Over 40? Here Are All of the Slang Terms You’re Too Old to Use
You'll have JOMO—trust us.
Using slang can be fun. When you throw bae or lit into a conversation, it can feel like you’re part of a secret club, using a coded language that only the select few understand. Here’s the sad reality, though: Using slang, especially if you’re 40 or older, makes you look less hip and more like you’re going through a mid-life crisis. Speaking certain slang terms can be like wearing a bad toupee—you’re not fooling anybody. Keep reading to learn the slang words and phrases that you need to officially retire from your vocabulary if you’re 40 or older.
If the word savage automatically makes you think of lions on an African safari, then you definitely shouldn’t be using it as an informal slang. Today, the word has more to do with attitude and careless bravado than the ability to devour a human with one mighty chomp.
It’s “yes” but with extra emphasis. You don’t just agree—you reeeeeeeeally agree. But if you’re over 40, it’s best to say no to yaaaaaas. You’re just going to look like somebody’s grandpa impersonating the “wassuuuuuup” guys from those old Budweiser commercials.
When somebody is like family but they’re not technically related to you, they’re your fam. But after 40, calling any tight circle of friends your fam is like calling a peer your BFF. At that point, you might as well also exchange friendship bracelets and sign each other’s yearbooks.
Bruh is not a friendly greeting but rather an expression of surprise. It’s an alternate way of saying “Seriously?”—though you should stick to using the more traditional phrasing if you’re over 40. Now that you’re out of college (and have been for quite a few decades), it’s high time you stop using any variation on the word bro, especially with extra inflections that make it sound like you’re saying “bra.” Because that’s what everyone is hearing. They think you’re talking about underwear.
C’mon, you can admit it. You think this word refers to the villain in a superhero movie. But actually, when people under 40 use baddie, they’re talking about a member of their social circle with a less-than-stellar reputation—someone who doesn’t play by the rules, but you still kind of respect them anyway. “Oh, like Lex Luther,” you say? See, this is exactly why some slang terms should be off-limits to you.
When something is accomplished in a particularly slick way, it’s done so with finesse. You can finesse something or even be finessed. “I loaned that guy $20 and now he’s denying it ever happened? I totally got finessed!” Not that similar situations don’t happen to people over 40, but a person in your age range just sounds more mature using language like “scammed” or “conned,” rather than words that came out of a song featuring Bruno Mars and Cardi B.
This slang speak was allegedly inspired by Southern women who gossip over cups of tea. If you’re spilling tea, it means you’re sharing some especially juicy gossip. But if you’re over 40, most people are going to assume that you’re being literal. They’ll think you actually did spill some tea, and rather than lean in close to hear what gossip you have to share, they’ll bring you a towel to clean it up.
Obviously this slang phrase isn’t literal. When someone says “I’m dead,” the implication is that whatever has just been said is so funny or true that it’s figuratively sent them to an early grave. However, joking about your own premature death is only charming if you’re years away from leaving this mortal coil. When somebody over 40 makes such a proclamation, it tends to be a little more worrying. Don’t make your friends ask if you were kidding or if you’ve just received some alarming medical news.
First uttered by rapper Ice Cube in the 1995 comedy Friday, “Bye, Felicia!” is a way of telling someone to get out of your face and stop annoying you. Now, you might argue that it’s perfectly acceptable to say this slang phrase as it came from a time period (the ’90s) in which many people now over 40 were coming of age. What’s more, you might remind us that Ice Cube is now 49—so if he can say it, why can’t you?
Well, the thing is, Ice Cube was just 26 when he first said, “Bye, Felicia.” And he definitely doesn’t run around saying it all the time, because he’s older, wiser, and knows that there are more adult ways to tell someone to leave you alone than repeating a line from a 1995 movie.
