Despite my age having sailed beyond the half-century mark, I try to keep up with the times. “Hip” and “with it” are words that were used in my youth to describe the latest and greatest new person, place, thing, or attitude, but today those labels sound decidedly archaic. I have a Facebook account and a seventeen-year-old son. I have been “friended” by a number of my son’s acquaintances, so I am privy to a lot of their posted ramblings. Just when I think that I have a grasp of the slang of today’s youth it squirts out from under my thumb and mutates into something new and strange.
Through the years, each generation has come along and twisted the definitions of words into almost arbitrary new meanings. I remember back in the 90s when one Christmas morning my nephew told his grandmother, “You’re the bomb!” In the context of the moment it was clear that it meant something good, but for this not so “with it” uncle the word bomb has generally held negative connotations. It is a weapon. It is something you want to avoid doing on stage. It is unwelcome news. In my experience it had never been a word to compliment someone with.
The use of contemporary slang is part of a shifting landscape. Don’t wait too long to update your lexicon. Saying “you’re the bomb” today is going to produce eye rolls and the response, “that is sooo 90s.” The preferred use of “bomb” as a superlative now is to drop the word “the” as in, “the band, Cashmere’s Topia is bomb!” It’s tough keeping up.
On Facebook I saw a comment where the word “sick” was used to imply excellence: “…you have to go to the jams, they’re so sick!” Again, the word sick is not a word that comes to mind to convey something in a positive light. To me it means ill, demented, broken, or fed up. An even more recent Facebook post proclaimed that the band, “Kids These Days was dope as [expletive]. Possibly the best concert I’ve been to.” Doesn’t dope mean a dimwit, simpleton, or an illegal drug?
So I guess the trend is to arbitrarily take a word that means the opposite of your intent and through context give it new meaning. If that is the case then maybe I can coin a new expression. How about the word rancid, as in, “Leave a comment if you think this post is totally rancid!”