Youth slang isn't as complicated as it seems. In fact, it may even signal a high level of intelligence.

"This language exists for a reason," says Tony Thorne, a linguist who specializes in youth culture and business communication at London's King's College. Slang words, which typically fall into a limited set of categories (i.e., complaints or insults), can often indicate association with a particular group of people or culture.

When it comes to the workplace environment, a common concern about slang words is whether or not it puts Millennials who use them at a disadvantage. Thorne doesn't think so, since most are able to grasp the concept of "appropriateness," or knowing when (and when not) to use it. "Young people tend to be self-aware about these different registers of language," he explains.

Millennials--especially those who grew up texting--may actually be more literate than their older counterparts. " They tend to be more adept at different kinds of communication," he said. "People who use language in a complex way need to have a heightened awareness of language, and how it works."

Thorne works frequently with young hires in Silicon Roundabout, London's equivalent of Silicon Valley. He notes that they typically avoid the more traditional business jargon, which signals power in an organization, and is often used to intimidate or exclude others.

Below, we decode the meanings of 10 slang words used primarily in the U.S. and the U.K.

1. Bae

The term bae means "before anyone else," indicating a romantic partner. This is not to be confused with its meaning in Danish, which is "poop," or what it meant back in the 1500s, when the word referred to sheep sounds.

2. On fleek

The phrase became popular only in 2014, despite appearing in Urban Dictionary in 2003. On fleek means that something is "on point" or "attractive." If someone says your presentation was on fleek, consider it a compliment.

3. Turnt

The word turnt (sometimes paired with "up" or "down") indicates a state of inebriation. That's one to flag the next time you host a happy hour for the office.

4. Neek and teek

Most entrepreneurs are likely to be called a neek at least once in their lives. Intended as an insult (but this writer considers it a compliment), the word refers to someone who is both a nerd and a geek. Similar insults in youth slang include wasteman, gasman, dinter, and bell for men. A teek, similarly, is an "old-timer." Possibly a Gen X or Baby Boomer.

5. THOT

If you hear an employee utter the word THOT, it may be time to have a conversation with HR. The acronym stands for "That ho' over there," typically referring to a woman.

6. Busted

The term busted refers to, as Thorne puts it, "ugly contemporaries." Synonyms for busted include finished, flames, hangin, bruk, and, for brevity's sake, uggz.

7. Wazzed

No, unfortunately wazzed does not mean the same thing as its cousin, jazzed. A wazzed employee is typically drunk. (Other alternatives: hammered or hamstered.)

8. Bitz

A staple among gangs and cliques--and perhaps your startup headquarters--bitz refers to the local neighborhood or haunt. Your bitz might be the Silicon Roundabout, for instance.

9. Bonked

Founders are likely bonked most of the time. The slang word means to be exhausted, as do wreckaged, spanked, and clappin.

10. y/y?

A question tag--modeled in the same syntax as the elegant "n'est-ce pas?" in French--y/y? is common in text speak. It begs the interlocutor to confirm a previous statement.

And then, of course, there's gwop. It means money.

Published on: Jan 8, 2016