Snowflakes, Doomers, and digital natives. These are just a few of the names Generation Z gets called. As a Gen Z myself, albeit one of the older ones, I’m no stranger to the surreal humor and ‘illiterate’ lingo of my generation. But if you find yourself struggling to understand what getting ratio’d means, or why your aunt got called a Karen for asking to speak to the manager at a McDonalds last week, then I suggest you keep reading.
First off, the bad news: If you didn’t understand that last sentence then you’re probably old. But just how old are we talking?
Depending on the year you were born, you can be sorted into one of five (still living) generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, Generation Z, and Generation Alpha.
Actual birth years for these generations vary but for simplicity’s sake, let’s go with the Pew Research Center’s definitions. According to them, it goes something like this:
• Baby Boomers: Born 1946 to 1964.
• Generation X: Born 1965 to 1980.
• Millennials: Born 1981 to 1996.
Birth years for Gen Z and Generation Alpha are way blurrier but many put Gen Z at 1997 onwards and Generation Alpha at 2010s onwards. Contrary to popular belief, many of the young people you meet in your workplace these days are Gen Z, not Millennials. Many Millennials are now at the age when they start to settle down, get married, and try to buy a house despite crippling college debt and rising real estate costs. Meanwhile, Gen Z is recovering from the Tide Pod Challenge that went viral a couple of years ago. You know, the one where teens filmed themselves eating laundry soap.
But if Generation Z has grown out of eating soap, then what are we up to?
Giving the Dictionary a Glow Up
Out with the old and in with the new. While Millennials used textspeak and 1337 speak, these types of abbreviations were adapted to the days when text messages had character limits. Since Generation Z grew up without these length limitations, barring Twitter, none of our newer slang terms are designed for cutting alphabetical corners.
Instead, Generation Z uses slang with a more descriptive focus. Our generation often takes already existing words and repurposes them in a way that’s far removed, yet somehow connected, to their original meaning.
1. Ok, Boomer.
Out of all the slang Generation Z has invented, ‘Ok Boomer’ is definitely one of our best. It’s so good at dismissing Boomers that the term was even used by lawmaker Chlöe Swabrick in the New Zealand parliament. Unsurprisingly, this put Ok Boomer on the world stage, leading to this glorious screencap of ‘Ok Boomer’ being explained on a Japanese news channel.
What it means: ‘Ok, Boomer’ is used as a reply when someone older than you starts a ‘When I was your age…’ or ‘Back in my day…’ rant. They say wisdom comes with age but many Boomers just don’t get it. The world these days doesn’t work the way it used to. Now that Gen Z is too tired of explaining, ‘Ok Boomer’ has become a go-to phrase.
Grandpa refuses to understand inflation and why you can’t buy a house working a minimum wage job? ‘Ok, Boomer’ it is!
If you’ve ever been in a math class, you might remember what ratio originally meant. In Ye Olden Days before Twitter, ratio just referred to how many times one number can contain another (i.e 2:1). Knowing this, you can probably guess what getting ratio’d means.
What it means: Ratio, or ‘getting ratio’d’, means that a reply to your tweet has gotten more likes than the tweet itself. @albert12798 proved he was the CEO of Ratio when he ratio’d Luminosity Gaming into letting him join them. Ratios aren’t always this wholesome, though. Most of the time, getting ratio’d means that thousands of people disagree with your tweet, hence liking a reply more than yours. It’s the Internet Age’s equivalent of getting booed off a stage.
We love a cultured term and few are as well-traveled as PogChamp. PogChamp comes from a video uploaded by Cross Counter TV to Youtube back in 2010. In the video, you can see streamer Ryan Gutierrez, who goes by Gootecks, looking at fellow streamer, Mike Ross. He makes a weirdly exaggerated surprised face that’s nothing short of comical.
PogChamp later made it to Twitch and became one of the classic Twitch emotes (like emojis but for gamers). It has since evolved into other forms like ‘poggers’ or just ‘pog’.
What it means: PogChamp, and its many variants, is a general expression of delight and approval. When you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat for your teammates in League of Legends, you are a PogChamp. Manage to graduate despite the struggles of online learning? That’s pretty pog. Get paid to write an article explaining slang and memes? Absolutely poggers.
