By Juliet Cameron, COO
A regular family meal with my three teenage kids has become quite an education in language these days. Conversations are littered with new words, or more often, familiar words used in new ways. I have to confess my initial reaction when this started happening was, “Can you please save that language for your friends and not for the family dinner table!”
But, then as someone inherently interested in communication, language and words, I started to delve a bit deeper. Much to my kids’ annoyance.
First was a crash course in their latest ‘slang’. Here are a few of my favourites (and the ones that were appropriate to publish).
Clear: “No question those sneakers are clear”
Meaning: “No question those sneakers are better”
Qualms: “Those two have got qualms”
Meaning: “Those two are having an argument”
Deep: “Don’t deep it”
Meaning: “Don’t over think it”
Charge it: “Don’t deep it just charge it”
Meaning: “Don’t over think it and get on with it”
Bare bookie: “She is bare bookie”
Meaning: “She is very annoying”
I actually rather like some of these – simple and direct. Qualms being a personal highlight.
Of course, language has always evolved over time and over generations and we all know the annual additions to the Oxford English Dictionary with gaslighter, drooking and langard all making the cut last year.
But what’s clear is that ‘teenage slang’ as we call it is changing faster than ever as the likes of TikTok can instill a new word/phrase into the global consciousness in a matter of weeks. Delulu is a great example of this. Currently a storm on TikTok and stemming from the world of K-Pop culture to mock those fans who thought they would one day date a K-Pop star, delulu (from delusional of course) is fast becoming the word du jour in the world of TikTok language.
So, a generation of future comms people are growing up with arguably a totally different relationship with words – a far more playful, free spirited and let’s face it, casual use of language.
In the world of marcomms and social media, brand language has to be embraced for its target audience and use ‘slang’ all the time but arguably this doesn’t always filter into the world of corporate communications as authenticity is key.
And what do you do when the two worlds of corporate and consumer comms collide? As an agency steeped in both creative brand comms work, as well as corporate issues work, we’ve always had to find a balance between both. For us it’s about dropping the corporate language and using plain speak – simple, direct language and saying what you really mean. We push all our clients to do this whether corporate or consumer.
Johnny, our founder and a gifted copywriter (even if he would never admit it himself) always makes us think hard about copywriting for the brand we are publicising– and how that brand should be speaking, if they are being authentic to themselves. Words and expressions like ‘any old brand could say the same’, ‘maverick’, ‘don’t waste a single word with lazy copy’, ‘cut the crap’, ‘say it how it is’, ‘they’re not a FTSE 100, they’re a challenger brand!’ often come into conversation.
But back to our teenagers. What happens when they go forth into the world of work?
Is there a future world where a CEO will comment, “We’re bare happy to shout about our new partnership with Brand Z. Their new product is lit and just the right vibe for us. We can’t wait to charge it for our shareholders.”
Mmm maybe not. But I’d love to think that the essence of playing with words and language, having fun and embracing new uses and forms does become more acceptable and as comms people we continue to fight the good fight against corporate jargon with relevant and of the moment language.
Don’t deep it, just charge it.