Everyday words millennials have totally changed the meaning of.


This is not an article about how to "speak millennial." 

Because that would be corny AF. Which is the opposite of what you're trying to be when you want to get to the young folks (or, the thirtysomethings at this point). But this isn't even an article about how to reach millennials, per se. If you still think that everyone born between Fame and Internet fame is a monolith, you're well beyond help. No, this is simply a regularly scheduled reminder that language is an ever-changing system with seismic creative and cultural forces bubbling violently underneath it. Shifting, destroying, reshaping.

Imagine the confusion members of the Greatest Generation felt when their children started calling things they liked "cool." Or when Baby Boomers heard their teenagers referring to homework as "lame." The way those kids used such common words off-label probably seemed odd at the time, and yet we still use them in those same ways.

It's hard to know which of today's slang expressions will stick in another generation or two, but if you're using words to spread your company's message, you need to be aware of what they might mean now, as opposed to a few years ago, even if it's just to avoid certain ones altogether. It could save you the embarrassment of naming a new line of clothing staples "basic" or posting the earnest headline "Former Ukraine president turns up in Russia - in a 5-star hotel." You don't want to get caught being...old. 

Here is a list of common words that could possibly indicate something other than what it used to...


An important consideration for beverage and activewear brands in particular, this word no longer only refers to dehydration. It also means "desperate," for sex.


This used to be a positive way to describe clothing and other everyday products. It connoted reliability, timelessness and quality. It's still used that way, but now it can also mean not-special, uninspired, super obvious, dumb or otherwise unexciting. Good luck navigating that.


Let's start at the beginning, when the fashion world leaned on this word to describe its many safari-themed campaigns and animal print-heavy collections, maybe circa the '70s and '80s. Then, in the '90s, it came to mean, uh, "free spirited" (Girls Gone Wild.) More recently, it started subbing in nicely for "amazing," as in "wild show last night." And now? It conjures images of abandon yet again, except this time not in a good way—more like insane, stupid, ignorant, wack. ("It's wild," said Khloe Kardashian about Donald Trump calling her a piglet.) Oh, and somewhere in there, this word also became a surrogate for "very." That's a lot of things.


The next level of Paris Hilton's "that's hot," a reference to this element means "extremely amazing." Or it did, until people started referring to any remotely satisfying experience as "fire" or "flames" or "lit." A Drake song, Uber, a taco, moisturizer. For a minute there, it seemed everything was either "fire" or "trash." These kids, they don't understand nuance!


See previous item.


If you need to use this word in the traditional sense, you have to be very clear that you mean a person who tells you what to do while you're sitting in your cubicle, or the act thereof. If you don't, the millennial brain will automatically go to images from Rihanna videos. 



See also "slay" and "murder," meaning "do a good job." If a millennial says "dead," it means he or she has just seen something so great there is little point in continuing to go on living. Drama queens!


Millennials live in a world of extremes. Degree is meaningless, extent is overlooked. That's probably why they've appropriated this mathematical concept to mean "completely" or "fully," usually when that's a gross exaggeration of the situation at hand. A lot of the time, though, it just means "yes." (e.g. Friend #1: "Want to go get coffee?" Friend #2: "100%.") Not to be confused with "Keeping it 100."

 Is your brand copy trash?


Cristina Black