Don’t worry, your ceiling isn’t damaged. Drip is one of those tangentially related Gen Z terms. While there is no clear source for where drip came from, it was originally related to ‘ice’, a slang term for diamonds. Since having a lot of ‘ice’ on you meant you were fashionable, the term later morphed to form drip.
What it means: If someone says you have some mad drip or your outfit looks hella drippy, say thank you! That means you have an amazing sense of style. People admire how you’re just dripping with that model energy.
And speaking of fashion…
Say it with me: Gucci gang, Gucci gang. Gucci gang, Gucci gang. No? Okay, I’ll stop. But you have to admit Gucci Gang by Lil Pump encapsulates what ‘Gucci’ means. Taken from the name of the luxury brand, the term originally meant ‘stylish, fashionable, and rich’ when it first became used as a slang word.
What it means: Over the years following Gucci’s first use as a slang term, it started to have a more generic application. From fashionable and expensive, Gucci has become a term meaning ‘good, okay, fine’. If you ask your teenage family member how school is going and they say ‘It’s Gucci’, you can rest assured that they’re doing fine. Nothing to worry about. S’all Gucci.
Boujee is one of the rare slang terms that have barely changed in meaning from their original form. Boujee in this case is just a cuter way of saying ‘bourgoui-‘ hold on, ‘bourgeoisie‘. Plus, it’s easier to spell since it’s written exactly the way it’s said. If only the French had thought of that.
What it means: The original bourgeoisie referred to the upper-middle class of a society which, according to philosopher Karl Marx, controlled most of the wealth in that society. Considering how most of global wealth is now in the hands of a select few, it’s only appropriate that Gen Z has extended the meaning of bourgeoisie from ‘middle class’ to ‘expensive, luxurious, and rich’. Boujee is used when you see your college classmate walk into class with a Frappuccino and a thousand-dollar handbag.
May we all be boujee.
Like ‘Ok, Boomer’, the ‘tea’ or ‘spill the tea’ is one of the most frequently used, and therefore well-known, Gen Z slang terms. Hearing young folk shout ‘Spill the tea, sis!’ may be confusing to the older crowd. After all, who want’s a piping hot liquid poured all over them? But Boomers might know ‘tea’ by another name: the skinny.
Despite the fact that it only came into popular use in the mid-2010s, ‘tea’ has been around for decades in the drag community. ‘Midnight Garden of Good and Evil’, a novel by John Berendt, is about the trial of an antiques dealer suspected of murdering a male prostitute. Published in 1994, the non-fiction piece included an interview with drag queen The Lady Chablis where she explains that she avoids letting men know her ‘T’ to avoid a violent reaction. T, in this case, referred to private details of her life.
At around the same time, the spelling of T as ‘tea’ was already in use. One of the Children: An Ethnography of Identity and Gay Black Men by William G. Hawkeswood, a person who was simply called “Nate” uses the word ‘tea’ which is explained in brackets to mean ‘gossip’.
What it means: Just like ‘the skinny’ before it, the ‘tea’ refers to rumors and potentially controversial information. Imagine you’re on break at work and your friend calls you to ask if you’ve heard what a mutual friend did. It sounds exciting and maybe a little scandalous so you tell them, ‘Spill the tea!‘
Everyone’s travel plans have been canceled for over a year now, thanks to our little plague situation. Given that we can’t venture far from home, many of us have escaped to the digital arms of the internet. Hours have been wasted on Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter in order to keep ourselves entertained. But if you spend half as much time as Gen Z does on Twitter, you may have seen more than travel plans get canceled. On the internet, it’s people who end up getting canceled.
What it means: To understand why ‘canceled’ is a thing, take a moment to think about your 2020 and 2021 travel plans. When these plans were canceled, they ceased to exist. No more flights and beer by the beach for you.
The same thing happens to people when they get canceled. Their social selves cease to be and their reputations are wrecked. This is worse than getting ratio’d. A ratio on your tweet just means no one agrees with you. But if you get canceled, you may have to prepare for the worst as getting canceled may damage your career. The intention behind canceling someone is to force them out of a social and/or a professional sphere.
