Feeling old? Welcome to the world of Generation Alpha, who are carving out their own linguistic identity and baffling older generations with their slang, sense of humour and memes.
Sydney-based social researcher Mark McCrindle first coined the term Gen Alpha to describe those born between about 2010 and 2024.
Social researcher Mark McCrindle says Generation Alpha are developing a global slang.Credit: Chris Hopkins
He says Gen Alphas, the oldest of whom are entering their teens, are developing a global slang informed by social media platforms such as TikTok and YouTube as well as cooperative video games.
“They are a multicultural generation, a globally connected one and one that is at an age where slang is always a key part of their code and their coming of age,” McCrindle says.
Gen Alpha slang burst into the zeitgeist last month after a song parody was posted on TikTok, featuring a character from video game Fortnite dancing while a voice shrilled:
“Sticking out your gyat for the rizzler; You’re so skibidi; You’re so Fanum tax; I just wanna be your sigma; Freaking come here; Give me your Ohio …”
Know Your Meme, an online encyclopedia documenting memes and other internet culture phenomena, said the song had gone viral for using a number of Gen Alpha and Gen Z slang terms – but not necessarily using them correctly.
“If you are over 18 this song may break your brain,” KnowYourMeme warned on TikTok.
Three Gen Alphas from Melbourne’s inner west – Mabel, Crystal and Pat – say the parody song is everywhere.
“It’s been on my For You page [on TikTok] for like two, three days or something, it wouldn’t go away,” says 13-year-old Pat.
Gen Alphas Crystal, Pat and Mabel.Credit: Justin McManus
They say they are familiar with many of the terms. A rizzler, they agree, is someone who is flirtatious, someone older generations might call a pick-up artist.
A gyat or gyatt is a “thicc” (slang for curvaceous) bottom. Is that a compliment? “Some people could use it as a compliment,” Crystal, 12, says. “My friends use it, they do it in a joking way, they don’t personally name anyone.”
Pat says some of the lyrics in the slang parody song on TikTok, such as “You’re so skibidi; You’re so Fanum Tax” – don’t make a lot of sense. “It’s just a mash-up of really cringey catchphrases into one song.”
While a lot of young people say skibidi, he says, it’s not an actual word. It’s just a reference to a “really dumb” YouTube show.
Fanum tax is a gag referring to YouTube creator Fanum, who “taxes” people by stealing their food. Pat says the term was made popular by Kai Cenat, a personality on video live-streaming service Twitch.
“Pretty much when Kai Cenat streams his videos, Fanum would always come in and steal a lot of his food,” Pat says. “Fans just call it Fanum Tax.”
I ask what other slang terms they use.
Mabel, 10, says bruh is used a lot by both boys and girls, with even preps and year 1s “randomly” saying it. Pat says if his friend said something stupid like “Columbia and Cambodia are the same thing” he might respond with “bruh!” – adding though that the term is “really 2017-ish”.
This meme featuring NBA basketballer John Wall helped kick-off the slang word Bruh being used in exasperation.
Bet is another way of saying OK. Flex is to show off or boast. Sus, which was used in the video game Among Us to denote someone suspected of being an impostor, refers to something or someone questionable.
“Everyone in my class says sus, even the teacher,” Mabel says. To roast is to make fun of someone. “A roast battle is where you are insulting each other,” Mabel says.
Suddenly, Gen Alpha slang is everywhere, with publications from Business Insider to The New York Times trying to define skibidi, gyat and Fanum tax.
In August, The Wall Street Journal devoted almost 800 words to explaining rizz, a slang term used by Gen Alpha and Gen Z. If this is TL;DR (texting slang for too long; didn’t read), rizz is generally defined as short for charisma.
Every year the Macquarie Dictionary adds about 1000 new words – many of which originate from social media. To qualify, a new word must be firmly established in Australian English.
Managing editor Victoria Morgan says rizz was submitted by a member of the public at the beginning of the year and as of November 17 was in Macquarie Dictionary Online.
“Rizz did start overseas, but as it’s in such common use here now that we do have to cover it,” Morgan says. “That’s one that was definitely popularised and did the rounds on TikTok.”
She will add Fanum tax and rizzler to the new word file for consideration. Morgan says it can be mortifying for her nephews to have an aunt who works at Macquarie Dictionary.
“I grilled one nephew on bussin after I heard him use it while out together in mid-2022, while I made the other demonstrate the latest dance in public,” Morgan says.
Bussin, an exclamation indicating appreciation and approval, went into the Macquarie Dictionary in October 2022. “They also gave me the phrase ‘fax, no printer’, which is similar to ‘no cap’,” Morgan says. “Fax, no printer” and “no cap” (which was added to the Macquarie Dictionary in late 2022) both mean no lies – that something is true.
“What we find with Generation Alpha is everything can be instantly shared and followed and everything is happening much quicker than it used to,” Morgan says.
“Now that rizz has crossed the rubicon and is in, automatically it’s going to become uncool with a certain generation. They will want to stop using it and they will move on to something else, but I can see rizz staying for a very long time.”
At the risk of expunging these terms from the Gen Alpha lexicon, here is an attempt to explain some of the meanings. (Some of these words are also used by Gen Z.) And don’t worry, I get it. There is only one word that adequately describes the horror of a Gen X journalist trying to mumsplain the slang used by Gen Alpha: CRIIINGE!
Cringe: When someone or something is extremely embarrassing or awkward. Also used by Gen Z, cringe is used as an adjective instead of a verb. Example: “That outfit is so cringe.”
Rizz/Rizzler: Rizz, which is short for charisma, was popularised by YouTuber Kai Cenat in 2021. The word was added to the Macquarie Dictionary in late September as both a noun (charisma) and verb (“to attract a partner, especially for a sexual encounter”). Rizzler is defined in Urban Dictionary – a crowdsourced online slang dictionary– as someone efficient at picking up women.
Bet: Shortened version of “you bet”. Means OK, for sure.
Gyat or Gyatt: Curvaceous bottom
Noob: Someone inexperienced, especially in computing or gaming.
Bruh: Shortened way of saying brother. A versatile interjection that can convey exasperation, excitement, embarrassment or surprise. It can be used by any gender.
Fanum tax: A term referring to popular YouTube creator Fanum “taxing” people by stealing their food.
Dogwater: A derogatory term for someone unskilled, especially at a video game. Also used outside gaming to denote something is “trash”.
Sus: Short for suspicious or suspect. Popularised by the video game Among Us, where players try to identify the imposter sabotaging their mission.
Roast: Playfully insult or tease
Bussin: An exclamation indicating appreciation that originated in African American Vernacular English and is widely used by Gen Alpha and Gen Z. Usually describes delicious food. It was added to the Macquarie Dictionary in October 2022.
Skibidi: Although often used by Gen Alpha, skibidi does not have an agreed meaning. The slang originated from a dance song by Russian rave band Little Big. A remix was used in the “Skibidi Toilet” YouTube shorts by channel DaFuq?!Boom!, which feature a head in a toilet singing the song.
Drip: Slang from Gen Z, meaning a trendy sense of style.
Cap/No Cap: Cap means to lie, while no cap is telling the truth. The terms, which originate from African American communities, were added to the Macquarie Dictionary in September 2022.
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