Talking 'teen' and technology | October 31, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Living - October 31, 2008

Talking 'teen' and technology

by Maria Shen

"Sketchy?" my friend Aimee's dad recently asked. "What is that supposed to mean - sketchy?"

"You know ... when something's really janky," Aimee explained. From the ever-growing look of confusion on her dad's face, I could tell this conversation was going nowhere.

I witnessed this conversation a few days ago. There was such a hopeless generation gap that I decided that it's time to give the world (or at least Danville) a brief Adolescent 101 on three basic topics: communication, fashion and technology.


"Awkward" is a teen epidemic. The Facebook group "Awkward Moments Define My Life" boasts 222,679 members and is growing. I'm not sure when it started catching on. In the infancy of its use, I refused to participate in the excessive vocalization of the word "awkward," but it's impossible not to adopt the catchphrase when you hear it from morning 'til night. So what is awkward?

If you're listing things in your head, then you're on the wrong track. The correct thinking would be this: What isn't awkward?

Anything that makes you emotionally uncomfortable is awkward. Therefore, everything is awkward. Observe the following conversations for common usage and application of this word:

Teen A: I had a hardboiled egg this morning.

Teen B: Oh, that's so awkward!

Teen A: Yeah, it was really white and awkward-looking.

Teen A: My dog was chewing my underwear.

Teen B: Awwwkward!

When something makes you uncomfortable, often saying "awkward" is not enough. Sometimes, it's appropriate to use a synonymous hand gesture in lieu of the word. If you're unfamiliar with the Awkward Turtle, then ask your nearest teenager.

The next commonly used word is "sketchy." This means that some person, place, thing or abstract idea is questionable. It's not as often used as "awkward" but, then again, nothing is. Words with similar meanings include "sketch" and "janky," the latter of which has a connotation of being broken-down. Here is how they might appear in a conversation near you:

Teen A: I left my lunch in my backpack for a week.

Teen B: Your backpack must smell really sketchy.

Teen A: There's a man standing outside my house and watching my window.

Teen B: It's kinda sketch that he's standing out there. Perhaps you should call the police.

No matter your age, it's always better to speak like a normal person might. However, next time you hear these words being used, you can be sure to understand their full, colorful meanings.


This one's simple. This is the rule with teen fashion these days: Wear anything.

At concerts, I've seen girls dressed in nothing but duct tape. (I don't suggest this, however. Imagine undressing - it would be like ripping off a Band-Aid, times 1,000. Plus, it doesn't look very nice.)


I love my gadgets. My mom, who doesn't know much about the computer past sending an email, can't understand why I'm always at the computer. More and more people from my age group aren't even watching TV anymore. The Internet has everything - news, prime time shows, fashion, food, music and gossip. And for people like me, who love to write, the computer is preferable to a pen and pad. I can instantly share whatever I write to however many people I wish and receive instant feedback.

Perhaps the Internet has made us more impersonal. We love to instant message each other instead of giving a call, e-mailing instead of sending a letter (what is this postage stamp of which you speak?), and Skyping instead of meeting face to face. Even when we're away from our computers and using our phones, text messaging seems more popular than calling.

I'm old-school in the sense that I still like calling people on the telephone. I think it's faster and more efficient - can you blame me for not wanting to send 10 text messages back and forth just to arrange one meeting? But maybe that's just because I'm terribly slow at texting compared to some of my friends. I've seen thumbs zoom across a keypad faster than the eye can catch. The phone flips open. A blurred string of clicks. The phone flips shut. The whole thing happens so fast you can barely catch it.

Is this strange? Yes, it kind of is. I'm from this generation, but I'm still enthralled by the speed at which people can text and type.

As I read back over this, I realize I've sketched an image of a teen wearing duct tape and texting like mad. Awkward!

Maria Shen, reporting on Generation Y, is a senior at Monte Vista High School. She founded Contra Costa County's Young Bohemians creative writing club and is editor of Voicebox, a literary magazine. E-mail her at


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