Defining a 'Doorknob' and Other Updates on the Student Lexicon

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"Tsup, man?"

"The rents are outta town, man, so let's have a kegger at the crib."

"Deece, man, like the max. I've got some kick tunes. I'll bring my box and some babes. You got the barley?"

"Brewski's no problem, man, 'cause I have some duckies. Whatchu wanna do?"

"Sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll."

"Way to work it."

This dialogue probably has never occurred, at least not all in one conversation. But the words and expressions that you don't recognize if you are over 20 are real. That is, they are words and expressions used these days by teen-agers in the Twin Cities. The dictionary below should enable you to pierce the code.

Every generation of teen-agers adopts its own slang. Those of us who were in high school and college during the Vietnam era said "groovy," "far out," and "right on" a lot. We didn't have conversations, we had "rap sessions." Some of our terms were so widely used and longlasting that they made it into the next round of dictionaries. Money, for example, is now listed as one of the meanings of "bread." The dictionary confirms that in addition to all the things that "rap" has always meant, it also has come to mean talk.

But however groovy it was 10 or 15 years ago to say "wheels" when you meant "car," it ain't groovy no more. Today's teen-agers tend to laugh when you say "wheels," or for that matter, if you say "groovy."

In an effort to stay current, a crack linguistics team went to five high schools in the Twin Cities area to ask students about the latest slang. (The schools were Lincoln High in Bloomington, Hopkins-Lindbergh High, Breck Preparatory School, Minneapolis Central, and Minneapolis South.)

The slang varied from school to school, grade to grade, and even circle to circle within a grade. Students in one school often hooted when they heard the ridiculous expressions used by their contemporaries at another school. But then, they often hooted at expressions their own classmates suggested were popular.

For example, a brother and sister who were, respectively, ninth and 10th graders from Lincoln High, said that "gumbee," was the most current term among sophomores for a weird person, while the freshmen had begun to refer to their nurds as "schlecks," which is an apparent perversion of a German word for bad. When these terms were checked with our language consultants at the other schools, gumbee occasionally was recognized although seldom endorsed, while schleck met with blank stares or comments like "You musta got that in Bloomington, man."

Likewise, you insult someone at Hopkins Lindbergh by calling him a "sophomore," unless of course he really is a sophomore, in which case it's his tough luck. At Central High, the same is true of the term "freshman."

Here are some of the results of the (you should pardon the expression) survey: "Narcing," means squealing, tattling. Someone who does it is a narc. This derives from the '60s term for a narcotics agent.

It used to be that you had to be an improvisational musician to jam, but the term has been expanded. "Jamming" now can mean sitting in a car listening to the radio or listening to music at a party.

Whether or not you have gumbees or schlecks, every schools has "geeks." Most students did not know that this derives from a term for carnival sideshow freaks who performed sensationally morbid or disgusting acts such as biting off the heads of live chickens. But it still is not a term of endearment and probably was the most widely mentioned term for social outcasts.

"Fries" refers specifically to people who have used drugs so heavily for so long that their brains are fried. At Lindbergh they sometimes carry it one step further to "crispies."

In Bloomington, fries also are referred to as "frecka," which implies in addition to the drug use, a certain toughness.

In addition to geeks and fries, other categories of students, based primarily on their mode of dress and behavior, are "preppies," "jocks," and "punkers." Bookwormish types are called, not too imaginatively, "brains." At Central there is a special category called the "goon squad," which is a clique "that looks real dumb but actually is very smart." The Goon Squaders somehow have been able to be academic achievers without sacrificing social acceptability.

A well-dressed boy is referred to as G.Q., especially at Lindbergh, where a senior was the model for a spread in the magazine Gentleman's Quarterly. (When I asked what someone who is G.Q. dresses like, a student at Central replied: "Like you, man, if you had on a decent tie and some new shoes.")

The student, who might be described as handsome and well-built, was also the model for an ad for Calvin Klein jeans. Therefore, a girl at South High who wanted to describe someone handsome and well-built would say: "He's 'Calvin material."' A boy with the same qualities at Bloomington would earn a description as a "mass," especially as in "What a mass." You don't have to be big to be a mass, however, just attractive.

The word "wench" is used widely to describe a certain type of girl, and at most of the schools it was not the kind of girl you would be anxious to bring home to meet the "rents." But at Bloomington, it is reportedly a favorable term.

Contemporary high-schoolese has been substantially neutered. "Foxes," who used to be girls, can be boys now, too. Same with babe. The ubiquitous man is present in almost every sentence, regardless of the gender of the audience.

"Getting faced" is being embarrassed. This especially happens to a basketball player when the opponent he is covering makes him look foolish when scoring a hoop, but by extension, you can get faced if someone scores a big point off of you in a verbal battle.

"Suck" used to be a word for something you did to a piece of hard candy. Then it became a dirty word. Now it apparently is clean again. I heard kids saying it to their teachers, and the teachers assured me it wasn't considered cursing or even terribly disrespectful. If you don't like something, you say it sucks. Not very logical, but come to think of it, why should it be dirty?

Referring to police as "pigs," which admittedly was not polite, was one of the fashions of the '60s and '70s. Today's high-school students have taken it a step further, by referring to police as "bacon" and "swine," also as "the feds" and "blues."

Of all the slang words that were big in prior generations, the one that seems to have held most firmly onto its popularity is "cool," which still means what it has meant for at least 20 years.

Other generally fashionable words of approval include: sweet (very big), choice, decent (also deece, and just D, as in, "This album is pretty D, man."), wicked, cosmic, ultra, mega, ex, (short for excellent, which is also used a lot), awesome (very big but starting to fade), stud (as an adjective), mach (short for macho), gonzo, raw, serious, (as in, "That's a serious Cadillac"), disco (as in, "That's really disco"), dirty, and Bruce (apparently from Bruce Springsteen).

Generally fashionable terms of disapproval include: sad, weak, weird, and mugged (at South, the suggestion being that you are so ugly that you look like you have just been mugged). Nouns that include negative connotations include: Zeke, Wayne (don't ask me where it comes from or what happens if that's really your name), Todd (apparently from a character from the old "Saturday Night Live" television show), diz (short for dizzy, a quality displayed by twinkies), and rogues.

Terms for being drunk or stoned (which for some reason, seems to require a lot of terms) include: buzzed, whizzed, blotto, wasted, blitzed, blasted, basted, gone. (Gone seems to have the most widespread acceptance.) At one school a special term for being both drunk and stoned is sizzled.

Vol. 01, Issue 22, Page 18-19

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