Podcast Episode: Why Do Young People Keep Reinventing Language? 

By  Henry Rose Lee

Podcast Episode: Why Do Young People Keep Reinventing Language?

“Our language is continuously evolving: and that makes me excited. I love the way that new words and phrases come into being. And one of the main drivers of new language comes from young people”.

Hi I’m Henry Rose Lee and Welcome to my podcast.

This is Part #3 of my interview with Freddy Freedman, a GenZ Entrepreneur and Inventor based in Maryland in the USA.

You can listen to Part #2 HERE

In this short episode, we asked, ‘Why do young people keep reinventing language?’, and got some surprising answers…

Relax and enjoy this podcast episode…

Here’s a full and compete transcript:


Our language is continuously evolving: and that makes me excited. I love the way that new words and phrases come into being. And one of the main drivers of new language comes from young people.

I can remember thinking how cool I was when I adopted the word ‘cool’. Whereas, to my parents, this made no sense at all. It was ‘ridiculous’. It wasn’t the Queen’s English: so it wasn’t the right way to speak!

In Part 3 of my podcast series – Generations Across the World – Freddy Freedman and I talk about language and particularly how new words always evolve out of every new generation of young people, looking to be different from their parents – to rebel – to have a language that they own – if you like.

It’s fascinating how much Freddy and I agree.

Have a listen: Enjoy…

Freddy Freedman
So the next question was: ‘Younger generations make up words and phrases. Do these words and phrases belong in the workplace?’

Henry Rose Lee
Well, I have a view about language and words and phrases belonging in the workplace, and here’s my response: I think that language is organic. It’s a growing living moving thing and so it’s supposed to change. So if you think about the language that we use in the workplace today, it’s very different from the language 20 years ago, or 50 years ago or 100 years ago, so of course new words and phrases are going to come into the workplace with every single generation. So we’re starting to get Generation Z words into the workplace now and we’re going to get Generation Alpha words in in the next few years and frankly I think that that’s normal. Now the problem can be that for older generations we haven’t got a clue what younger generations are talking about. So for example in the UK, we have a phrase that we use called ‘on fleek’. ‘On fleek’ means it’s something that’s really excellent, it’s done really well, it’s just perfect. But if you say to somebody who’s 50 years old or 60 years old, you know something is ‘on fleek’, they will say to you, ‘I’m sorry – what are you talking about?’ So language that comes in, I think is a good idea. The challenge is for people to recognise that new language is always coming in, and that it’s normal for language to change, but one difficulty for us when we’re older is to be able to learn that new language. It’s a bit like me speaking Chinese, you speaking French, but we don’t speak each other’s languages. We may agree with things but actually, if we’re using different words we don’t understand each other. So my short answer is, ‘Yes I think it’s good that new words and phrases come in. I think it’s absolutely 100% normal, but it isn’t without its challenges because often a younger generation needs to learn a language that’s already in the workplace, and lots of workplace languages have acronyms, and they have shorthand, and they have jargon, and they have special words.’ I did some coaching this morning, and there was a leader I was working with, and she was talking about making people redundant, and she kept saying, ‘We have to go through LR, we have to go through LR’. I have no idea what LR means, that’s the language that she’s using. So it isn’t always easy.

Freddy Freedman
Right absolutely so if it’s a good thing though that with the new generations. How do you address that difficulty of communication? What’s your number one response?

Henry Rose Lee
I have a number of responses about addressing difficulties in communication. One of them is to say to the organisations with whom I work, that it’s important to add on new communication tools but don’t get rid of the old ones. So for example, in the UK now, most organisations you know hundred percent of them use email, but they’re also starting to use WhatsApp, and so they’re keeping email, and they’re adding WhatsApp. What’s wrong, is to get rid of one they should keep both. I think that’s the first thing because any new communication tool that comes in can enrich the opportunity for younger and older generations to work together. I think the second thing is that when younger generations come into the workplace, they should be taught the language of that workplace and that may be the acronyms, it may be the jargon, it may be a way of speaking about things. For example, in a legal organisation or a financial organisation, there are definitely terms and keywords and phrases they need to learn, like a new language, and by the same token, I would encourage leaders to find out from their new hires what the key words are, and rather than saying, ‘I don’t want to learn about on fleek’, or other words that people are using, I would like them to really find out what these words are and encourage people to use them because it is our future. What do you think?

