What’s A VSCO Girl? And Other Translations From Your Teen’s Secret Language

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There have been so many moments as a parent that I have to sit back and laugh at the irony of it all. While I’m steadily approaching middle age and somehow can’t ever remember where I put my car keys, I can still remember my teen years in vivid detail.

Those years of friendships, experiences, and trends are tightly woven together in my memory.

We were not much different from the teens of today.

For decades, each generation of teens has adopted their own language that seems to be indecipherable to the common outsider.

Not unlike remote tribal communities. Or an angry toddler.

I distinctly remember moms in our generation asking what in the world we were talking about. We giggled and rolled our eyes, lamenting the fact that our parents were, “like, so totally lame!” If our parents ever tried to speak our language, they would have been met with “gag me with a spoon”.

We would have told them they were being so “cheesy” when they asked why we said some cute boy was “all that and a bag of chips”. When they got frustrated or upset with us, we’d simply heave a sigh and mutter, “ok, don’t have a cow.”

We had our own language, unique to our generation.

My own daughters are now teens, and like each new generation, they have adopted a language of their own. Teens can certainly be difficult to understand and relate to. How do you effectively communicate with someone who will soon be receiving college acceptance letters while simultaneously appearing physically unable to put the toilet paper on the roll?

It seems like we are in a constant state of furrowed brow as we work hard to gain a little bit of insight into their ever changing world.

My teens were gracious enough to let me peek into their culture by sharing with me a few examples of the language they speak.

I don’t take the privilege lightly. It’s like sharing a secret code that is held tightly in their grip, only spoken within their circles.  As a fellow parent, I now pass this information on to you. If nothing more than to simply peel back one more layer when it comes to understanding our teenagers and how they function in their natural habitat.

Here Are Five Slang Phrases You May Hear From Your Teen:

“And I oop! Sksksksksksk”

This is the phrase that baffles me beyond all reason, so it wins the top spot of our little list. What in the actual heck?!

I’ve heard it spoken out in the wild, and while it varies in dialect, it’s definitely a phrase used by many teen girls no matter what environment we find them in. I was watching my daughter’s volleyball game and someone hit the ball out of bounds.

A chorus of “And I oop! Sksksksksksk” came from the back of the bleachers, followed by giggles. It happened repeatedly.

One evening I was giving some teenage friends a ride home and someone dropped a water bottle on the floor of the back seat, and right on cue, “And I oop! Sksksksksk.” So basically, “and I oop” means something takes you by surprise or happens unexpectedly.

The origin of “sksksksksksk” is anybody’s guess, but from a little internet research and questioning of actual teens, it is the equivalent of laughing uncontrollably or the new “omg” as a quick response to anything. Now that we have that one out of the way…

Spill The Tea

If you have a teen, you’ve likely heard this and know by now they aren’t referring to a beverage. “Tea” is the new word for gossip.

You will likely hear this used most commonly in the phrase “Spill the tea, sis”, which means they’re asking their friend for the latest gossip.

It’s the equivalent to us asking for “the 4-1-1” back in our day. I would advise that you don’t attempt to engage in conversation with your teen as she walks in the front door after coming home from a social event by asking, “So what’s the tea?!”

This may result in eye rolling of extreme proportions and her begging you to never utter that phrase again as long as you live. Ask me how I know.

VSCO (pronounced “visco”) and Basic

I’m combining these two because they’re seemingly interchangeable for the most part. VSCO is an online editing app and has morphed from being a noun to an adjective. It’s used to describe popular styles uploaded to the app.

This includes girls (“VSCO Girls”) who wear oversized shirts and scrunchies, shell necklaces, Birkenstocks, and carry a Hydroflask water bottle covered in stickers. So pretty much the majority of girls you see walking around the halls of any given high school.

The image of a VSCO girl is equivalent to a casual lifestyle. And if someone is “basic”, it’s implied that they maintain this image as well.

Ship

Go ahead and remove any image of an actual ship from your mind. It’s not even close. “Ship” refers to a romantic relationship.

