By DeeDee Corbitt Sauter, Contributing Writer
On the way home from what should have been a fairly mundane birthday celebration for our four-year-old, my oldest tween son turned to me, held up his hand in the universal sign requesting a “high five” and uttered, “THAT was intense, yo!” I am not sure what “Yo” means (or if it should be capitalized).
I just stared at him. Moms are good at staring. I had to agree that our recent experience was indeed “intense,” but I would have used far different adjectives. Words such as terrifying, heart-stopping and hysterical.
During the party, which exhausted us, one of the younger guests, a mere four months past his second birthday, decided to take an unchaperoned walk in the woods of the local park where we were holding the party. This necessitated a 40-minute search executed by a combination of all the parents and random strangers at the playground along with a breathless call to 911.
My son started the sentence with “No offense, but ….”
The tow-headed tyke was found by one of the mothers about half a mile in the foliage. He was not crying, and the parents were the only ones stressed as they were bitten by bugs and scratched by brambles while screaming his name.
So although there were intense moments, my son’s term seemed wholly inadequate. And the “Yo” seemed less a word and more like a sound made by a wild animal in pain. Or a parent searching for a lost child.
I shifted my gaze back to the road and put my hand down after accidentally delivering the high-five. I am sure that in my own teen years, I never articulated inane idioms while attempting to communicate something like “Totally radical.” Like that would have been so gnarly. Gag me with a spoon even.
But, even if I did periodically slip and attempt to step foot on the cool side of language, I can absolutely, without a doubt, guarantee that neither my parents nor any adult near me attempted to speak the lingo of the youth. That’s the way it should have been and should be, but more and more I find my middle-aged, pudgy peers conversing in stilted Disney dialect.
“My bad,” a friend emailed me one day after accusing me of losing a notebook. She had it the whole time. I know she did because I personally handed it to her. She found it in her car. “My bad.” The word “Sorry” was never used; she simply typed that small part of a phrase in her message. That is not even a sentence, for it does not contain a verb.
“I am bad” is a sentence, and although she is not bad, at least it would have made more sense. Now I will be forever wondering which of her belongings could be bad.
“Haters gonna hate.” What? This is true. Verbs describing themselves in noun form are redundant. Runners will run. Swimmers swim. Eaters eat. By no means should this be an all-encompassing generalization. Haters hate, but on their off time, I am sure they also run, swim and eat. They may even love.
“Children are resilient,” or are they? No, really they are. This is not so much a phrase of the young, but more something their parents use when trying to rationalize a decision that will ultimately turn everyone’s world upside down. I am not saying this expression does not speak the truth, but what are the alternatives? People in general are either resilient or are left rocking in a corner.
But back to the youth. This is the population that molds our language and makes the lasting impact necessary for us to mock yet another generation in 15 years. It’s a good thing that children are resilient or they would not be able to survive to ridicule, or even create, their progeny.
Using another popular, yet contradictory, phrase, I was recently educated about the word “Hip.” My son started the sentence with “No offense, but….” If an offense was not intended, why draw attention to the possible misinterpretation? Clearly, the words and actions are in conflict. If he had said, “No offense intended, but the word ‘hip’ is no longer used to indicate acceptability,” it would not have been a problem.
Unfortunately, he solemnly looked me in the eyes and mumbled, “Um, no offense, but you can only say ‘hip’ these days if you are ‘hip.’ It doesn’t count if you used to be ‘hip.’ No offense.” Rather than attempt to respond with youthful, nonsensical jargon, I just stared at him. Moms are great at staring.
DeeDee Corbitt Sauter is a resident of Prince William County. Her column, “Tambourines and Elephants,” appears monthly in Prince William Living.