Like many parents, Lyndie Chiou is sometimes flummoxed by the slang her three kids use. Cringey was a recent addition: “We were hanging out with some family friends and my 11-year-old told them how ‘cringey’ my favorite television shows were,” Chiou laughs. “I could guess from context what she was referring to.”
If your child’s shifting vocabulary has left you scratching your head, too, there’s good news. Recent research indicates that using slang—invented, informal vocabulary—comes with real, measurable benefits for children: When schools incorporate slang into their curriculum, students become more flexible in engaging with the world around them. And when children can roll with the punches—linguistically speaking—improvements in reading comprehension, persuasive writing, lie detection, and empathy have been shown.
Plus, it’s OK for kids to create variations in their spoken language “There's no one right way or wrong way to use language,” says Christine Mallinson, a linguist at the University of Maryland. “There are only different norms and conventions.”