The Source for Youth Ministry
Jonathan's Resource Ezine

Weekly Resources, Ideas and Articles from The Source for Youth Ministry
Tuesday, November 19, 2002

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WHAT DID THEY JUST SAY? The Ever Changing Teen "Lingo" Is it important to know what "420" means? NEW TEEN LINGO
By Jonathan McKee

by Jonathan McKee
November 19, 2002

I'll never forget sitting next to a youth pastor at a camp when one of his student leaders mounted the platform to give his testimony . . . wearing a "420" t-shirt. As he started giving his testimony I leaned over to the youth pastor and sarcastically whispered, "nice T-shirt." The youth pastor looked at me confused and said, "What do you mean?" He had no idea.

Don't feel alone if you don't know? it's hard to keep up with the ever-changing youth culture and teen lingo. But "420" is basically defined as the time to smoke pot. It has come to mean everything from the act of smoking, the stuff that's smoked, and the optimum smoking time. Because 99% of today's culture DOESN'T know what 420 means, it has become a code people use to identify and talk with each other without outsiders knowing.

Many of us might not be excited about having to learn slang terms for drug use or sexual activity . . . yet we would want to know if the kid standing up in front of our youth group is "preaching" smoking pot. We want to keep up with current youth culture.

I'll never forget a decade ago, the first time I heard the word "tight." The student was talking about a teacher and said, "He's tight." Two decades ago that would have meant the teacher was way too strict or unfair. But 10 years later, it was a good thing. This teacher was very good, "tight," in fact. Five years later this teacher would have been "the bomb," and then a few years later, "phat." It's hard to keep up!

Where are these words coming from? One source is the variety of English known as African American Vernacular English (AAVE), Black English, or Ebonics. This dialect has influenced teen vocabulary greatly, crossing racial and socio-economic lines. White, upper middle class cultures may deny any influence of "Ebonics," yet rich, all-white schools are full of students passing each other in the hallway saying "Wassup' my nephew!" "Not much dawg- we 'bout to roll out to lunch for a little sum-summ'n!"

The media is one of the greatest influences of teen lingo in the last 20 years. Vocabulary once used by prisoners, gang-members and pimps has penetrated the mainstream market through mediums like MTV. And this isn't just affecting students who listen to gangster rap and hip hop. MTV crosses racial and socio-economic lines, reaching the inner-city and the burbs . . . influencing Caucasians, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians . . . affecting the jock, the gangster, the skater and the kid who sits by himself at lunch. The fact is, popular artists of all color are influencing all of our students with new terms every day. Whether it's Eminem, J.Lo, Nelly, or even Limp Bizkit, they're teaching students how to talk- and the lingo is pretty much the same thing.

While some of these influences are innocent, the final product that MTV regurgitates begs for an "R" rating. Many of the terms are about sex, drugs, cruising, and partying as well as derogatory titles for each gender.

This isn't just affecting students, it's affecting language used by adults. Whether we like it or not, language is slowly changing and being molded by the same influences that affect youth culture. 911's United flight 93 victim Todd Beamer is now remembered for his departing words, "Let's roll," now the title of his wife's best selling book. "Let's roll," a teen lingo term meaning "let's go!" isn't in the dictionary on your shelf, yet is used by a growing number of the teen and adult population daily.

Words adults use every day are actually changing. For example, most dictionaries from a decade ago list "disrespect" as a noun and "disrespectFUL" as an adjective. Now the word "disrespect" is commonly being used as a verb because of the growing use of the Ebonics term "diss," which is a verb that means "to show disrespect." Last week on the popular television series West Wing, the highly educated press secretary character, C.J. Cregg, walked up to an out of line pollster and said "Don't you disrespect him!"

Our language is changing as youth culture is changing. And at the top of the trickle down, teen lingo is changing. Whether we like the language or not, it's beneficial to know the vocabulary of the generation we're trying to reach.

So how can we keep up?

Glad you asked. The Source for Youth Ministry has the largest youth ministry teen lingo dictionary on the web. And like all our resources . . . it's FREE!

Fred Lynch, the urban director of Josh McDowell Ministry has reviewed a bunch of new additions to our dictionary. Take a look at a few:

n. Heroin "He was so high on smack he didn't know what he was doing!"

all up in my biznezz
When someone is meddling in your affairs or dealings. They are "in your business." "Quit asking about my girl . . . why you all up in my biznezz?"

n. A friend or acquaintance. A revised version of ni**a, as per Snoop Dogg. Replaces earlier terms such as homie, etc. "What's up my nephew?" or... "Have you seen that nephew?"

Primarily used as a phrase of dismissal to say as you are leaving or going away. As to say "bye or see you later." "Yo shorty you goin home......aight one." or on the phone. "Yo, I gotta go." "Aight, later, one." "One."

v. To say a greeting. To say "what's up!" "Holla back youngn." or "Hey mark, go holla at those krunked up hood rats!"

baby daddy
n. A male, often a boyfriend or an ex-boyfriend. Most often means the father of, or someone who provides for, a female's child. Derived from "He is my baby's daddy." "When my baby daddy get back, he'll bust you in your grill!"

1. adj. Very admirable or desirable. Extremely good. "Check out his pimp ride!" 2. n. A male who is extremely admirable, especially with the women. "Take notes fellas, I'm the pimp!"

v. Show off one's belongings or wealth. Often while driving, showing your vehicle, its nice rims, your new jacket, etc. "I just hung a right on Main St. Now I'm just flossin'."

biting me
(pronounced "BITIN' ME") Copying someone. "Man you know I bought this jacket first, why you biting me?"

roll out
v. To Leave. "We 'bout to roll out."

adj. To be hardcore. To be in a state of gangsterized attitude. "That fool is thugged out."

To show superiority by teaching someone a lesson or showing someone how to do something. To beat someone in a competition. "Man give me that ball, I'm going to school you!"

rise up
To warn someone away, as if to say to "back off." (see "step off") "Man you best be risin' up off me or else Ill bust yo grill!"

To steal. See "jack." Derived from the character in the movie "Friday", who steals from all of the neighborhood people. "I'm gonna debo Mom's credit card."

adj. Newer term to replace "ghetto." Something that is an imitation, cheap or of bad quality. "Oooh, that macaroni and cheese was bootleg!"

adj. Very good. "Sup, dawg, there be this wylin bang goin down at nita's crib!"

light some trees
Smoking marijuana.

Trying to do your best; to achieve some respect. "I'm just tryin' to represent."

n. Money. Usually hundred dollar bills, hence the reference to Benjamin Franklin on the U.S. 100 dollar bill. "It's all about the benjamins."

all up in my grill
the act of being in someone's face. "Yo, you don't need to be all up in my grill unless you want me to flex you like a skeeza!"

(pronounced "slangin') v. The act of selling any illegal substance. "Check out Brian slanging rock on the corner."

n. An acronym/euphemism for a teacher who hates "gangster-like" students. A Playa Haters Degree. A teacher that is constantly nagging a student is said to have a PHD.

(Please read the warning before reading)

This article is by Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry. You can check out what people are saying about Jonathan's new book, THE TOP 12 RESOURCES YOUTH WORKERS WANT at: http://www.thesource4ym.com


If you have any other youth ministry ideas you want to share, please email me at

God Bless!
Jonathan R. McKee

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