Far from tut-tutting our kids’ langauge, we should be embracing it, says Dr David Caldwell.
Far from tut-tutting our kids’ langauge, we should be embracing it, says Dr David Caldwell.

Teen talk in 2019: What those acronyms mean

THE question to my 13-year-old was a simple one, or so I thought.

Did he still have his maths book from two years ago and would it be OK for his younger brother to use it this year?

The text response - he was beachside holidaying, I was at work - came back immediately. It said, and I quote: "Tbh idk maybe".

At first I thought he'd accidentally bum-dialled a response but then read it to a much younger colleague, who cracked up laughing, deciphering its meaning for me.

Apparently, what my son had said was: "To to be honest, I don't know. Maybe."

While the decoded response wasn't all that much more useful than the series of apparent random letters, it was enlightening to learn what it meant even if the exchange left me feeling ridiculously old.

To help me out, my cherished nieces, 13 and 15, compiled this glossary for me:

brb: Be right back

ily: I love you

ilysm: I love you so much;

hbu: How (a) bout you;

wud: What (are) you doing?

gtg: Got to go

rb: reply back

lmao: Laughing my arse off;

lol: Laughing out loud

btw: By the way

fyi: For your information

ikr: I know, right

nm: Not much

omg: Oh, my gosh

pls/plz: Please

tmi: Too much information

ttyl: Talk to you later

dwbh: Don't worry be happy

gr8: Great

k: Okay

Fb: Facebook

ofc: Of course

nmy: Not much, you?

np: No problem

rly: Really

ppl: People

srsly: Seriously

lmk: Let me know

j/k: Just joking

b/c: Because

atm: At the moment

bfn: Bye for now

bf/gf: boyfriend/ girlfriend.

According to David Caldwell, senior lecturer in English language and literacy at the University of SA, instead of tut-tutting our kids' language, we should be embracing it.

"Language is always evolving and changing and it is not uncommon for parents, even within a generation or two, to have different language practices than those that came before," Dr Caldwell says.

"In the 1930s and 1940s, parents would have been lamenting their children's different language practices."

Kids have always spoken in code, he says, and it should be welcomed, not criticised. It offers parents an insight into their children's world.

Kids have always had their own lanuage and it’s something, as parents, we should embrace not criticise.
Kids have always had their own lanuage and it’s something, as parents, we should embrace not criticise.

"It's a kind of empowerment, a world-building … an identity-building by children which has happened always … (though) the power of digital literacies is a genuine difference from generations before," he says.

"Engage with your child in a fun, positive and constructive way - have a laugh, be OK with being an outsider, get them to explain what different things mean … you'll make a mistake and they'll have a laugh. Let them have the power of the world of their own language and don't pretend it's yours."

Dr Caldwell says there's an obvious global as well as digital influence to teen speak in 2019.

But he says we're wrong if we think our youngsters' casual way of talking is somehow less articulate than previous generations.

He argues the opposite is in fact true, saying the repertoire of children has never been greater.

"There's often this misconception when we are watching kids on an iPad or iPhone that they aren't being literate but their practices in terms of text production, their ability to click on hyperlinks for instance and upload videos, is extraordinary … they are very visual and are shifting away from writing exclusively," he says.

"There is less formality in abbreviations and acronyms but it's not about being rude. It it is just more casual and is actually often about trying to be close to someone … to have a laugh, for instance, and a play."

Dr Caldwell advises talking to kids about when and where different language types are appropriate. And take a chill pill, mum and dad.

"So long as your children have good teachers, are still developing the formal repertoires and texts, (this) is part of a bigger repertoire you can engage in and not take too seriously," he says.

Still, I think I'll draw the line at being called "bruh", instead of "Mum". Soz bud.