saltiness of their discussion at the festival.

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