Unspoken Words of Teenagers


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A GUIDE to decoding teenage language during school holidays.

They say:  I’ll be there in a minute.

They mean: I’ll be there in many minutes — as many as I can get away with. In fact, I am going to ignore that you called me to come so many times in the hope you forget all about whatever trivial matter you were going to ask me to do.

They say: There’s never anything to eat in the house.

They mean: The fridge is full of leftovers (yuk) and healthy food like kale crisps.

By telling you the fridge is empty, I am trying to make you feel unworthy as a parent and thus more likely to let me get pizza for dinner.

They say: I don’t have any homework.

They mean: Well, I do have maths homework but I don’t understand it and I am not a nerd like you who thinks homework is necessary. You’d have to pull the wi-fi out of the house for me to do it tonight because a new season of 13 Reasons Why has just hit Netflix and I need to work out why Hannah did it. Maths isn’t on my radar. Wait. What’s a radar?

They say: I’m tired.

They mean: I know you just asked me to unpack the dishwasher but I know that if I pretend to be tired for long enough you’ll get sick of the dirty dishes on the sink and do it yourself.

They say: Can I have some money to top up my SmartRider?

They mean: I can’t ask for money for lunch from you because you’ll either give me $4 in 20¢ pieces and expect me to be grateful or you will make me a salad sandwich to take with me. We both know I don’t ever use my SmartRider anyway when I catch the train, but it’s a lie we both seem willing to keep going for the sake of our relationship.

Parent: Why didn’t you answer my phone call? I was worried.

Teen says: The battery ran out.

Teen means: I couldn’t be bothered to take your call as I knew you’d freak given that you pay $70 a month for my phone and I have unlimited calls and data and have my phone permanently attached to my palm, so there’s no real excuse for you to get my message bank.  Again.

Don’t forget there’s a certain look teenagers reserve for their parents when they’re forced to stop what they’re doing (even though it’s almost certainly nothing) and give them some face time.

It’s a mixture of boredom, pity, amusement and hunger.

Remember, they’re not conversing with you, they’re just biding time until they can get back on their phone/laptop/video game.

Article by Susie O’Brien in The Sunday Times 15 July 2018.