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Speaking Like Totally Teen

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"By using current slang terms, Dunbar is trying to tell his children, 'I'm 'hip' or 'down', and you can talk to me about anything,'" Mayhan said. "He is unaware that his stilted speaking style, belabored references, and frequent incorrect usage of terms leave his children more confused than reassured."

Having characters speak in Totally Radical slang is often annoying. It can be excruciating when the slang is outdated, misused, or just spoken wrongly. But sometimes, the other characters find it just as phony as the audience does.

This is when a character starts speaking like a Jive Turkey in an attempt to sound cool or relevant, and comes across as neither to other characters, who react with disdain (often Totally Radical disdain).

Characters prone to this include Valley Girl, Surfer Dude, and the Aging Would-Be Hipster.

Not to be confused with Like Is, Like, a Comma. In-universe examples only, please! Instances of the audience reacting this way go under Totally Radical.


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  • This Tim Horton's commercial for tea that is "steeped". A woman is under the impression that "steeped" is a slang word after being told that her tea has been steeped. Needless to say, she goes around saying the word to everyone.
  • A Wendy's commercial featured a bunch of customers with Totally Radical reactions to their spicy chicken sandwich, then showed a "behind the timeser" calling their sandwich "da bomb!" and shouting "Raise the roof!" to his deeply unamused friends.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Pokémon: The Original Series: The English dub has Jessie and James use outdated teenager slangs and mannerisms to trick Ash and friends to board the cruise ship St. Anne. James called the cruise "Totally Radical," with Ash wondering who uses "radical" anymore.
  • In Millennium Snow's first volume, Chiyuki says that what Toya did for that little child was "dreamy." Toya reacts by yelling "No one uses dreamy anymore!"
  • When Naruto has a near-death experience, he meets the fabled Sage of Six Paths in limbo. At first, the Sage speaks in an ancient style that confuses Naruto. Recognizing that times have changed and his speech-style is outdated, the Sage tries this trope. That just makes Naruto annoyed, and the Sage eventually manages a more normal dialect.
  • In Chapter 115 and later in Chapter 154 of Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, Ishigami tries to fit in with Tsubame and the other "normies" by using slang, but Onodera points out that what he picked up is outdated and makes him sound like an old man. It also doesn't help him understand Tsubame speaking in absolutely incomprehensible terms.

    Comic Books 
  • Mary Marvel in I Can't Believe It's Not the Justice League:
    Fire: Whoa, whoa, back up. "Crash in my crib"?
    Mary Marvel: Too street?
    Fire: Next to you, Laura Bush is too street.
    Mary Marvel: That's what Booster said. Not in so many words, but —
    Fire: Booster?
    Mary Marvel: Booster Gold? Y'know — our teammate?
    Fire: Yes, I believe I've heard of him. Now what exactly did our dear teammate tell you?
    Mary Marvel: That I was too... retro. That I needed to... how did he put it? Get down with my boogie parts and —
    Fire: That's enough.
  • I Don't Need Your Civil War has Captain America driving a getaway truck shouting "The pigs are on our tail, homie!" and Luke Cage muttering to himself "Note to self: never teach Cap slang ever again."

