My children are fluent in a language I don’t understand. The words are English, but they make no sense to me. The kids communicate with one another perfectly, but Barb and I are left flummoxed.
Suddenly I understand how my parents felt when I spent the 1980s saying things like “tubular” and “gag me with a spoon.”
Today’s kids speak Vine, incessantly quoting 6-second videos posted to the social media site. Half the things they say to each other involve Vine quotes, a series of inside jokes Barb and I don’t get. We suspect we’re the butts of most of them.
On vacation this summer, Frankie said to Drew, “I think I know more about American Dolls than you do, genius.” I asked, “Since when is Frankie into American Girl dolls?” He’s not. He was just quoting a popular Vine video.
The kids can carry on entire conversations in Vinespeak, batting quotes back and forth like the Williams sisters trading volleys. Imagine walking into the kitchen and hearing the following exchange:
FRANKIE: I wanna be a cowboy, baby.
CLAIRE: That was legitness.
DREW: Mother trucker! Dude, that hurt like a butt cheek on a stick.
RACHEL: Stop, I could’ve dropped my croissant!
Then imagine me walking out of the kitchen, just as confused as I was when Coke changed its recipe and Bo and Luke were replaced by their cousins on “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
I suppose every generation of parents struggles to understand their children’s lingo. My grandparents’ generation no doubt struggled to make sense of “groovy,” “daddio,” and “I feel I deserve equal rights even though I’m not a white guy.”
My parents tried gamely to get hip to my childhood vernacular, which consisted primarily of one-word catch-alls. “Decent” meant “good” or “awesome” or “pleasant surprise,” but never actually “decent.” And I of course made use of ‘80s classics such as “grody to the max.” It was rad.
I understand the allure of speaking in a shared language understood only by insiders. I can carry on conversations with some friends using only “Seinfeld” quotes. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
My challenge is figuring out when the kids are sharing original thoughts germane to current circumstances and when they’re merely quoting years-old videos apropos of nothing. Vine was founded in 2012 and quickly acquired by Twitter. By 2015 it had attracted 200 million users. (That was legitness.) The next year, Twitter announced it would disable uploads, but users could still view and download existing videos. They’re getting more views than ever, thanks in no small part to the screen slaves in our house.
In an effort to understand modern American youth, I decided to check out compilations of top Vines posted to YouTube. Some are funny, some are moronic, and some carry a measure of wisdom. “When there’s too much drama at school, all you gotta do is walk awaaaaaay.” And remember, “don’t take your girlfriend to McDonald’s for Valentine’s Day, unless you want to get kicked in the McNuggets.”
I have to admit Vines can be addictive. Perhaps now that I’ve watched a few compilations, I’ll be able to participate in the kids’ conversations. Or at least understand what’s being said ... and know whether they’re making fun of Barb and me.
She and I could get our revenge by reverting to our gnarly childhood vernacular. That could be, like, totally tubular.