Usually, cheat sheets are not allowed inside of a classroom. However, for James Callahan, a Massachusetts high school teacher, his “cheat sheet” of Generation Z slang is essential. After all, it can be quite challenging for teachers and parents to stay up-to-date with the latest lingo. Now, whenever the teacher hears something new, he simply adds it to the list. However, Callahan never considered that his project would end up going viral…
A Teacher’s Cheat Sheet
For years, like many other high school teachers, James Callahan would often have no idea what the students in his sociology class were talking about. Over his 15 years of teaching, he always made it a point to ask about the terminology, but never noted it down.
That is, until a student recommended Callahan start keeping track. That’s when the teacher began compiling what he refers to as his “Generation Z Dictionary.” Generation Z refers to the generation after millennials, anyone born in the years 1995 through 2020. Callahan says that learning this new generation’s slang has been fun and a great use of his sociology degree he never previously thought of.
“I love learning the words that their generation comes up with — both the unique ones as well as the ones where they take an existing word and give it a completely different meaning,” Callahan told BuzzFeed. “For example, when I think of ‘snack,’ I think Cheez-Its,” the teacher continued. “It wasn’t until a month ago that I learned that an attractive person is a ‘snack.’ I’m laughing again just thinking about my students explaining it to me.”
Like A Brand-New Language
Since he started his Generation Z Dictionary, Callahan has amassed quite the collection of slang terms. Just some of the words and phrases that the teacher’s learned include: “beat your face” [apply makeup]; “tea/spill the tea” [gossip]; “That ain’t it” [unacceptable]; “slaps” [of high quality]; “take the L” [willingly making a sacrifice]; “periodT” [that’s final]; and many others.
After working on it for some time, Callahan recently started using the dictionary when he could. He uses the slang in PowerPoint presentations and to help explain sociological concepts. Eventually, the students began catching on and, one day, a student asked Callahan how he knew all these slang terms. Usually, the student said, the teachers had no idea these words existed. Callahan told the students about the dictionary, even showing it to them. Of course, the teacher had no idea that his little project would soon go viral…
The Whole World Finds Out
While Callahan shared his slang dictionary with the class, a student snapped a picture and shared it online. Within a couple of days, thousands shared the image, commending the teacher’s dedication to connecting with his students. As of today, nearly 600,000 have liked the tweet, while over 150,000 have shared it. The Gen Z Dictionary even caught the attention of major celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres!
Many students reached out, saying that Callahan’s dedication to learning was “special.” Meanwhile, many parents and teachers agreed with how commenter @endeverstar put it: “I genuinely learned from this list.” Many adults wanted Callahan to publish the slang dictionary so they could communicate better with the Gen Z-ers in their lives.
Thankfully, the teacher did parents and fellow educators one better: Callahan put his work online, for free. Plus, he’ll continue to update it! If users find it helpful, the teacher asks that they please consider donating to his school Lowell High School, and includes links to do so.