Most of us in our 40s and older have a very different definition for the word dank than kids today do. For us, if something is dank, that means it’s cold and humid, like a musty basement during the winter. But being called dank today, especially by a younger person, is apparently a good thing. It means you’re especially cool or enviable. Nowadays, you want to be dank, as strange that sounds. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t say dank without imagining the word moist—which, quite frankly, is enough to make anyone shudder—then it’s best to just avoid it entirely.
If you’re over 40, everything you do is technically adulting. And if adult behavior is rare enough in your life that it needs to be identified as such, then you’ve got bigger problems than being too enthusiastic about millennial slang.
Sometimes abbreviations are useful. They take a long sentence and shorten it into something that’s not such a mouthful. But OMG—short for “oh my goodness” or “oh my God”—doesn’t so much save you time and consonants as it does make you sound like you’re a pre-teen who just learned they’re getting a puppy for Christmas.
To be basic is to take a bit too much interest in mainstream or conventional things. It’s the kind of insult that just rolls off the tongue when you’re young enough to still care about petty things like being cool and the social rejection of others based on their pop culture interests. You can do better.
Humble bragging is boasting about your accomplishments while also pretending that’s not what you’re actually doing. In other words, you’re bragging in a self-deprecating kind of way. A person over 40 should neither accuse someone of humble bragging nor identify themselves as a humble bragger. Fake humility is for the young and insecure.
When you’ve been insulted and you respond with a brutal comeback, you’ve just clapped back. (And congratulations, by the way.) But when somebody over 40 says clap back, it’s just assumed they’re talking about applause. As in, “You’re applauding for me? Well then, I’ll just have to clap back at you with more applause.” Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but so does a 40-year-old saying “clap back.”
Talk to the Hand
We all know what this slang means by now. It’s a way of ending a conversation by putting a barrier between you and the offending party. There was a time when telling someone to “talk to the hand” was considered saucy and unpredictable, but that time has long since passed—for everyone, really, but for mature adults especially.
This slang term is actually kind of hilarious. It’s a weird way of saying that the truth has been exposed, stemming from the shock that people experience when a wig is snatched off one’s head without permission. But just because this slang makes us smile doesn’t mean it’s something that’s appropriate for anyone over 40 to use. Announce to a room of your peers that there’s been a wig snatched and it’s entirely possible they’ll think you are referring to an actual stolen hairpiece. As in, “There’s been a rash of toupee robberies in the area?!”
When the growling in your stomach has gotten so ferocious that it sounds like a lion moving in for the kill, you have moved up a notch from hungry to hangry. It’s a word that essentially combines angry with hungry—because when you’re hangry, you might very well punch a guy if he gets between you and a sandwich. Being hangry isn’t a good look on someone over 40, though. At this stage in life, you should have the skills necessary to make yourself a snack before your blood sugar drops to hangry levels, or at least the emotional capacity to control yourself when you’re feeling ravenous.
Put on Blast
Putting someone on blast, of course, refers to when a Stormtrooper in any of the Star Wars films charges at the good guys with their blasters. Wait, no, never mind, it turns out it doesn’t. To put someone on blast really means to embarrass them by revealing personal details that they’d rather keep secret. Honestly, we like our definition better.
When you want to call someone bourgeois but want to do it in a way that sounds like you’ve just confused them with a Teletubbies character, you call them boujee—which can also be spelled “bougie.” By age 40, you should have an extensive vocabulary full of colorful and not quite so bizarre-sounding ways to insult someone for acting like they’re above it all.
This isn’t the kind of thirst that can be satiated with water or other liquids. This is a thirst for approval from strangers, from friends—from anyone, really. If you’re obsessed with your Twitter following, with how many Facebook likes your latest post has received, or with receiving compliments from someone you’re attracted to, you’re thirsty. However, none of these characteristics should ever apply to someone over 40; at that stage in life, you should have enough confidence and self-worth that you no longer rely on external validation.
