No, I’m not making reference to the book, The Bush Dyslexicon, where George Dubya was quoted as asking that eternal question “Is our children learning?”
What I’d really like to know is what is it about our teenagers that makes us just want to pluck out every last eyelash (both upper and lower lid)? Bind our faces over and over with Sellotape? Run, screaming from the house, without even caring that we’ve neglected to change our bedroom slippers?
Could it be:
- Their desperate need to announce their presence, or indeed arrival, to a captive audience (normally on a bus or train) by shrieking across an enclosed space (a distance of say, twelve inches) at each other so that when you disembark at your destination, you are certain to have developed tinnitus and high-pitched ringing not just in your bad ear, but your good ear as well?
Or is it:
- Their incessant shuffling around with slumped shoulders and constant whingeing that everything is ‘so unfair’, when you’re (ever so patiently, with gritted teeth) trying your best to share the benefit of your experience by teaching them to food shop, cook, clean and stick their clothes in the washing machine every once in a while?
- Maybe, after pulling out all the stops to cook a lovely family meal (made with love, I might add), that they baulk, roll their eyes and wail “Whyyy???” when you suggest that they need to pay their way around here and contribute by washing up afterwards? (There’s nothing like a wailing banshee to spoil the mood and good intention that lies behind said lovely meal.)
- Perhaps it’s the getting them to sit still, get off FaceBook, BBM and X-Box simultaneously (who said teenagers can’t multi-task?), stop procrastinating and get on with their homework or revision that gets your goat; which is met, incidentally with their pitifully absurd response, “I’m going to be a super-star/rock musician/super model/millionaire by the time I’m twenty-one, anyway.”
Well, all of these, I can deal with. Here’s how:
- On the bus, I could stick some headphones on to block out the noise. Failing that I could deliberately sing out of tune, really loudly, or phone a friend and shout over the phone that I can’t hear them and could they speak up. Or maybe I could just get off at the next stop. I could always use the exercise anyway.
- My response to the second one would be this: “Listen, kiddo. One day, if you carry on whingeing just as you are now, your wife will leave you. In which case, you’d best know how to cook, clean and do your own laundry.”
- Me on point three: “Now look here, see? This is not a restaurant/hotel. You see that food on the stove? You’re eating it. You eat what we all eat. You eat off the same plates and with the same cutlery. Somebody else buys and cooks. What are you waiting for? The dishwashing fairy? Get to the sink!”
- Four is simple. I take away any distractions until self-discipline is learnt. If it’s met with “You don’t want me to have anything!” It is countered with, “You clearly don’t want to have anything, including an education at this rate. Which boss on this planet would be impressed or beguiled, when scanning your CV and asking what your strengths are, is met with your response that you can score highly on a soccer game on X-Box? And incidentally, the more you whinge about any confiscations, I add another week. You really don’t want to go there with me.”
While we’re on the subject of X-Boxes, I could barely contain my glee when my teenage son’s finally conked out. “You’re really pleased it’s broken, aren’t you?” He looked at me accusingly. Somehow, I managed to mix up my motor skills and whilst replying slowly, “Nooo…” I found myself simultaneously nodding, instead of shaking my head. (Doh)
Anyway, back to the issue of ownership.
The one thing that I have issues in dealing with and what really does make me want to cringe, not at them, but for them, is when they adopt what is known as Teen Street Slang. It’s their language and theirs alone. Anyone who is not a teenager is forbidden to use it. If (Heaven help them) a grown up starts using it (*gasp*), woe betide. You will be met with a burning hostile glare and be told in a low harsh growl: “Don’t. Ever. Speak. Like. That. Ever. It’s embarrassing.”
Excuse me; did you just say you’re embarrassed?
There is nothing more embarrassing for a parent when his or her A* English-scoring offspring refers to their mates as ‘blud’, ‘rude boi’, ‘manz’, ‘mandem’, ‘gyaldem’; or refer to a great experience as ‘nang’; muscular as ‘tonk’ (how onomatopoeic); a nice-looking person as ‘peng’, ‘piff’ or ‘chung’ … and I’m not yet entirely sure as a parent how to take being referred to as ‘rents’. When they want to ‘big themselves up’ or ‘represent’, their final sentence is punctuated with an unexpected “Pow-pow!” (Similarly, they might substitute it with “Brap-brap!” with an extended rolling emphasis on the ‘r’, whilst shooting an imaginary pistol in the air. If it doesn’t make you flinch, it will certainly leave you scratching your head in bewilderment. “What did I ever do to this child?” I hear some of you wail.
All I can say is that it will pass. If your sprog is not yet in secondary school, it will come to pass; but eventually, (*clasps hands together in prayer, whilst crossing fingers*) it will pass. They have to go through these stages to fit in and find their place in the world.
This is part of our DNA make up – the need to fit in, no matter how much we might try to disguise it by vehemently denying that we are sheep or followers and claiming instead that we are individuals, our own person, swearing autonomy and self-government, we only have to look at each other’s social groups, to find that they all dress and talk the same as each other. This follows whether you’re an Emo, a Skater (or should that be ‘Sk8ter’), a New-age Punk or a Hip-Hopster, into Grunge, Dub Step, a Geek (hey – geeks are chic!) or simply bookish. These are all social groups that have their own means of talking, behaving, style of attire or preference in music. It was the same when I was growing up and the same goes for our predecessors.
So what’s all this about being ‘owned’? To be owned simply means to be made a fool of, as in, “Oh shame, dat chief just got owned.” There are some adults however, who do try to adopt this way of communicating with youngsters, which is unfortunate. Not only does the adult run the risk of coming across as ‘dry’ (unfunny), but he or she will also look like a ‘wasteman’ (idiot, fool). But if you do take the mickey out of their language, it’s going to be ‘peak’, as in there’s going to be trouble.
So an example of a conversation might go a little bit like this:
Teen 1: “Wah gwan, blud? Why you so vex?”
Teen 2: “So I was just kotchin’ wid mandem from endz, when we see these peng gyaldem.”
Teen 1: “Oh, sick… you get their digits?”
Teen 2: “Nah, man, I was chirpsin’ wiv one of dem, but she was just givin’ air, like she was Naomi Campbell or somefink.”
Teen 1: “Peaak!”
Teen 2: “Innit, blud. Anyway blud, she weren’t even dat piff.”
Teen 1: “She dissed you, innit! What did she say?”
Teen 2: “ She said I was just some next man who should take my clappin’ dead-out swag and my dutty, butterz crepes and dash myself and tingz.”
Teen 1: “Is it?! Blud, you got violated!”
Teen 2: “Alie.”
Teen 1: “What’s happening, my friend? Why do you look so annoyed?”
Teen 2: “Well, I was just hanging out with my best friends from my neighbourhood, when we came across these rather good-looking girls.”
Teen 1: “Oh, great… did you get their phone numbers?”
Teen 2: “No, old chap, I was just trying to chat one of them up, but she was ignoring me, like she was Naomi Campbell or someone of that calibre.”
Teen 1: “What a heightened event!”
Teen 2: “It was indeed, my friend. Besides, she really wasn’t even all that attractive.”
Teen 1: “She disrespected you, didn’t she! What did she say?”
Teen 2: “She said that I was just some random nobody who should take my worn out garments and my nasty, ugly trainers and launch myself into the garbage heap.”
Teen 1: “Did she?! My friend, you have indeed been verbally assaulted!”
Teen2: “I would tend to agree.”
So there you have it. Teen Street Slang. Polished down to a fine art. Owned by the teenagers, for the teenagers.