    Films — Animated 
  • In Shrek the Third Shrek uses slang to try and "relate" to Arthur, who just freaks out further and screams "Somebody help, I've been kidnapped by a monster that's trying to relate to me!"
  • In the Inside Out short Riley's First Date?, Riley's mother tries this during an attempt to casually ask about the eponymous date ("So, what's the dealio with Jordan? O-M-G, he is awesomesauce, fo'shizzy!"). Riley's Disgust is so, well, disgusted she just walks away from the console.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 10 Things I Hate About You, Walter Stratford very awkwardly injects slang in his speech while talking with his teenage daughters. Nobody calls it out, but it's clear it's just as embarrassing for them to hear as it is for the audience.
    Walter: I've got news for you — I'm down, I've got the 411, and you are not going out and getting jiggy with some boy, I don't care how dope his ride is! (Bianca leaves in frustration) Momma didn't raise no foo'.
  • In an interesting inversion, Marty uses an awkward imitation of 50's-era teenage slang to get out of 'trouble' in Back to the Future, when he accidentally calls his future father 'Dad'... "Dad... daddy... daddy-o."
  • In the live-action Scooby-Doo movie we discover that monsters are possessing humans and being taught to blend in by watching videos of people using expressions like "what up, dog", "yo Red" and "y'know what I'm sayin G". This backfires because it makes them stick out even more.
  • There's one scene in The Last Dragon where Bruce Leroy is trying to infiltrate a group of shady factory workers by pretending to be cool. While practicing his intro, he repeats the line "Hey my man, what it look like?" in various tones and enunciations.
  • Inverted in Son in Law when Grandpa Walter, after looking askance at Crawl's endless stream of slang throughout the movie, unexpectedly cuts the film's primary antagonist down to size with a flawless slang soliloquy and instantly becomes the coolest grandpa ever.
  • In A Hard Day's Night, when George Harrison is brought to a fashion designer (unaware that he's the real deal) to preview some clothes.
    Designer: Now, you'll like these, you'll really dig them. They're fab and all the other pimply hyperboles.
    George: I wouldn't be seen dead in them. They're dead grotty!
    Designer: "Grotty"?
    George: Yeah, grotesque.
    Designer: (to assistant) Make a note of that word and give it to Susan...
  • In Enchanted, Robert's girlfriend Nancy tries to be hip with his daughter, Morgan...
    Nancy: What do you say, you ready to kick it?
    Morgan: Kick what?
    Nancy: Why do you still have your PJs on?
    Morgan: It's been pretty busy around here.
  • In Eighth Grade the kids are made to watch a sex education video whose middle-aged presenter promises "it's gonna be lit", to widespread cringeing in the audience.

  • In one of the Ms. Wiz books, the three Paranormal Operatives get a job as substitute teachers at the school and open an assembly doing a rap song. All of the kids look blankly at them in disbelief except for Class 3 who recognise Ms Wiz and join in with the song.
  • In American Psycho, Patrick Bateman tries to use black slang in a nightclub to show that he isn't just some boring yuppie:
    "I stick out my hand at a crooked angle, trying to mimic a rapper. "Hey," I say. "I'm fresh. The freshest, y'know... like, uh, def... the deffest." I take a sip of champagne. "You know... def."
    To prove this I spot a black guy with dreadlocks and I walk up to him and exclaim "Rasta Man!" and hold out my hand, anticipating a high-five."
  • In Richard Powell's Don Quixote, U.S.A. the rebel leader's second-in-command Eduardo is an ex-copywriter who tends to use ad agency lingo to punch up his speech. At one point he starts explaining one of his plans to the narrator.
    "...You with me so far?"
    "With bells on," I said, showing that I too could speak in the vernacular.
    "Your slang is with it like high-button shoes," Eduardo said admiringly...

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Doctor Who S36 E3 "Thin Ice", the Doctor attempts to use teenage slang on a group of orphan children he'd bonded with. Bill finds it cringeworthy, and it's additionally Played for Laughs given that they're in the late 19th century and some of the slang he uses hasn't come into parlance yet.
  • In one episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert picks up some street slang and starts saying things like "That's wack." Raymond points out: "We're Italian, 'whack' means something totally different to us."
  • Farscape's Aeryn's initial attempts at incorporating English into her speech are an interesting example. She tries to use English to be more relatable to John but he just gets annoyed and demands that she stop using English when she invariably butchers the language.
  • Joey does it on Friends when he tries to act like a nineteen-year-old for a role. "Playing Playstation? That's wack. Playstation is wack." "Sup with the wack Playstation sup?"
  • Hannah Montana had a dentist greet Miley with a lot of outdated '70s slang.
  • In Happy Endings, Dave does this a lot in a season 2 episode, mostly about playing basketball with Brad and then all throughout the episode. He even lampshades how lame he sounds, and Brad asks him to stop.
    Dave: Yo son, you ready to take the rock to the hole? Wassup son, we're street on this son!...*lowers his head in shame* I swam as a kid.
    • This continues throughout the episode. "You ready to ball it up, son?" "I know my hip hop, son!" "You know it. And 1 son! And 1! *Holds his hand out for a refused fist bump*...I'll get you inside"