Using a hashtag in a social media post is perfectly acceptable at any age. But in conversation with other adults, you should never—and we mean never—shout out the word hashtag followed by a random word as if whatever you’ve been discussing has the potential to go viral. You’re not going to seem like an in-the-know hipster who’s being ironic about the blurred lines between the online and real worlds; you’re going to seem like an old person who’s confused and disoriented and not entirely sure how this whole “internet thing” works.
Don’t @ Me
In this slang phrase, the “@” symbol is shorthand for “at”—which, of all words in the English language, is the last one in need of shortening. The rough translation is “don’t come at me,” and while it’s primarily used in social media posts, you’ll also hear the occasional millennial say it out loud. Quite frankly, “don’t @ me” is barely even acceptable for younger generations to use, so don’t even bother trying to incorporate it into your online vernacular. Sorry, it’s just the truth—don’t @ us.
When you disappear from somebody’s life without explanation, you’re ghosting them. Or at least that’s what it’s called if you’re a teenager or twenty-something who still uses Tinder. If you’re over 40, just call this behavior what it really is: being a jerk.
In a modern context, slaying is about succeeding in an extreme way. You didn’t just do well at the job interview—you slayed it. But if you’re in your 40s and older, slaying likely makes you think of a certain teenage Sunnydale resident who literally slayed vampires (though Buffy metaphorically slayed, too.)
Before the age of the internet, we thought the only thing that could get canceled was a TV show or a doctor’s appointment. But nowadays, canceled is slang for abandoning something—an idea, a fashion style, an online obsession, a person—because it’s no longer cool or trendy. As in, “You’re 40 years old and you’re using slang? Yeah, you’re canceled.”
Trill is a way of calling something true and real without saying both words. Because obviously saying two words when you could say one made-up words makes more sense if you’re under 40.
Cash Me Ousside, Howbowdah?
This curious phrase is inspired by a teenager who appeared on Dr. Phil and threatened to fight the entire audience. Her lazy drawl is translated as, “Catch me outside, how about that?”—which meant, “Let’s take this outside.”
Basically, “Cash me ousside, howbowdah?” is something you jokingly say to a friend when you’re trying to appear tough but you’re not serious about fighting them. The line might land with millennials, if only because they’ve all seen the clip by now. But people over 40 tend to be alarmed when a peer challenges them to fisticuffs.
Lorde, the 22-year-old pop singer, had to explain this slang term to her older audience when she used it to describe Kim Kardashian. As she wrote on her Tumblr: “Among the youthz is a compliment; it basically jokingly means ‘adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic.’” If you’re over 40, chances are high you’re an actual mom—so this one’s got to go, too.
The 2019 definition of “I’m shook,” as used by people younger than you, means you’re stunned or shocked, generally unable to cope. But if hearing this slang has you wondering whether there’s been an earthquake in your area or makes you start humming the chorus to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” then that’s probably an indication that you shouldn’t be using it.
Excessively using emojis isn’t something a person over 40 should be doing, especially when those emojis are spoken rather than sent via text. Just blurting out “fire emoji,” “smiley face emoji,” or “thumbs up emoji” is not the same thing as using an actual emoji in a text. You just sound like a crazy person.
If something is so cool that it’s taken to an extra level of coolness, it’s hella cool. But you know what’s not hella cool? Somebody in his or her 40s who still thinks it’s cool to say things like, “That’s hella cool!”
Unless you’re using the word to mean “in a literal sense,” you literally need to stop saying literally. Like, now. Immediately. We’re literally not kidding.
When you text someone and they read the message but never get around to responding (or just ignore you), you’ve been “left on read.” Now, apart from the fact that this kind of slang will only confuse your fellow 40-year-old friends, it also indicates that you’re expending a bit too much mental energy on things like text messages. You’re a grown-up, and you should have better things to do with your day than complain about how quickly your texts are returned.