Someone may post a picture of a couple on social media and ask for approval by posing the question, “Do you ship it?” After doing a little research, apparently it began as a reference to fictional characters, but has now taken on real life relationSHIPs.

Yep.

Took me forever to make the connection.

Lit

This one drums up a bit of a different meaning for those of us who were born in the previous century. But today, kids are saying something is “lit” when it’s really good. Again, as with all teen slang, I would not recommend inserting this one into your own adult conversations. Stating “My new adjusted lower mortgage rate is so lit!” would not be advised.

Teenagers have a secret language that happens with every generation. Trying to keep up?  Here are some translations for the language your teenager might be speaking. From VSCO girls to and I oop ssksskssk we've got the translations for you #teenagers #VSCOgirl #filterfreeparents

Remember, the language of teens is fleeting.

In fact, I suggested the terms “cringy” and “Bye, Felicia” and was informed that “those are so last year”. This very list is likely to be outdated by the time this post is actually published. But for now, use this as a stepping stone to help navigate the language of your teenager.

While they may be annoyed at my prodding and questioning, I hope that my teens secretly appreciate my interest in their world and the things that matters to them.

We don’t have to actually speak their language (as previously mentioned, it is recommended that you don’t even try) to show that we value them and who they are. Teens want to be heard and understood, just like the rest of us.

The teen years are shaping up to be one of my most favorite stages of parenting. They are quickly becoming miniature versions of their future adult selves, and they’re going to be such amazing, fun people!

That is, of course, once they figure out how to stop leaving the cap off the toothpaste and smoothie cups sitting in their bedroom for over a month. Ugh. Gag me with a spoon!

This post originally appeared on NicolePilgrim.com

31 COMMENTS

  1. I just got a full vamp girl lesson from my 11year old boy- the phrase originated on the Cali app and The “sksksk” from an I oop comes from the sound of clicking on the phone keyboard when the kids are typing. 😉

  2. “Ship” and “shipping” (i.e., relationshipping) has been around since the days of X-Files (we x-files fans are the ones who started it, actually; it goes back to the days of the online b-boards when I was in college. Ah good old alt.tv.xfiles!). “Lit” has been around quite a while also, as has “tea” (Scissor Sisters, anyone?). Sorry, author, but you can’t give today’s teens credit for those. VSCO on the other hand, that’s all theirs (and they can keep it).

  3. ?? This was a great read! I do very much appreciate the laugh this early in the morning. I read it to my 16-year-old and she informed that these terms are in fact out dated!

    • Thank you for the information! My soon to be 12 year old just came home with the phrase “Vsco girl” today and I don’t think she even really knew exactly what it was, because she was having difficulty describing one to me. This helps a lot! They may be outdated in the cities, but they are just getting to us in rural Texas so keep ‘em coming!

    • And according to my generous teen she told me she thinks the repetitive “sk”s are a reference to the “sk” in VSCO. So, they don’t even know the origin or meaning. Ever evolving. Lol. Her dad has begun to say “er-MEH-gersh” in a goofy voice until she becomes exasperated. Like you I’ve recently resurrected “gag me with a spoon”. These help us cope with the 2-week-old lunch bag contents finally extracted from her middle school locker. Having so much fun! Great read!

  4. I recently learned this one from my teen boy: a ‘whip’ is a car/vehicle as in “Mike’s parents got him him his whip this weekend. He wanted a Mustang but they got him a truck.”

  5. Oof is another teenism I hear repeatedly. Basically used as a reply to anything bad that has happened. Ex: I just got yelled at by my parents. (Response) oof!

  6. Bahaha! I laugh only because this is my current life. I also get “same,” and “cringy” still resides here, and I’ve recently learned how to “woo?” Lol. Thanks for the insight on the language and for the encouragement of knowing it’s not just me. Lol.

