I'm not sure if it's a game or a test. When my Boston-based, teen-age granddaughter comes to visit, she catches me up on the current lingo. She tells me an expression, and then instructs me on proper usage. I never could get the hang of "on Dogs" (it means "I swear"--go figure) but I seem to have mastered "As you should"--something you say to someone after they do something well.
I love language and all its permutations, so of course I'm drawn to the latest in teen-speak. Also, as an editor who writes headlines for stories and columns, I need to be au courant. Of course, slanging it up with my granddaughter is not so much work as fun. She high-fives me when I manage to "get it" and I try not to be daunted by her eye rolls when my use of an expression marks me as an old fuddy duddy (my expression; not hers).
And now I have Carl Pickhardt, a therapist who specializes in adolescence, to pat me on the back and remind me that such games have a deeper meaning and are an important way to connect across the generation (or two) gap. His weekly column is written for parents, but his comments are relevant for us.
"To the degree that parents can bridge the generational difference with interest," he writes, "this can reduce its potentially estranging influence. For example, they can encourage a very powerful and esteem-filling power reversal in their relationship when they treat the adolescent as “expert” and themselves as "unknowing," with their adolescent as teacher and themselves as student. " Such "power reversals" could be asking them about their music or how to play the video game they've got under their thumbs.
Slang has not been my only entry point, though some are more fleeting than others. Last year, I was visiting my Albany-based grandkids. My grandson had spent the previous evening at a high school dance, sweating himself into exhaustion doing the Whip and the Ne-Ne. I asked for a demonstration. I tried it myself. He smiled politely. When I returned for a visit several months later and asked after the Whip and Ne-Ne, I learned I was quite "out of it" (my expression; not his). The Whip and Ne-Ne have been replaced. I didn't ask with what. I rested on my fuddy-duddiness. As I should.