You may have noticed a recurring motif in many of the slang words included on this list: They tend to describe situations or behaviors that people over 40 shouldn’t be involved in anymore. Fauxpology is a perfect example. It’s slang for an apology that isn’t sincere, where it’s very obvious that you’re only saying “sorry” out of a sense of obligation but you’d probably do whatever it is you’re apologizing for again if given the chance. So, saying fauxpology makes you sound like a 40-year-old apologizing for cheating on a high school test. Don’t say it—and above all, don’t do something that you need to fauxpologize for.
Take the L
When people tell you to “take the L,” they’re telling you that you’ve failed in whatever you were trying to accomplish and that it’s time to admit defeat. The “L” in this case stands for “loss.” This phrase might be cute and funny amongst boys in the schoolyard, but your coworkers aren’t going to be quite so amused when you tell them that their project is a failure and that they should just take the L.
This slang is usually accompanied by a snap of the fingers—you know, just in case it wasn’t abundantly clear what “oh, snap!” means. We could offer many reasons why you should cease using this ridiculous slang—but ultimately, the main reason is because it originated from a 1910 children’s novel called The Bobbsey Twins at School. Yes, a children’s novel. If you don’t believe us, then take a look for yourself. This phrase is more than 100 years old, and it was written for children. It’s time to stop using it.
In the world of slang, people use the word as a synonym for “very,” “really,” or “seriously”—as in, you highkey should never use the word highkey unless you want to sound like a poser.
Getting turnt usually involves some combination of alcohol, drugs, and other illicit substances and activities. If you feel compelled to use this word, you’re either using it wrong—”A second glass of chardonnay? I’m about to get turnt!”—or you have aging issues that possibly need resolving.
It’s short for “one hundred percent,” and it’s used as an affirmation that’s synonymous with “totally” or “absolutely.” (“You think Ben should date Monica?” “Hundo P!“) But coming out of your mouth, everyone is going to be fairly certain that “hundo P” is just your way of bragging about your new Hyundai sedan.
To throw shade is to hurl insults; if you’re throwing shade at someone, you’re essentially dissing them. When people over 40 say that they’re throwing shade, though, everybody assumes they’re just putting up a beach umbrella and trying to avoid those damaging UV rays.
The Struggle is Real
The phrase “the struggle is real” works for young people because it’s semi-ironic. They use it when they don’t have enough change for fast food, or perhaps forgot their Netflix password and can’t watch the latest season of Black Mirror. But at 40, the struggle may actually be real, and so it’s hardly appropriate to use this slang.
JOMO is an acronym that stands for “the joy of missing out,” because sometimes it’s more fun to stay home and miss the party than to fear missing out (FOMO) on a good time. But when you’re over 40, you should just say what you really mean. You prefer taking a hot bath and watching a movie on the couch over grabbing a nightcap with friends, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
When you get snubbed by somebody you’re trying to talk to because they’re preoccupied with their phone or iPad, they’re phubbing you. Hopefully this isn’t a situation that you, in your 40s, are often dealing with—but if you are, then you have bigger things to worry about than using too many slang terms.
Here’s the thing about modern slang: It changes really fast. Even the kids don’t use the word “bae“—which stands for “before anything else”—to refer to their partners lovingly anymore. Today, talking about your bae will have people assuming you mean a large body of water, especially if you’re over 40.
G.O.A.T. is an acronym that stands for the “greatest of all time”; it’s also the name of a really good LL Cool J album. But when you say it in conversation amongst your older friends, you run the risk of people thinking you’re talking about actual goats.
“JK” is short for “just kidding,” and people use it when they want to be perfectly clear that what they said was a joke. However, “JK” often has a passive-aggressive connotation to it, almost like the “kidding but not kidding” of the digital age. And when you’re 40, you know that the whole “just kidding” thing doesn’t work. You can’t just say something mean and wipe it away by following it with a “Just kidding!” Just avoid the fight—and the slang—by never saying anything that warrants a “JK” in the first place.