Freddy Freedman
I’m not sure that I could answer the problem any better than you can. I think when each generation brings in their language, that’s just how they talk. So I’m not sure that that is something that can be changed, but at the same time, I’m not sure that there’s a better solution to addressing the difficulty that that creates in the workplace, other than having, maybe a meeting once a quarter and having everyone sit down and just sharing how they talk, which sounds a bit strange when I say it out loud but I guess maybe that’s possibility. It’s just taking what you said about their language and their jargon and building effective communication off of that.

Henry Rose Lee
I don’t think it’s any more strange than that. My view would be that if you are having a regular Town Hall you know where you get everyone together, whether it’s virtually or face to face, it’s actually quite good fun to say, ‘What are the newest words?’ or ‘What’s the latest jargon?’ or ‘How are we talking about things?’ and in fact, when I work with tech and digital companies, I find that often they have quite a sort of fun way of adding new words, and they also add new ideas to perhaps their vision or their purpose or their values, and then that kind of virtual document becomes a real time, changing and organically moving set of values or keywords or phrases or ideas, and I really like that, and in fact tech and digital companies to me are probably the most forward thinking in the way that they encourage people of all ages and generations to communicate, whereas some of the older industries are just

Freddy Freedman
Coming in for a minute. You’re coming in and out on my end so I’m missing bits of your response here.

Henry Rose Lee
I was saying that, I think, if there’s a town hall, people can get together and share different words and phrases. And I was also saying that for tech and digital companies, what they tend to do is they tend to have a virtual document online that has new words and phrases and values and anybody can add to them at anytime. And it makes it a kind of fun, live document, and particularly tech and digital companies are very forward thinking in adding in this new information whereas older, more established companies like banks or, you know, manufacturing organisations tend not to think about moving forward with language and ideas. I hope they will in future. But my current experience is that really the tech and the digital companies are doing this better than most so for example all the big ones like Google and Facebook and Microsoft all tend to encourage new language and embrace it, but maybe General Motors, or Ford or someone like that might not be using some of the newest language that’s available. Does that make sense to you?

Freddy Freedman
Yeah, yeah. And I think that that idea is brilliant for with tech companies having that live document that does that sounds like a lot of fun because you can make up an acronym for something specific to your field and it can be funny or it could be weird or something and it’s, it’s just a thing that people can bond over. Yeah, as well as improving communication. Yeah.

Henry Rose Lee
Yes, I think that actually that key word fun or funny is very important in work. And I’ve been trying to think of examples, but I can only think of one military example at the moment that, when the British Army was in the Falkland Islands, and they were fighting against Argentina – this is back in the 1980s – they used to call Argentinians Benny, it’s not a very nice word because Benny means somebody who’s not very clever, they just call them Benny, and they’re their bosses you know their their sergeants and their generals said, ‘You’ve got to stop using the word Benny; it’s not right’. So they called them SB, Argentinians or SB which stood for Still Benny, and it’s not right and it’s an unacceptable way of talking about it, but it absolutely typifies how people do tend to work towards creating a language which is fun and funny. And I think with tech and digital companies, when they manage to do that, when they actually find acceptable clean words that they can use, it’s a beautiful language and why not? Why not do it: it’s fun and work should be fun.

Freddy Freedman
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I think that’s a great point. Yeah. Wow, this is profound it’s it’s it’s really mind opening to to consider it in such depth, but after you do, I think it’s obvious that you have to do these things in order to stay progressive and stay in front of your competitors, stay on top of your game.

Henry Rose Lee
Yes, I totally agree.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

You can subscribe to my podcast here:

And you can find Freddy Freedman here

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About the author

Henry Rose Lee

Henry is a recognised authority on Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers in the workplace. She helps businesses to recruit, engage and retain their younger employees, and helps individuals to ignite their talents and carve out an outstanding career, whatever their age.

Through her keynote speeches, workshops and coaching, you will understand the evolution of leadership in what is sometimes called ‘the Shift Age’, so you can avoid common pitfalls and help your organisation (and yourself) to thrive.

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