“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to a man in his own language, that goes to his heart.” — Nelson Mandela
I’m an old-timer but I give marketing classes to entrepreneurs with a wide age-range (from the Boomers to Gen Z) and from diverse backgrounds. I tell you, it’s not easy! Every generation has their own language, among other things. And the same thing goes for every group and culture.
Why? Because language evolves with the times, thanks to the rapid adoption of new technology, youth culture, and in particular BIPOC and LGBTQ youth culture, who have significantly contributed to language innovation.
It’s not like I’m trying to adopt any of their jargons to hide my age, social group, and techno anxiety disorder. I am simply trying to know my audience and communicate better with them… okay, and indulge my curiosity too.
As an entrepreneur, it’s vital to know your audience. And language plays a major role in understanding who they are, what they want, and how they consume, for us to create a successful marketing strategy.
Let’s take a look at a few of the popular jargons (including Wig) our audience speak in…
From Gen Z:
Boujee — when you try to be some lavish bitch, but you know you’re not.
Bop — a song that will always be good, legendary.
Beat your face — to apply make-up
Deadass — if someone says “deadass” to you, they’re actually saying “I’m serious,” or they’re asking you, “Are you serious?”
Fam — is their squad, their group, their clique.
Finsta — It basically stands for “fake Instagram,” refers to someone looking a hell of a lot different in real life than how they look on their social media.
Flex — showing off.
Goat — Acronym for Greatest of All Time
Gucci — is the highest caliber of good, awesome, great, whatever.
Mood — a situation, a circumstance or something you can relate to.
Snack — an attractive person.
Stan — an overzealous or obsessive fan.
Yeet — hell yeah. It could also be used to express moving fast.
AF — Basically, AF stands for ‘as f*ck’.
Emo — very emotional
Extra — being over the top.
Fire - used to refer to something that is really cool and amazing.
Frenemy — someone you think is your friend, but you know is really your enemy.
Lit — another word for drunk but more commonly said instead of ‘really good’.
Receipts — proof of whatever it is you’ve said or done.
Shade — is not something you want: it’s subtly being disrespectful to someone.
Tea — Spilling the tea is all about getting that gossip.
Bae — an acronym that stands for Before Anything Else. It’s also a shortened version of baby or babe.
Basic — someone unsophisticated, extremely average.
Bye Felicia — a sassy dismissal.
Fleek — something looking nice.
Finesse — to talk someone into giving up goods or services in your favor.
Gag — a particularly harsh or scandalous truth.
Plug — the person who is able to acquire goods or services with relative ease.
Squad — is a black slang word and was originally tied to black solidarity.
Trap Queen — the ride-or-die girlfriend of a drug dealer
Woke — alert to racial or social discrimination and injustice.
From LGBTQ culture:
Drag — a form of gender expression.
Friend of Dorothy — is a gay man, and more broadly, any LGBTQ person.
Gag — to be speechless or astonished, when confronted by ‘fierce’.
Slay — to absolutely kill it in the best possible way.
Swag — An acronym for Secretly We Are Gay, Souvenirs, Wearables, And Gifts, or Stuff We All Get (free stuff).
Tea — to “spill the tea,” means someone is about to spill some hot gossip.
Wig — amazing, incredible, or awesome. It is typically reserved for when someone is surprised by something in a really good way.
Yaaass — an annoying expression used by girls expressing extreme liking.
From 2020 (Covid and social issues):
Before Times — used when referring to pre-pandemic life.
Cancel culture — refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
Covidiot — is a slang insult for someone who disregards healthy and safety guidelines about the novel coronavirus.
Karen — an irritating entitled white woman.
New Normal — a state to which an economy, society, etc. settles following a crisis.
Pretty sus — short for pretty suspicious, colloquially used to accuse someone of some very shady or sketchy behavior.
Rona — is an informal shortening of coronavirus.
Simp — someone who sucks up, schmoozes or otherwise fawns over another person — typically a person they’re interested in romantically.
Zoom-bombing — when uninvited guests to a virtual meeting disrupt it with various obscene, violent, or offensive images or words.
More than just using these terms in your marketing communications, you need to be authentic and have a consistent brand voice that resonates with your audience. Remember, slang is ever-evolving, but one fact remains true: Brands need to understand slang in order to truly connect with their audience.
“Language is not so much a creator and shaper of human nature so much as a window onto human nature.” — Stephen Pinker