17 Slang Terms That Leave Gen X Asking ‘What?’

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By Darryl Henderson

Keeping up with the latest slang terms is difficult, as you don’t want to spend your days scouring through social media, but you also don’t want to appear out of touch. To help you along, here are 17 slang terms that always confuse Gen X.

No Cap

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‘No cap’ may seem like a relatively new entrant to the Gen Z slang dictionary, but it has been in circulation since the 1900s, according to USA Today. The term stems from African American vernacular, meaning ‘no lie’ or ‘for real.’ 


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If you’re older than 40 years of age, you might be inclined to think that the word ‘fam’ is short for family, and you’d be half right. While family is the derivative form of fam, it can also be used when talking to your friendship group.

Glow Up

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A ‘glow up’ is a positive term used to describe someone who has made a positive physical transformation to themselves. For example, if they have had a makeover and look all the better for it, they’ve ‘had a glow-up.’ It’s also commonly used to describe people who have grown into attractive adults.


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The term ‘stan’ began being used in the early 2000s following the release of an Eminem song of the same name. It is a portmanteau word, a term described by Britannica as a combination of two words. In this case, the words ‘stalker’ and ‘fan’ are combined into ‘stan,’ meaning someone who over-idolizes someone.


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Boujee is the word used by Gen Z to describe something of a higher class, such as an expensive restaurant or bar. It has been used in popular music since at least 2010 but derives from the 16th-century French term ‘bourgeoisie,’ which means ‘middle or upper class.’ 


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‘Woke’ is another term that derives from African American Vernacular English. It means that someone is aware of racial prejudice or any other form of societal injustice. However, certain subsections of society often use the term negatively despite its obvious positive meaning.

Spill the Tea

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Everyone knows that tea is a widely consumed beverage, but it’s also become a slang term for gossip, believed to have originated from the LGBTQ+ community. Spilling tea is essentially spreading gossip around to a group of people, much like the older phrase ‘spilling the beans’.


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In recent years, it has become more common to see a young person refer to a victory as a W, or sometimes even a dub, short for the pronunciation of ‘double U.’ The W stands for win and is often used by teenagers when playing video games or sports. 


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As with much of Gen Z’s slang words, the term ‘ghosting’ derives from the digital space. It’s used when someone decides to cease communicating with someone online without explanation. It’s usually a term used in a romantic setting, but Harvard Business Review claims you can also be ‘ghosted’ in the workplace. 

Living Rent-Free in Your Head

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First used by a Chicago newspaper columnist in the late 1990s and made popular with Gen Z due to a viral video of boxing promoter Eddie Hearn using the phrase, living rent-free in someone’s head means that they are obsessively thinking about you. Usually, this term is used with negative connotations.


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E-boys and E-girls are the natural successors to the ‘emo’ and ‘goth’ generations. They use the internet rather than copious amounts of jet-black makeup to express themselves, and their dress sense and behavior are inspired by Japanese and Korean culture.

Let Them Cook

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‘Let them cook’ is a slang phrase used as encouragement for someone to carry on doing what they are good at. This can be a musical performance, sporting performance, or just about any endeavor that requires some level of skill. 


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Smol is an alternative to the word ‘small, ‘ which is used when something is so small and cute that you want to pick it up and squeeze it. The term derives from ‘Doggo Culture,’ a subsection of the internet where people show off pictures of their pet dogs.

This Ain’t It

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‘This ain’t it’ is often seen in the comments sections of social media posts where somebody is showing off something they have made or voicing their opinion on something. The phrase is used to signal disapproval of said product or opinion, suggesting the poster should do better.

Main Character Syndrome

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Main character syndrome is a non-medical term, meaning you see yourself as the main protagonist in situations, with everyone else either being a sidekick or villain. It has close links to narcissistic personality disorder but is generally less destructive and obvious in its source.


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‘Sus’ is short for suspect or suspicious, used to describe someone whose behavior is out of place and often creepy. Merriam-Webster has referred to it as another version of the word ‘shady.’ While it has only recently made its way back into circulation, it has been used as far back as the 1920s. 


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Finally, G.O.A.T or simply ‘goat’ isn’t an animal to Gen Z; it’s an acronym for ‘greatest of all time’ and is often used in a sports context, especially when referring to iconic soccer players. The popularity of the acronym has seen it become more mainstream and used in marketing campaigns and corporate settings.