7. Catch These Hands
Let’s imagine for a moment that you did get canceled. People complained to your workplace about your tweets and corporate found that it reflected badly on them. Out the office doors you go. With your box of belongings in your arms, you feel a surge of anger and a need to fight back. Someone is about to catch these hands of yours.
What it means: Catch these hands is exactly what it says on the tin: Someone is going to catch these hands. It’s a threat of physical harm, generally through slapping or punching. If a Gen Z stops saying ‘Ok, Boomer’ and tells you to catch their hands, get ready to dodge.
Ah salt, one of the most essential ingredients for cooking that every kitchen should have. In Gen Z speak, however, salty doesn’t mean literal salt. Interestingly enough, salty is one of the oldest slang terms, having roots in the ’50s despite its recent popularity. A Blues song by Charles Brown even uses the word in its current slang meaning. You can listen to Don’t Get Salty, Sugar and get an idea of how salty is used.
What it means: There are a lot of flavor descriptions used to describe people’s moods and behavior. Sweet and bitter have already been in popular use for decades so why not let salty have a go, too? When a Gen Z’er says ‘salty’, they don’t mean that you put salt in their coffee instead of sugar. Being salty means that someone is angry and in a foul mood. Lose in Valorant? You may find yourself feeling a little salty.
Let me stop you before you run off to check the news (or an academic journal, if you’re a real nerd). Scientists haven’t discovered a new element to put next to Uranium on the periodic table. Copium is just a derivation of the word ‘cope’, a term used in psychology to refer to how we adapt to psychologically distressing stimuli.
What it means: You likely haven’t seen cope and copium on a Gen Z dictionary article yet and that’s because it’s one of the newer terms. In fact, it only seems to have come into use in the past couple of months or so. Unlike most Gen Z slang that originated on Twitter, cope/copium appears to come from the bowels of the Lovecraftian realm known as…Discord.
Cope/copium is used by trolls (read: internet bullies) to harass the people they bully. A person may be already emotionally disturbed or be emotionally disturbed by trolls before they are told to ‘cope’. It’s a term used to belittle a person’s response to upsetting situations and tell them to accept the emotional beating. Basically, it’s ‘deal with it’ but with a ton more malice.
10. Glow Up
Bullied in high school? Significant Other left you for someone else? Boy, I have just the thing for you. Featuring the all-new phase of life: the glow up. Forget your go, grow, and glow foods. If you want to glow up, you have to hit the gym, get a new haircut, and start a skincare routine with six different moisturizers.
What it means: You’ve tried growing up as a kid only to end up in your awkward phase as a teen. Before your twenties ends, you can start your glow up and flex on everybody you ever knew. Getting a ‘glow up’ just means making significant improvements in your life that make you more physically attractive. Other ways of glowing up exist, though. If your current job is starting to get toxic, maybe you can glow up in your professional life. Pursue your dream career, kween.
11. YAS Kween
Who’s the kween? You are. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female – everyone can be a kween. Its properly spelled form, queen, is used to refer to a female monarch. Aside from their actual function in a government, a queen symbolizes feminine power, confidence, and authority. Generation Z took this symbolism behind the word ‘queen’ and ran with it.
That said, ‘kween’ wasn’t invented by Gen Z. Though ‘kween’ and it’s usage in ‘YAS kween!’ only rose to prominence in the mid-2010s, it was already being used by queer communities of color, particularly by drag queens, decades before it made its way into the internet. ‘Kween’ is said to have first appeared in 1980s Ball culture. If you’d like to know more about its origins, this video from Iris does a great job of explaining in under a couple minutes.
As for the other half of ‘YAS kween!’, which is ‘YAS!’, it appears to have made its way into popular use online through a viral video where a queer man shouts ‘YAS!’ at pop singer Lady Gaga. I can’t blame him. Poker Face was a cultural reset.
