Bae on fleek! Social media leads ‘rapid’ change in English language

Reuters / Olivia Harris
The informal terms widely used by Millennials on social media are overshadowing the modern English language, leaving parents utterly confused by the slang words used by their children, experts say.

The “seismic generational gap” between the youth and their elders has left parents in the dark, and completely unaware of the new “code” language their children are using.

Adults are now finding it more difficult to communicate with young people and the rapid growth of social media may be to blame.

A new study led by Professor John Sutherland from University College London explores the common social media language and ‘text speak’ terms youngsters exchange for modern English words.

The term ‘fleek’ is the most popular on social media, and it is used to refer to someone who is looking perfect or flawless.

This is followed by the term ‘bae’ – shorthand for baby – often used to describe a loved one.

The study found these two terms confuse parents the most. Only 10 percent of the 2,000 surveyed knew what ‘bae’ meant while 43 percent didn’t know what ‘fleek’ meant.

Millennials also seem to use more acronyms to communicate, leaving parents even more baffled.

TBT’ is a popular acronym widely used on Instagram, short for ‘Throw Back Thursday.’ Users use this as a hashtag to share old pictures.

Other popular acronyms include ‘FOMO,’ which is short for ‘fear of missing out,’ and ICYMI is short for ‘in case you missed it.’

Teenagers also appear to be diluting the meaning of modern English words. The study highlights the term ‘thirsty.’ Even though the word is normally used to describe ones need to drink, Millennials are using it to mock people who seek attention from the opposite sex online and in reality.

According to the Samsung commissioned study, 86 percent of British parents believe youngsters communicate in a completely different language on social media and mobile messaging.

Surtherland says the limitation of characters on old handsets “were a key factor in the rise of acronyms in text messaging such as TXT, GR8 and M8.”

New tech innovations mean older acronyms are “now effectively extinct from the text speak language and are seen as antique text speak.”

However, the growing use of emojis may herald a newer phase in social media communication, Sutherland said.

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The use of audio and visual messaging has become more commonplace with the soaring popularity of social media and instant messaging apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat,” he added.

We appear to be moving to a more “pictographic form of communication with the increasing popularity of emotion,” Sutherland added.

Surtherland says language is moving back to a “caveman form of communication” where a single image can convey a full range of messages and emotions.

In the future less words and letters will be used in messaging as pictures and icons take over the text speak language,” he added.

Social media has revolutionized the way youngsters communicate. As technology develops, it seems the English language has no choice but to keep pace with it.