  7. Tea. And I oop. Lit. All come from Black culture. The first two come from queer black culture.

    ‘And I oop’ came from a drag queen by the name of Jasmine Masters who made a video saying that. It quickly went viral and like most things teen girls stuck into that.

    From what I know ‘sksksksksks’ was a reaction like ‘lol’ when you just mash the the keyboard and also memes where people’s laugh actually emulate that sound. The mixture of ‘sksksk and I oop’ was from a viral video that teens took and over used again.

    Most of the teens who use these words don’t actually know the origins; they just know what it means now.

    This is just from my knowledge of queer culture, memes and working in a school.

  8. Oh the smoothie cups! In my car, in your room, on the kitchen counter! If you are done with it, then throw it away!! But seriously, why didn’t you finish it???!!

  9. The sksksk is not what is portrayed above. It is what deaf people use when talking on a tty (deaf telephone that you read not hear) you type it in when you are done with your conversation. It stands for Stop Keying. The first person does it then the second person does it twice. It still means stop keying but the kids now use it deaf or not and they do it however many times they want. My daughter thinks she is a vsco girl and says it all the time with her friends. As far as the rest they are long gone in our neck of the woods. Oops I am showing my age with that one. Flipping is their cuss word and if they don’t have a phone by the time they are 9 something is deadly wrong. I let mine have one around then because with shared custody I wanted her to have a way to contact me if his weekend went bad. Alot of moms I know say they did in case of school shooting or an emergency. We all have our reasons. Its a crazy world and things come around again and again.

  10. Censorship. Really? Not everyone has to like your articles. Enjoy your echo chamber! I’m sure you’ll censor this comment too. What a joke.

  11. My son uses the term “filthy” when talking about rappers and athletes that are exceptional at their trade. I agree with all the terms there- they may have been around for awhile but not all used in conjunction with the same generation. All summer I heard the “and I oop sksksksk” To me- it’s totally cringy and wicked annoying ???

  12. My 2nd-grader came home with week saying “Oops! I dropped my hydroflasksksksksksk”. So that would explain the “I oop, sksksksk”. Apparently its evolved a little! 🙂

  13. After going through my son’s phone last weekend I was trying to figure out the slang for ” sksksk” lol thank you . I was thinking my child couldnt spell

  14. I’m glad to see other kids are using this language and it’s not just mine ? Leigh Ann my daughter is 12 and uses all of these except Lit. Maybe it’s more of a junior high thing?? I would hope by high school she’ll have enough sense to speak properly ???

  15. What a great read! I’ve been trying to understand these words FOREVER! LOL (is that outdated yet) !!!! No matter how outdated the slang words published here are, I still appreciate the explanation. I’ve asked my 13 year old the meaning of all of it and I was still confused. I totally get the “ship” now…..hahahhaaha! Thanks for sharing!

  16. This whole time I thought my daughter was saying, What’s the thesis?” I’ve been thinking this word meant what statement or point of view was someone trying to make. BUT shes in fact saying, “What’s the tea, sis?” Totally get it now! I went against tour advice and text her that statement. Ha! Gonna get a great laugh!

  17. According to my teen the only kids that say, “And I oop, sksksks, are the VSCO girls. Who are also all about saving the turtles. That’s why they use the hydro flask bottles because they are reusable. And something about a metal straw. Idk, sounds dangerous.

  18. My kids sat the same about the sound at the end of HydroflaskSksksksk ?. I am enjoying the pre teen stage ….for the most part!

  19. Actually, sksksk is quite old. It comes from deaf culture of communication on a TTY (a system of written phone communication long before texting. Its rumored that is where the idea of texting came from) GA meant Go Ahead it is you turn to type, SK meant Stop Keying which implies that they want to end the conversation and hang up soon. SkSkSk meant that they are done and hanging up now.

  20. can we also talk about “full sending” something. 3 other teenage girls needed a ride home from vball the other night, so they hopped in and i told them that i would “full send them home”…… meaning i’d get there quickly. it went over super well and my daughter didn’t tell me to “ever say that again.” (*insert sarcasm) ?

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