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From fleek to lit: a look at the lexicon of the next generation

Updated: 5 days ago

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Audience segmentation is a vital part of successful marketing – this includes understanding how best to communicate with different age groups. This guest post was written by one of our freelancers, Jude.

Jude, who is part of Gen Z, shares his insights into the language differences between Gen Zs and Millennials.

Nothing changes with time, quite like language. The English language has evolved to such an extent that writings from the 16th century would make little sense to the average person of today. With the rapid development of technology and the internet, language has developed faster than ever before. It can be a great challenge for older generations trying to decipher the transient slang of the modern online world. In this blog, we will explore the lexis used today by Gen Zs/Millennials.

Who are Gen Zs and Millennials?

Before investigating the language used by these two consecutive generations – the first to be ‘raised by the internet’ – it is crucial to understand exactly who these people are. Millennials are the older of the pair, typically including those born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. There’s some debate surrounding when Gen Zs begins, with some sources saying it’s 1993 and others saying 2000. Despite a relatively small age gap between some Millennials and Gen Zs, there are some differences in the phrases, terminology and slang used between both groups.

a generation timeline showing 6 generations: the silent generation, baby boomer generation, generation X, xennials, millennials and gez Z

10 words and phrases Millennials use

1. Salty

Believe it or not, this word has nothing to do with food in Millennial lingo. Instead, it refers to someone’s mood. If a person is being moody, grumpy or sulky, you would say they are being salty.

2. Basic

This one is not too different from its dictionary definition. Millennials use it as a light insult, however, to suggest something or someone is average or lacks individuality. For example, someone with a basic sense of style would wear very typical, simple clothes. It isn’t a bad thing in itself but can be quite offensive if pointed out by others.

3. Lit

No, this word has nothing to do with candles. You might say that your best friend’s birthday party last night was lit. It describes something fun and exciting; somewhere you would like to be.

4. Fire

Piggybacking off the last word, ‘fire’ is totally unrelated to its literal meaning. In this case, it acts as an adjective rather than a noun. It can be said to show that you like something. If you tell someone their shoes are fire, you’re complimenting them.

This phrase describes something very good. The most typical use of the word is to say that someone’s eyebrows are on fleek – they're perfect. It is not the most versatile phrase and isn’t used as much as some of the others on this list.

6. Bounce

Yes, this is what you do on bouncy castles, but that is not the definition we’re talking about. Here, to bounce is to leave somewhere, usually quickly. There’s a fight kicking off at the bar? You better bounce before you get involved.

7. RT

Stemming from the social media app Twitter, this abbreviation is short for “retweet”. However, Millennials have managed to extend its use to the real world as a phrase to show agreement. Think of it almost like the modern-day “ditto”.

8. Slay

Previously reserved for medieval knights, Millennials have reworked this verb for themselves. It has taken a step down from its violent definition and now simply means to do a good job. Now more than ever, this word will be found all over social media.

Clearly, this one is not literal. As we all know, Millennials 'love to exaggerate', so it should come as no surprise that this is exactly that. When you hear a joke that is just too funny, and you’re apt to die of laughter, that’s when this phrase comes in handy.

This phrase is one that every Millennial will know, and even some members of older generations are coming to learn its meaning. Popularized around the time that streaming services like Netflix found their way into almost every household, the phrase took the internet by storm. It refers to when you and your partner put on a movie with no intention of watching it, and...well we will let you guess the rest!

How does Millennial and Gen Zs vocabulary differ?

In truth, the two are quite similar. Gen Zs decided to let Millennials do most of the hard work and kept using much of the same language as their seniors. Words like “slay” and “fire” still predominate in comment sections across YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and every other social media platform. Not all the Millennials’ creations stuck, though; “on fleek” would probably earn a few raised eyebrows from younger generations. Gen Zs aren't lazy, either. Many new words have emerged over the years that would puzzle even Millennials.

10 words and phrases Gen Zs use

1. Bet

Bet is the quickest and easiest way of agreeing to plans. “Wanna go for some food tomorrow at 11?” “Bet.”

Nobody wants to get ghosted. It’s an awful experience, but it happens to the best of us. In the early stages of a relationship – the talking stage – sometimes, one person simply stops responding to messages and cuts off all communication. That is what’s called ghosting somebody. In the worst-case scenario, the other person can even end up blocked.

3. W

Short for “win”, this one is not solely reserved for competitions. Almost anything positive can be called a W today. From a movie sequel announcement to a gamer flexing his skill – the comments will be flooded with W’s. Make sure it’s always a capital letter, too!

4. Cap

Not to be confused with the item of clothing, “cap” is both a lie and the action of lying. A common use of the word is the phrase “no cap”, which emphasizes that what you’ve just said is the truth. Next time you catch your friend in a lie, tell them to stop the cap.

5. Drip

Do you have drip? This is one of the infinite ways of saying you have good style. It can refer to both your sense of fashion and the clothes you wear. Make sure you’re dripped out for your next big night out!

6. L

The partner in crime of the W, this is short for “loss”. If you fail at something, you’ve taken an L. It can even reference misfortunes out of your control, but it would be very insulting for someone to say you’ve taken an L about a serious matter.

Gen Zs favourite way to spread positivity is to call anything and everything the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time). Muhammad Ali is the G.O.A.T. of boxing, and Subway is the G.O.A.T. of sandwiches – it can be applied to any category you can imagine.

8. Simp

We all know one of these. Simps are those people who do way too much to try and please and impress their crush. Often, the simp’s feelings are unrequited, only adding insult to injury.

9. Iykyk

The second acronym on our list, this one stands for “if you know, you know”. It is used to refer to an inside joke that only a select group of friends or community would understand.

10. Slaps

A versatile way to express how amazing something is. That movie? It slaps. New song? Slaps. Even these nachos slap. It can be used for anything and is less extreme than calling something the G.O.A.T.

Using the lexicon of the next generation

Knowing these terms and knowing how to use them are two entirely different things. It takes practice and embarrassing mistakes to perfect modern slang – but Millennials and Gen Zs themselves make those mistakes whenever a new word or phrase surfaces. If you can figure out when to use these examples, you’ll find yourself much more relatable and popular with the younger generations.

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