  • In Mr. Mayor, Neil tries to speak with his daughter Orly using internet slang. Orly thinks he's having a stroke.
  • Never Have I Ever: Mr. Shapiro's attempts at this are a rich source of Cringe Comedy.
    Mr Shapiro: Genocide is not 100. And systemic racism is not litty. As we travel through all of humanity's most horrific atrocities, I want you to feel shooketh. Thank you. Trust. [dabs in front of his students]
  • One episode of The Sarah Jane Adventures has Sarah Jane attempt to pick up teenage slang, with hilariously cringeworthy results. Maria has a "No. Just… No" Reaction.
  • In one episode of Scrubs Carla tries to bond with a teenage patient by using the phrase "T.M.I." After a couple of seconds of the teen staring at her blankly, Dr Cox breaks the silence with "Okaaaay. Joshua, I'm going to have a quick word with your parents, so you stay here and chat with Nurse Early Nineties Catchphrases."
    • Dr Cox tries to talk to a 16-year-old patient with the following speech. It's one of the rare times he's not being sarcastic.
      "Hey, Lindsey. What's up, girlfriend? It must be totally awesome to have the same name as that Lindsay Lohan".
  • On Succession, Kendall often tries to use incongruous slang-y language in business settings, which then always backfires...yo.
  • In Vecinos Arturo López Pérez uses outdated slang whenever he tries to talk with anyone under 20. And punctuates it with a "como dice la chaviza" (as the young'uns says), which is in itself an outdated phrase.

  • Potential double example with "X Called; They Want Their Y Back", which is shot back with "The 90s called, they want their phrase back" often enough to be annoying in and of itself.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • In Zits, Walt's attempts to use what he thinks is hip slang are a constant source of embarrassment to Jeremy.
    Jeremy: Think outside the box? Dad, you are the box!
    • Sometimes it seems Walt can't even use slang from his own generation:
      [Jeremy slams cabinet door]
      Walt: That's enough, Jeremy; just cool out!
      Jeremy: Dad, it's "chill" out, not "cool" out.
      Walt: It is? Oh... That was pretty unchill of me, wasn't it?
      Jeremy: Un-COOL!
    • Later, Jeremy is alarmed when his dad does successfully use slang. This quotation returns things to normal:
    Dad: What? I'm jiggy with the lingo!

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Planescape, the Planewalker's Handbook has both a glossary for the setting's slang and a guide to misusing said slang. It's titled "Cant Dictionary for the Clueless" and containing some humorous, ironic and sometimes downright antonymous misunderstandings of common expressions.

  • In The Addams Family, Wednesday's fiancée Lucas speaks in teen slang with Pugsley in order to look cool at his eyes. It doesn't work.
    Lucas: Yo, it's tha Pugsta! Whaddup, lil' man?
    Pugsley: Are you trying to be cool?
    Lucas: Yeah...
  • In Wonderful Town, Speedy Valenti hires Ruth as a barker for his swing club, handing her a flyer. She starts to read (and sing) in a very stiff manner that prompts one of the patrons to shout, "Hey, cats, get a load of that square!" When the hep cats start singing, however, she gets the message and is soon Scatting like Cab Calloway.
  • Shows up briefly towards the end of the stage musical version of Once:
    Guy: Would you like to stay over with me tonight?
    Girl: You mean hanky-panky?
    Guy: I don't think anybody calls it "hanky panky" anymore...
    Girl: Oh. Maybe that's why I haven't had any for a while.

