It is sometimes difficult for adults to stay up-to-date on new lingo and phrases. Teenagers and young adolescents are always inventing “slang words” for everyday words. Adults may try to stay on top of the latest trends, but it’s almost impossible. That’s why James Callahan, a Lowell, Massachusetts teacher, decided to create a Google Doc page for him to make a glossary of these slang terms. Now, if he hears his students speak in “slang,” all he has to do is refer to his “cheat sheet” to know what his students are talking about.
‘Generation Z’ Cheat Sheet
It seems like a bizarre idea for a teacher to have a “cheat sheet,” but without it, James Callahan wouldn’t know what his students were discussing in his high school sociology class. Callahan has referred to the Google Doc as his “Generation Z Dictionary,” in which the words and phrases are in the mindset of individuals born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Compiling words for the Google Doc has been a fun experience for Callahan, who proves even teachers never stop learning something new.
“I love learning the words that their generation comes up with – both the unique ones, as well as the ones where they take an existing word and give it a completely different meaning,” Callahan said. For example, Callahan [and many others] think the word ‘snack’ refers to something one eats, like Cheez-Its. For Generation Z, however, a ‘snack’ is an attractive person. Callahan commented, “I’m laughing again just thinking about my students explaining it to me.”
Learning New Words
Callahan admitted he isn’t shy about asking his students to explain to him what a word or term means he might overhear in the classroom or while he’s walking in the school hallways. Whenever he learns a new word, he adds it to his personalized dictionary. Some of the new terms he has learned include: “tea/spill the tea” [gossip]; “nunya” [none of your business]; “slaps” [of high quality]; “sus” [suspicious/shady]; “take the L” [willingly making a sacrifice]; “beat your face” [apply makeup]; and, “clapped” [a crazy person], as well as many others.
Callahan recently started making his dictionary of terms and even included the slang words in his lectures. But when one of his students asked to see the list, the teacher had no idea it would go viral on the Internet. After all, the list was for him. Callahan never imagined it would one day ever leave the comfort of his computer.
When Callahan showed the Google Doc to his students, one of them took a photo of the list and shared it on Twitter in April 2019. As we know too well, it doesn’t take long for photos to go viral on Twitter, and that’s what happened with Callahan’s unique list. The photo received over 500,000 retweets and it even caught the attention of talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. You know you’ve made it big when you’re contacted by DeGeneres.
My sociology professor keeps an alphabetic list of new slang terms he learns from students and I will never get over it pic.twitter.com/UxOxRsNJbb
— Ehhhhhh (@mewtailv2) April 30, 2019
Twitter users commented about the Google Doc. One user (@BlvckCloud_) said, “The fact he teaches sociology is what makes this special.” Another user (@endeverstar) commented, “I genuinely learned from this list.” It looks like Callahan is always a teacher, both inside the classroom and now on Twitter.
Callahan isn’t surprised the Google Doc spread on Twitter. He commented, “It is interesting to see how Gen Z kids use social media and memes to not only communicate with each other but also to share and spread cultural information.” He added that the Twitter post isn’t any different than, in his day, when you would take a picture with a film camera, get it developed, make copies, and hand them out to your friends. Callahan said, “It’s just much more immediate and widespread.”
Callahan is happy he is educating people from across the globe. He even made the now-viral Google Doc available for public viewing. In his document, he now encourages viewers to consider donating to Lowell High School’s fundraising projects: The Lowell String Project and Mrs. Bauer’s Donors Choose page. You can learn new slang words but also feel philanthropic. Does it get any better than that?
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