Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ish-ish and the American Teenager

Over the past couple of years, the American Teenager has seized upon the suffix -ish and transformed it into the most undeniably original piece of slang since the "NOT!" of the early 1990s. Here is a brief sampling of what I mean:

Father: Hello, son. How was school?
Son: Good (noticeable pause) ish.
Father: Glad to hear it! Where's your mother?
Son: Outside (noticeable pause) ish.
Father: Where outside?
Son: I don't know. In the backyard (noticeable pause) ish.

You get the idea.  

Teenagers enjoy modifying what they perceive as the language of the establishment.  When I was a teenager, for example, I tried unsuccessfully to introduce the phrase "crap it" into everyday conversation. No one really knows, of course, why teenagers feel the need to modify a language that already has too many words and rules. The whole matter is beyond my poor power to reason.

Of course, some might argue that the American Teenager speaks Ish-ish" whenever he or she wants to seem coolly noncommittal or indecisive. Others might argue that their fluency in Ish-ish is a reflection of their collective fear of making certain decisions in such uncertain times. Personally, I'm not sure I buy any of these arguments. When I was a teenager, I used such phrases as "NOT!," "crap it," and the ever-monotonous "whatever" just to irritate my parents. I have a feeling that the popularity of Ish-ish stems from some similar desire.

The good news, of course, is that adults are beginning to use Ish-ish more often--and we all know that adult appropriation always marks the beginning of the end for the latest trends in American Teenager Slang. I mean, just remember the twinge of embarrassment you felt when your father first used the word "groovy" or "radical" around you. And don't forget the emptiness you felt in your soul when your mother first said something was "the bomb."  

So, adults, do the American language a favor and start speaking Ish-ish around your teenagers. There is still hope. If we begin now,  chances are Ish-ish will be wiped out by Christmas...or, at the latest, New Years (noticeable pause) ish


  1. Ish-ish? Never heard of it. I guess I haven't been hanging around teenagers recently.... And when did I ever say something was "the bomb" (unless maybe I was being a little sarcastic)?

  2. Just to be clear, I never said you said "the bomb." I was just speaking hypothetically.

  3. Okay - glad that has been cleared up. :)

  4. Ish can be so useful. Now when I'm around you I'll have to say esque instead (when appropriate).

  5. My teenager hasn't caught on to this one yet (not in my presence anyway, and she's not the type to hold back on something like that) so I think I'll avoid using it until a true need arises. Which will probably be sometime soon-ish.

  6. You forgot to add the word that you tried to implement at one time... similar to the bomb.... was it "butter".