    Video Games 
  • Coffee Talk Episode 2: Hibiscus and Butterfly: On his final visit to the café in playthroughs where Lua and Baileys show up late because they postponed their wedding, Hyde greets the Barista with "Yo". It's his attempt at "younger people's speech", which Gala finds "a little disturbing".
  • In Planescape: Torment, Annah mocks some not-so-lower-class thug wannabes for trying to speak the Sigil Cant and getting it wrong.
  • In Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves, Bentley tries to brief Dimitri on a diving mission, and attempts to sound like him. After sadly failing, Dimitri responds with, "My speech is like smoke! All over the place, but ungrabable!" Afterward, he tells Bentley to "come at him with some turtle talk".
  • Algernon, one of the nerds from Bully takes to speaking in Ebonics in an attempt to sound cooler. In fact, he won't get to the point about what he wants until Jimmy triggers him back to speaking with Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe/Expospeak Gags, as he normally does.
    Algernon: Yo, Jimmy, I'm over here! Gimme five, dude!
    Jimmy: Ahh, no.
    Algernon: Heh, heh... Yeah, well, cat, looks like your homies took care of some lames for us.
    Jimmy: What are you talking about?
    Algernon: Don't get fresh wit' your homies!
    Jimmy: Can you please talk normally?
    Algernon: This is my normal style of rapping, bro. Hoo, hoo, hoo!
    Jimmy: Alright. Enough. WHAT'S MY QUEST?
    Algernon: Ah, right. Salutations, sir James!
  • In Splatoon 2: Octo Expansion, the Telephone speaks formally to you at first, but it then enables its "Contemporary Speech Mode" in an attempt to communicate more efficiently. What follows is what happens when a computer tries to speak in slang:
    Telephone: What is crackalacking, home skillet? Let us bounce to the promised land fo sho. I am bout it bout it, so listen while I [SLANG_NOT_FOUND] you the facts.
  • Disco Elysium's Kim Kitsuragi (rather unexpectedly) begins speaking in this manner if The Detective asks Acele if she wants to get drunk and do drugs. He's drawing off his experience as a former undercover juvenile cop in an attempt to glean what Acele knows about the local drug trade... but as his juvie days are long behind him, he's rather unconvincing, using street names for drugs that fell out of fashion years ago.
    Kim: [popping his collar insanely high] Yeah, man. Got any dope? We need some dope bad. I got the Boogie Street shakes. Tryin'a score some dope, man. Tryin'a score some smack - you got any?
    Acele: What's smack?
    Kim: The D, man! Gotta hit that D!
    Acele: What's... the D?

    Visual Novels 
  • Averted in Double Homework. Totally radical slang is completely absent from the dialogue.
  • Monster Prom: The Fellow Student secret route in Second Term is pretty much entirely this trope, as it's about an adult police officer trying to infiltrate the school in order to find evidence of Vera's criminal activities. He disguises himself by dressing and speaking like an early 90s skateboarder, which makes him stand out painfully.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the Strong Bad Email "looking old", an email from a fan telling him "you really do look old" leads Strong Bad to attempt to make himself appear Younger and Hipper.
      Strong Bad: Now what I need is an image overhaul. Something to reconnect me with the youth of today. Something that says "Sup, my young parsons, I too am so on the go that I drink my yogurt from a tube!"
    • In Teen Girl Squad Issue 11, Camp Counselor Shortshorts tries (and fails) to impress What's-her-Face and The Ugly One:
      Camp Counselor Shortshorts: Now before you ask, "Who's this square?", listen to this: Scha-wing! Not! Who let the dogs out?!
      The Ugly One: Buh-
      What's-her-Face: -arf.

