Undividing America Teens 4
Here’s how to talk the talk to impress Generation Z.
Hollis Johnson
  • You might think you know what slang words teens are using these days, but there’s a good chance it’s already out of fashion.
  • “YOLO,” “swag,” and “bae” are out, teens told Business Insider.
  • Here’s how to use the slang that Gen Z is actually using without seeming completely uncool — or should we say not lit.

In May, Subway Canada ran a poll imploring Twitter users to vote on their favorite bread. Or, as they put it, their “bread bae.”

No one voted on it. Subway Canada has 135,000 followers.

To be fair, some theorized that the poll, which ultimately wracked up 13,000 retweets, was fake and simply a PR scheme to troll for tweets. Either way, the internet wasn’t having it, with many saying that the use of “bread bae” sounded more like it was aggressively concocted by an out-of-touch marketing employee.

Tons of other brands have tried and failed to pander to teens by using their vernacular. Gen Z slang has appeared in various marketing ads over the years, often drawing the ire of the very consumer base these companies are trying to attract.

In a recent Business Insider survey of 104 teens nationwide, Generation Zs shared insight about how they communicate today. Here are seven words make them cringe, and what they’re opting to use instead.


“Swag” describes a person who is cool or enviable, or someone can “have swag.” But it hasn’t been trendy since 2012, teens say.

Soulja Boy Tell’em/YouTube

Source: Urban Dictionary, Business Insider survey


Now, teens are more likely to express something that’s cool as “lit.” It’s slightly different than swag in that it’s not typically used to describe a person; a situation or thing is more likely to be described as “lit.”

Now, teens are more likely to express something that's cool as
Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Samsung

Source: Urban Dictionary, Business Insider survey


“Bae” comes from African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) pronunciation of “babe.” It used to be the ultra-popular way to refer to your significant other, but teens say it’s now overused.


Source: Urban Dictionary, Business Insider survey


There isn’t a trendy word to use instead of “bae,” actually. But if you want to call a friend something other than their names, teens recommend “bruh.”