If you struggle to understand the teenagers and young people around you when they call their schoolfriend a durkboi and try to cadge some peas, you are not alone. The idea that they are communicating in a different language from their parents has been the subject of excited chatter on parenting websites and among some researchers.
A defining characteristic of youth slang is thought to be its faddishness – the fact that terms have a rapid turnover, quickly coming in and out of fashion and then disappearing before parents and teachers have time to decode them. The reality is more complicated: novelty is all-important but for each generation the expressions they encounter will be new to them. So although each age group and almost every local clique do invent their own words, there is a common core of slang that persists for years: such as cool, wicked, solid and sick for good, and chilling for relaxing.
The new language used by the young is not one unified dialect but an intersection of styles, with vocabulary drawn from a number of sources. There is the edgy street language of gangs which has given us shank and jook for stab; and merk to hurt or humiliate. There is also boyed for shamed, durkboi and wallad for fool, dozens of terms for drugs and money and the greeting braap! picked up and used by innocent teens who may not have realised that it imitates the sound of an automatic firearm.
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