If you’re over 30, this article will provide information about the actual meaning of some of today’s new phrases I’m sure you’ve probably heard but didn’t quite understand. If you’re under 30, this piece will no doubt confound you, yet I hope by the end, it serves to help you unravel your words from your actual thoughts.
As a writer and observer of behaviors, I take seriously words and their meanings. Three commonly used phrases have crept into the younger person’s lexicon, and I think they serve as a good example to both users and listeners, as to what they actually mean.
The first of these phrases is pretty simple, yet very telling about the high levels of conformity today’s youth attach to their speech. Listen when young people are talking to each other, and when they are in agreement, you’ll hear repeatedly the phrase, “yeah-yeah-yeah” as agreement and acknowledgment. Not “yes”, or, “OK”, or “I understand”, or “yeah”, or “yeah-yeah”, or “yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah” but specifically and precisely three times, “yeah-yeah-yeah,” spoken rapidly, almost as a single word. I have no clue as to where this phrase started, but in my travels, I have observed that it is not a regional phenomenon but appears to be widespread in use.
I’m old enough to add some historical context to the modern use of this phrase. I remember when it’s older use, (slightly modified,) meant something quite different. In the past, “yeahh…yeahh…yeahh, spoken slowly, and with a hint of disinterest, meant that the speaker was boring the listener, or that they had heard enough, almost like the use today of the phrase, “whatever,” which is really nothing more than a not-so-nice polite way of saying I’m done listening.
If you find yourself using the phrase “yeah-yeah-yeah,” the point of this article is to illustrate to you how unwittingly susceptible you are to unconscious conformity, likeness and peer pressure; over-kill for the desire to deliver positive affirmation.
The second and third new-use phrases I hear repeatedly in the younger crowd share a similarity in the fact that they both couch nuanced displeasure packaged as faint praise. Old-school jargon used to call this “passive-aggressive behavior” but today’s kids use it often and freely in the following lines. “It’s all good” and “No worries.”
Unlike “yeah-yeah-yeah,” these two phrases actually mean exactly the opposite of what their face-value states.
For example, a group of kids order breakfast and the waitress mistakenly brings the wrong style eggs and wheat instead of rye toast. As the kids point this out and as she is apologizing and offering to make the mistake right, they declare, “It’s all good,” and accept scrambled for over-hard and wheat for rye. Mild admonishment followed by acceptance and forgiveness.
I have quizzed kids on the use of this phrase in this circumstance and they deny any element of complaint, instead emphasizing the praising component of the phrase. However, if that were accurate, why point out the mistake at all? Simply accept the substitutions and move on, but that is not what happens, it seems requisite that the waitress is reminded first of her error and then quickly forgiven. A little shaming served up with an order of plausible deniability rendering one both superior and benevolent in one fork-filled bite.
“No worries” I’ve observed, ratchets-up “It’s all good” and is generally employed when someone says something the listener finds wrong or insulting. The times I have seen and heard it repeated more than twice, fights have broken out. It seems that the more “No worries” is repeated, it signals that you had better commence worrying.
Words mean things. Once we allow the words meanings to be transformed or changed outright, that shared meaning turns to ambiguity and eventually misunderstanding due to meaninglessness. Once words and phrases become codes and secret languages known only in shared circles, this serves to separate and divide us. It benefits us all to refine and improve our collective ability to effectively and creatively communicate with one another and not create barriers in an already challenging environment.
Now, if you’re rolling your eyes and saying to yourself, “whatever”, yeah-yeah-yeah, I understand, really, it’s all good, no worries, and I really, really mean that, no seriously.