Don’t be tempted by teen slang and just be your age, advises Sharon Stephenson.

When the email dropped into my inbox, I thought it was a joke.

"S'up my peeps. OMG this is totes amazeballs. You'll be like, dude that's the shizzle. Hashtag awesome yo ..."

You may not know what any of these words mean, and I'm not about to tell you - mainly because I'm not sure about them myself.

As someone who spends her days trying to corral nouns and adjectives into pleasing arrangements, this email, to me, is the language equivalent of a "kick me" sign.


The sender isn't some wannabe hipster caught in the uneasy space between adolescence and adulthood. She's a mother and wife, a woman in possession of a mortgage, crow's feet and a title with the word "manager" in it. She's old enough to realise that certain words should never emerge from the mouths of those heading rapidly towards middle age.

Yet my friend believes she can shave years off her life by appropriating her children's vocabulary.

"You can diss me all you like, but whatevs," she says.

Every generation has its slang that it uses to differentiate itself from the one before. It's a statement of identity, of demarcation. But folding it into your everyday speech doesn't necessarily indicate that you're down with the kids. On the contrary, it's the linguistic equivalent of Uncle Trevor spending most of Christmas demonstrating his twerking skills. Or the cringe-worthy "cool dad" from the recent drink-driving television advertising campaign.

Add in the insidious creep of limiting communication to 140 characters and the line of acceptability gets even more blurred.

Like my friend, I'm no longer able to tick the under-35 box on forms. That means there's a whole level of behaviour that's now out of reach: public drunkenness, too much cleavage and hanging unframed posters on the toilet door.

It's also high time for a vocabulary intervention.

"As we get older there's the need to work out which words should be avoided and which should be used ironically - and even then only under professional supervision while wearing protective headgear," says linguist Sara Walker.

"There's a fine line between the cutting edge of cool and appropriate communication tools for someone's age. Adults who are perfectly capable of speaking and writing in complete sentences often revert to teenage-speak because they have an aversion to being taken seriously as grown-ups. They think that by using the language of a younger generation it can make them seem younger."

So here are some of the words and phrases that you probably have no business using if you're the wrong side of 35. Don't say you weren't warned ...
Totes: Unless you're referring to the large carry bag with handles that cost you a month's rent.

Cray cray: What you are if you use this abbreviation.

Laters: It only takes one stray "s" to turn you into a joke.

Nom nom: Stop talking about your food and eat it, already.

Hottie: Should only be used in the proximity of a hot water bottle and not when perving at the good-looking bloke/woman at the bar.

Wasted/smashed: What happens when the cat knocks over your treasured vase, not your status after too many alcoholic beverages/illegal drugs.

Amazeballs/epic/sick: Stupid hyperbolic synonyms.

Fo shizzle: These words should never be assembled in this order by anyone, anytime.

Hating on: Feel free to do it, just don't say it.

S'up: Unless you're talking about swallowing small quantities of liquid, don't do it.

Ridic: There's no charge for using more than two syllables.

Chillax: Requires a furrowed brow. Plus, it's so 2012.

Whatevs: The discomfort lingers, like a pea under the mattress of a princess.

Crib: Unless it contains a sleeping baby, it's off-limits.

Innit: Acceptable only if you're from South London. Or Jamie Oliver.

Hashtag: It might work in the Twitter context but said out loud it's just pure literary assault.

Fo sho/vacay: Unless sounding like a 15-year-old Valley girl is the look you're going for, avoid it.

LOL/YOLO/FOMO: Don't feel bad for them, they had a good run.

Chill, it's all good: No, it isn't.