Someone who’s woke is hyperaware, usually in a politically progressive way, about sexism, racism, or some other social injustice. As an adult, it’s perfectly acceptable—and encouraged—to be “woke,” but the only time you should be describing yourself as such is when that second cup of coffee has kicked in.
I Can’t Even
When a 20-year-old says “I can’t even,” we all know that they’re just losing patience and struggling to deal. When someone over 40 says it, well, it’s probably because they threw out their back again.
It’s short for “pretty”—as in, “I’m p excited to go out tonight.” But when you say it and you’re over 40, people are always going to think you’re talking about going to the bathroom.
Stemming from the hit movie Clueless, “as if” is used in younger crowds to express disbelief, similar to the phrase “Yeah, right!” Let’s just say that there’s a reason why this slang speak was popularized by a high school girl and not a 40-year-old dad.
Inspired by an Eminem song of the same name, if you stan something, you’re an obsessive fan. But use this word at your next social function, and we guarantee people are going to be thinking, “Who’s Stan? There’s no Stan here. Oh boy, is he getting dementia?”
In younger crowds, you might hear pregnant women referred to as being “preggers.” This might sound cute coming from a fellow twenty-something, but we guarantee it’s the last thing any pregnant woman wants to hear coming out of an older adult’s mouth when they share their big news.
It’s an acronym that stands for “to be honest”—and TBH, it should never be uttered by you. Why? Well, not only will you sound silly using it, but the people whom you’re talking to also probably won’t even know what you’re saying.
If something is sketchy or unreliable, it’s “sus“—short for suspicious. But when you say it, the only thing that’s sus is, well, you.
When you’re trying a little too hard or being a little too over-the-top, you’re being extra. Here’s an example in a sentence: “Do you see that middle-age couple trying to act like they’re in their 20s? Oh my gosh, they’re so extra.”
An acronym for “one true pairing,” OTP is often used to describe a celebrity relationship that you care a little too much about. If your first thought was, “Oh yeah, I get it—like Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson!” then you are too old to be using OTP.
If the point of language is to communicate ideas, then shorting perfect to perf is what the kids would call an epic fail. It just makes you sound like a purring cat.
People use the phrase “keep it“—often on social media sites like Twitter—when they want to express their disdain for something. An example: “Taylor Swift just came out with a new song? Keep it.” Think of it as a shorter way of saying “Keep it away from me,” which is exactly what you should be doing as far as this saying is concerned.
Netflix and Chill
When kids use “Netflix and chill,” they’re usually referring to having someone over for intimate alone time. But in your 40s? It describes exactly how you’re spending most of your Friday nights quite literally.
This is a tricky one. The word ship is short for relationship, but it’s often used as a verb—as in, you “ship” two people that you want to be in a relationship or believe represent true love. If you, say, think Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca are the perfect fictional pair, you would say “I ship Humph and Ing.” You’re already confused, aren’t you? Let’s move on.
When somebody is behaving bitterly or angrily, you might describe them as being salty. Unless you’re over 40, that is, in which case describing something as salty should be reserved for the kitchen.
Otherwise known as “fear of missing out,” FOMO is the creeping anxiety that if you leave the party too soon—or worse, don’t come at all—you’ll find out the next day that you missed the social event of the year. But one of the luxuries of reaching 40 is realizing that staying home can be far more satisfying than any party. Your FOMO should be long gone in your 40s, alone with your use of this word.
Short for “too long, didn’t read,” TL;DR is a weird slang abbreviation that young people use to indicate that they’re going to summarize a story. Is it weird when teens and tweens say this out loud? Yes. Is it even weirder when a 40-year-old person does? Absolutely.
Slide Into Your DMs
When you don’t have somebody’s number but you’d like to get to know them better, you “slide into their DMs” (with DMs referring to direct messages on social media). There’s no way for somebody over 40 to say this without sounding creepy. If you’ve organized a playdate with your kid’s best friend, you probably shouldn’t tell his mother to “slide into your DMs.”
