Most People Use Slang, Even When Unsure of Meaning

A common rule of thumb that translation and localization professionals are bound to hear at some point in their career is that localization is best when it goes unnoticed. The same can probably be said about slang — when someone uses a new colloquialism, it can either flow seamlessly into the rest of the conversation or text, potentially adding a sense of coolness to the sentence it’s used in, or, if used improperly, it can come across as a cringe-inducing and laughable attempt to appear “hip.”

Some of us may stray from using new slang items out of fear of falling into the latter category — according to a recently released report from Preply, a Massachusetts-based e-learning platform, 54% of U.S. residents worry about using slang incorrectly, even though about half of us have used a given term without knowing what it means exactly. The company conducted a survey of 2,000 people across the U.S. to get a more complete idea of the population’s thoughts on slang, while also identifying some of the most commonly used colloquialisms in the country.

Source: Preply

“It seems like nearly every day a new word or phrase pops up that leaves us scratching our heads, wondering where it came from and what it means,” the report reads. “But the more connected we are and the faster we communicate with one another, the more quickly new words enter our vocabulary, no matter where we live.”

According to the report, 80% of the survey’s respondents said they use slang, with 22% reporting that they use it in every conversation. Some scenarios are more well-suited for its use — most people said they were comfortable with using colloquialisms around friends and family, but 63% said it would be a turn-off if someone were tossing around too much slang on the first date.

Source: Preply

Perhaps unsurprisingly, parents tend to find slang a bit more annoying than adults without children — about 66% of parents said they found it annoying compared to 46% of non-parents. This makes sense, given that young people tend to be the most prolific slang users and inventors — it can be hard to communicate effectively with your teenager if you’re unsure of what words like “low-key,” “ghosted,” or “on point” could possibly mean.

What are the Most Frequent Slang Terms?

And be careful about which ones you use — not all colloquialisms are created equally. Preply identified some of the most frequently used and the most annoying slang in American English to help readers navigate the ever-changing tides of the English language.

According to the survey, the five most frequently used terms are:

    1. Ghosted
    2. Salty
    3. On point
    4. Woke
    5. GOAT (an acronym for “greatest of all time”)

And on the flipside, the ones deemed to be the most annoying by the survey’s respondents are:

    1. OK Boomer
    2. Bae
    3. Bye, Felicia
    4. On fleek
    5. Woke

“Learning slang is an important part of learning English and staying up to date on the latest trends in speech and culture,” the report concludes. “It’s helpful to understand what slang means, even though we may not want to use it ourselves because we find it annoying and would rather tell it, ‘Bye, Felicia.’”

Andrew Warner
Andrew Warner is a writer from Sacramento. He received his B.A. in linguistics and English from UCLA and is currently working toward an M.A. in applied linguistics at Columbia University. His writing has been published in Language Magazine, Sactown Magazine, and The Takeout.


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