    Web Comics 
  • In Out at Home, Herman often speaks to his teenage daughter Kate and her friends this way: "Yo yo yo, kiddos! Everything funky fresh in here?"
  • xkcd suggests that maybe, just maybe, they do it on purpose...
  • In Questionable Content, when Bubbles the combat droid uses the phrase "hot take", Faye tells her she sounds like a mom trying to impress her kids with internet slang.
    Bubbles: Drat. I mean, "Brutal self-own, ell em ay oh."
    Faye: Bubbles, please.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Fraud," Principal Brown's attempt to befriend Gumball and Darwin involves approaching them in the cafeteria while wearing a backwards baseball cap and gold chains and spouting various 2010s terms with no rhyme or reason. Everyone in the room, even the normally-unfazed Mr. Small, is completely appalled.
    Principal Brown: Swag! Rap music! Piercings! YOLO! Hashtag! MP3! Tweets! Selfies! Skinny jeans! L-O-[Mr. Small hits him in the face with a metal tray]
    Mr. Small: I'm sorry, Principal Brown, but you look like such a jerk that even a granola-crunching pacifist like me had to do something about it!
  • Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender was doing this while under disguise in the Fire Nation. He kept calling everybody "hotman" and saying "flameo", to the confusion of everyone around him. Apparently, the terms had become outdated during his 100-year nap in the iceberg.
  • Invader Zim does this with Poop Dawg, the Gangsta Clown who's supposed to encourage kids to sell candy. He asks the children is they want to 'go madness with da moneyzz?!' and pronounces the word 'prizes' like "pri-zai-zez" while dropping the word yo every other word. Both the children near him in person and those watching look totally lost after hearing him speak.
  • X-Men: Evolution: Forge can't help it that his slang's outdated, he's been in stasis since the 1970s. Nightcrawler comments on it anyway.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show", this is one reason that Poochie became The Scrappy of The Itchy & Scratchy Show.
    • In "Trash of the Titans", Homer interrupts a U2 concert to promote his run for sanitation commissioner:
    Bono: Why should they vote for you?
    Homer: That's a good question, Bono. 'Cause I'd be the most whack, tripped-out sanitation commissioner ever! Can you dig it?!
    (dead silence)
  • Recess:
    • An episode had a child psychologist studying the kids in the field. She introduced herself saying "Wazzup, homeys?" and "Mind if I hang with your posse?"
    • Another episode has Miss Grotke introduce a friend of hers, dubbed a "slangologist", who used a load of slang words none of the kids could understand.
  • In an episode of All Grown Up! when Lil's friend comes to pick her up for a party Howard says "Well, I, too, think you look awesome...and rad.".
  • Mrs Bolts's husband in Lloyd in Space tries to relate to the kids by using the words "chill" and "dude" rather excessively.
  • Phineas tries this in an episode of Phineas and Ferb... however, it doesn't go over so well (much to his disappointment and acknowledgement), resulting in confusion from his friends.
    Phineas: We'll build the best dang carwash in the whole dang world, dang it! I...I can't really pull that off, can I?
    Ferb: ...You're not very street.
    Phineas: ...Yeah.
  • Dexter of Dexter's Laboratory does this in the episode "Average Joe", where he becomes convinced he's not a genius because an intelligence test he took in school came back "average", so he tries to act like an "average" kid by hanging out with some random guy his age and talking like this. It doesn't help that a lot of his expressions are lifted from Michael Jackson songs.
  • Tish's mother of The Weekenders does this when she hangs out with the kids one weekend. What makes it even more hilarious is that she's an Alter Kocker from Eastern Europe. The kids let her get away with it because she's demonstrating some impressive roller blading moves at the same time.
  • Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness: Afraid he's going to be replaced because he's old and rusty (Chao was talking about a wok), Master Shifu a.k.a. the Shif-ster starts talking in slang to showboat his youth, vitality and mega-hipness. Then he breakdances. Of course, as a Kung Fu Grandmaster he breakdances quite well.
  • Rare example of a character doing this to try to sound older — in the Arthur episode "Buster the Brave", Buster was trying to get some older kids to let him hang out with them and learn how to skate like them. Cue him and Arthur dressed like stereotypical teenagers...
    Buster: Hey, fresh dudes! Mind if we chill your crib?
    Teen: ...What??
    Buster: Me and my home fry here would like to be in your possum... I mean, posse.
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Shirt Club", Mayor Dewey tries this in a painfully awkward attempt to bond with his son Buck. "I gotta gank dat youth vote, boy-ee!"
  • In Bojack Horseman, office Meow-Meow Fuzzyface tries to infiltrate the local drugs scene by riding up to a dealer wearing a Totally Radical get-up (including a hat which literally says "TEEN" on it) and asking "Is it 'lit' under here or what?"
  • Kim Possible: Dr. Drakken's occasional attempts to sound Totally Radical draw mockery from Shego. (Then again, just about everything he does draws mockery from Shego.)


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Get A Load Of That Square


"The nuts"

Sarah Jane picks up some youth slang with cringeworthy results.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / SpeakingLikeTotallyTeen

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