What it means: You’ll often hear ‘kween’ used in the phrase ‘YAS Kween!’. Calling somebody a kween is telling them they are at the top of their game: they’re thriving, glowing, and empowered. A kween is confident. That’s why when Gen Z says ‘YAS Kween!’, they aren’t giving her their approval. Instead, they’re acknowledging her kween energy and are giving their support.
You’ve heard ‘Ok, Boomer’ so by now, you likely understand that it means ‘Baby Boomer’ or anyone old and condescending. That said, the Doomer is a Boomer’s younger, sadder counterpart. Invented by Gen Z to refer to themselves, a Doomer doesn’t look forward to a future with two kids and a white picket fence. Unlike their Boomer relatives, Doomers expect the world to go up in flames before that happens for them.
What it means: If there’s one word that can describe all of Gen Z culture, it’s Doomer. A Doomer is a member of Gen Z who believes that global warming, overpopulation, inflation, and a slew of other large-scale problems have already destroyed any future they may have to look forward to.
Sounds grim, I know.
But Doomers don’t take themselves too seriously. Doomers will joke about their mental health problems, the state of the global economy, and literally anything else they feel is too big to stop so they may as well not worry about it. In short, a form of nihilism.
But Gen Z’s culture of being Doomers has led to some rather funny, yet occasionally bizarre memes.
Weird, Dark, and Surreal
When it comes to humor, it’s reasonable to expect everything to be light and funny. But Generation Z may just have the strangest sense of humor of all the generations. I mean, come on, your aunt’s Despicable Me minion memes make more sense on their own than most Gen Z humor does. For one, a fellow Doomer might have laughed when they saw the image above. But if you’re not a Gen Z’er, you probably just stared at it in confusion, thinking, ‘What’s so funny about water?’
Just like our slang terms, our generation’s sense of humor can require so much background knowledge of internet culture that it’s impossible to find funny otherwise.
Why surreal, sometimes horrifying images are funny to Gen Z is a puzzle even for us. Some people say it may have something to do with a resurgence of Dadaism, an early 20th-century art movement that created surreal artwork after the end of World War 2. Given the similar feelings of nihilism that Generation Z and the Silent Generation might share, it’s no surprise that Gen Z has developed a strange sense of humor.
That said, here are the best, and easiest-to-understand memes that Generation Z has graced the internet with.
Dank Memes for Gen Z Teens
1. Gru’s Plan
The Gru’s Plan meme format comes from Despicable Me 3. It shows Gru, the lead character of the movie, explaining his master plan before realizing that there’s a massive flaw in it. Cue the face of disappointment.
2. This Is Brilliant But I Like This
‘This Is Brilliant But I Like This’ comes from the popular TV show, Top Gear. It shows the host, Jeremy Clarkson, acknowledging that another car is brilliant but saying that they have another vehicle they prefer.
3. This Is Fine
Move over, MoonMoon because Gen Z has a new meme dog. This Is Fine comes from a comic strip created by artist KC Green. Shortly after it was originally uploaded, the comic began to be used by netizens to describe situations that are absolutely not fine.
4. I Believe In ____ Supremacy
I Believe In ____ Supremacy is a meme template used to express admiration for someone or something. It’s often used in fandoms like that for K-Pop or videogames. Originally uploaded in the late 2000s, the meme’s original version said ‘I Believe In Female Supremacy’ but has since been co-opted for use by fans of artists, anime, and videogames.
5. sPonGEBOb MoCKIng Meme
The Spongebob Mocking meme is a classic from the mid 2010s that is still in use. This meme is used to depict humorous scenarios where one speaker repeats what the other speaker said. The repeated phrase is typed in a mix of uppercase and lower case letters to convey mockery for the previous speaker.
cONVeY mOcKerY foR tHe preViOuS sPeaker. Ok, nerd.
Thank You For Coming To My Ted Talk
This concludes your quick guide to Gen Z lingo, humor, and memes. Now that you know all the good and bad terms used by Generation Z, you’ll be able to finally figure out what the heck those kids are talking about. With each new Gen Z slang and meme you understand, you shave off a year of your real age.
Now get out there and vibe with the younglings.
Just don’t try to act ‘hip’. That’s cringey.