It’s got the same definition as the regular word “goals”, but as a slang term it’s used as an adjective. Example: “Sounding younger than I actually am even though everyone knows my real age is goals.” But to be clear, it shouldn’t be.
Sorry Not Sorry
This good ol’ apology reversal is easy to recognize as sarcasm in a 20-year-old. But when you reach 40, it just comes off as irresponsible and indecisive. (“Seriously, Bob, are you sorry or are you not sorry?”)
The slang term ratchet was originally intended as an insult, as a way to call somebody unclassy or nasty. However, sometimes it can be a compliment. As hip-hop producer Phunk Dawg once explained: “[Ratchet is] not necessarily negative. You could say ‘I’m ratchet’ to say ‘I’m real. I’m ghetto. I am what I am.’ It can be light, too.” Modern slang is tough enough when you’re over 40, but slang words that have more than one definition are just a recipe for disaster. Do you really want to call somebody ratchet thinking you’re being nice but they think you’re slandering them? Don’t risk it.
This is a tricky one, especially if you’ve spent your entire life using the word dumb to mean stupid. Apparently, dumb has developed a new meaning in some circles, as a substitute for “really” or “very”—as in, “That test was dumb hard.” It’s a difficult tightrope to walk, and one that could likely lead to you offending somebody. Better to skip this one, too.
When something is so cool it deserves to be checked out, it’s described as “lit.” The only thing that needs to be lit in your world is lavender vanilla candles.
Don’t confuse this with wig snatching. Snatched on its own is the new “on fleek,” and it’s used in the same way to describe something that’s really on point. Trust us, though: You can get by just calling things “really impressive” or “on point.”
All the Feels
If you’re overwhelmed with emotion, you’re “having all the feels.” It’s a cute thing to say when you’re a teen or in your 20s, when most of the things you get emotional about don’t have particularly high stakes, but when you’re 40 and you say things like, “I just finalized my divorce and I’m having all the feels,” you’re not doing life right.
An acronym for “you only live once,” YOLO is often said just before somebody is about to do something they probably shouldn’t. Sure, they’re about to make a big mistake, but hey, YOLO. At 40, it’s officially time to stop behaving in ways that you know in advance aren’t great. Slang or no slang, having one life is no excuse for consciously being foolish, so it’s a hard no on the YOLO.
Totes is an abbreviation for “totally” that sounds hilarious coming from a 20 year-old. But for the 40-plus crowd, it sounds like a stern warning not to forget your tote bags before you go grocery shopping. “Totes, people! Never forget the totes!”
If something is extra crazy, it’s cray-cray. Again, this is an instance we’d advise you to just use “extra crazy.”
The ’90s called—and they want to remind you that you’re in your 40s now and saying “wassuuuuuup” is your generation’s version of asking the kids for help connecting to the internet.
Short for “in real life,” IRL is meant to distinguish between something that happens out in the real world as opposed to the “fictional” world of the internet. If you’re over 40, your entire world should be occurring “in real life.” There is no other option. If you spend more time chatting with strangers online than IRL, consider this your wake-up call.
A person who’s swole has massive muscles and looks like they have protein shakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, if you want to tell one of your friends that they look like they’ve been hitting the gym, then you should just tell them that they look like they’ve been hitting the gym. The only people who can get away with using the word swole are gym rats and twenty-somethings who do so in a semi-ironic sense.
Thicc is supposed to be a compliment, referring to a voluptuous, full-figured woman with curves in all the right places. But it’s never a good idea to comment on anybody’s size or weight, even if you mean it in a positive way. These are murky waters that should be avoided at all costs.
Krunk was first coined by Conan O’Brien in 1993 as a fake curse word, one that “the censors don’t quite know what to do with yet.” The word has developed several definitions over the years. Does it mean something is especially cool, or fashionable, or that people are getting intoxicated? Or is it still, as O’Brien intended, a way to swear without really swearing? It’s best to play it safe and leave this slang alone.
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