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15 Phrases Older Folks Use That Leave Gen Z Scratching Their Heads

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Slang permeates our vernacular. Children and young adults today utter a “slay” when impressed or emit a proud, “Yes, mother! You ate that up and left no crumbs” when their favorite celebrity walks outside. A comical turn of phrase used in today’s youth is okay, boomer, a pointed expression aimed at the older generation. This jab belittles boomer’s opinions, equating their mindsets as irrelevant at this point in time.

While boomers may not understand what “slay the house down boots” means or why everyone is now “dripping rizz” (iykyk), Gen Z crumple their foreheads toward boomers for using the following phrases. 

1. What’s Your Bag?

Designer Bags
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This 1960s phrase does not refer to physical bags, such as Louis Vuitton or other designer handbags. Rather, the multifaceted question asks someone what their hobby or deal is. On a more positive note, “What’s your bag?” is a colloquial way to ask what interests someone or what makes them excited about life. 

The negative counterpart asks an individual what their problem is. A dated term for “what’s the big deal?”

2. What’s the Damage?

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Interchanged in lighthearted or amusing situations, “What’s the damage?” points to the cost of something. How much a meal or outing will metaphorically hurt one’s wallet. The best example I think of this is a dad going to a restaurant and joking with the Gen Z waiter. 

“What’s the damage?” the dad laughs toward the waiter, who tilts his head. The dad waves his hand over the table and points to his wallet, hoping the meaning will click in the youngin’s head.

3. What’s the Skinny?

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“What’s the skinny(?)” walked so “what’s the tea sis(?),” could run. When an individual harbors a secret, gossip, or crucial information unbeknownst to many, they possess “the skinny.” “What’s the skinny?” is the question the person receiving the information asks. 

“Hey Robert, you won’t believe what happened last night at the gym,” John said.

“What’s the skinny?” Robert replied.

4. Have a Gas

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Today’s younger population voices “YOLO (you only live once)” before embarking on any fun or dangerous activity. The idea of only living once to optimize limited time sprung from humbler origins.

Before the dramatized version of needing to roller skate for the simple reason of YOLOing, folks said they were “having a gas.” They were experiencing marvelous times and indulging in life to the fullest extent, minus that underlying criticism in “YOLO’s” subtext.

5. Knuckle Sandwich

What do you get when a customer orders a punch to the jaw? A “knuckle sandwich.” The clenched fist, the bread, the fingers, the sandwich. 

Similar phrases in current vernacular that describe physical violence include pummeling, beating to a pulp, and beating up.

6. Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’

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Looking for trouble. A problem child. A teenager who had it coming. Up to no good. The expressions above describe someone “crusin’ for a bruisin’.” However, the saying sounds like a person on the quest for a “knuckle sandwich,” and “cruisin’ for a bruisin'” applies to a human engaging in adverse activities. 

The implications suggest the person “cruisin’ for a bruisin'” will receive a “knuckle sandwich” after their impudent behavior.

7. Word From the Bird

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In Hinduism, birds symbolize honesty, the inability to utter a falsity. Sparrows represent honesty in Celtic culture. Jumping off that established information, the phrase “word from the bird” refers to someone telling a naysayer the truth. 

“I heard that Ms. Grossman’s wedding to Mr. Hill happened over the weekend,” Jeff told Sammi. 

“No way!” Sammi replied. 

“Word from the bird,” Jeff shrugged. 

8. Come On, Snake, Let’s Rattle

Retiree Dance
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Before “Can I have this dance” infiltrated our vocabulary, “Come on snake, let’s rattle” was the proper way to ask a lady to dance—well, on most occasions. 

During heated arguments or misunderstandings, “Come on snake, let’s rattle” also meant let’s take this outside, or let’s fight. 

9. Flip Your Wig

Couples Arguing
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Have you ever witnessed a person grow from their usual demeanor into a raging beast, irritated and enraged at anything in their way? Or observed an individual become flustered over an inconsequential happenstance?

The appropriate (older-era) response to this erratic behavior is “Don’t flip your wig.” “Chill out”, “take a chill pill,” and “ease up” are all modern alternatives.

10. Stop Dipping in My Kool-Aid

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Kool-Aid, a sugary, fruit-flavored drink, appeases all ages. Yet, society couldn’t allow the drink to exist as a lone entity. Society, as it does, gave into the desire to attribute a few extra meanings to the beloved drink. 

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” alludes to those involved in cults or mob mentalities, where they follow a leader with blind faith. The phrase “Stop dipping in my Kool-Aid” signifies someone telling another person to back off and get their nose out of their business. They should stick to their own Kool-Aid mix.

11. Out to Lunch

Confused Couple
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Let’s go out to lunch means grab a bite down the street for Gen Z, but for boomers and the older generations, the expression signified their aloof older sister. Or an always confused friend.

“Wow, that teacher didn’t notice the kids throwing food at each other while she taught? She’s out to lunch,” Marty said.

12. Totally Tubular

Mystery Machine
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This phrase reminds me of Argyle from season four of Stranger Things. A happy-go-lucky pizza boy straight out of the 80s who believes most things are “totally tubular,” or fantastic. His long hair matches his carefree, chill attitude.

“Totally tubular” is another phrase that has adopted numerous meanings. In addition to characterizing hippy dippy characters in modern shows, surfers called exemplary waves “totally tubular.”

13. Kick Him to the Curb

Throwing out the trash
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Gen Z might know this phrase better than others because of Kesha’s song TikTok and the lyric, “But we kick ’em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger.” Admittedly, upon the song’s release, I believed Kesha was fighting random men who didn’t resemble The Rolling Stones front-runner. Now, I understand the idiom stands for rejection.

“Kicking something to the curb” means eradicating it from your life, much like we do on a trash pickup day. We throw our trash on the curb, passing it on for someone else to deal with.

14. As All Get-Out

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“As all get-out,” in conjunction with another string of words, indicates somebody embodying a trait to the maximum level. Dressing to the nines, doing something to the max, if you will. 

For example, “Peter is excited as all get out for his upcoming graduation party.” That sentence translates to Peter’s inability to garner further excitement than his current state of mind. 

15. Space Cadet

Space Cadet
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Similar to “out to lunch,” a “space cadet” pertains to a person existing in their own world or outer space with little regard to the happenings in their own life or on Earth. 

They seem to focus more on anything besides reality, becoming a space cadet. The phrase connotes people using illicit substances, as well. 

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women working
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Boomers Share 10 Things Younger Generations Will Never Truly Appreciate

Boomers vs Millenials
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Society has changed dramatically over the past several decades. The youngest generation doesn’t even remember a time before smartphones. Recently, the older generations shared their thoughts on things today’s youth would never understand, and their comments were eye-opening, to say the least.

Boomers Share 10 Things Younger Generations Will Never Truly Appreciate

12 Things Baby Boomers Are Refusing to Save Money On

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