'Osama' and 'terrorist' the new teenage slang

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The Independent US

American teenagers who wanted to insult their friends and schoolmates used to use words such as "busta", "bootsy" and "chicken head". Now they call each other "terrorist", or even "Osama".

If their rooms are a mess, they describe them as "ground zero". Hot sauce might be described "weapons-grade salsa". And if someone sounds overly petty in their concerns, well, "that's so September 10".

Six months after the attacks on America, teenage slang in the United States has kept up with the vocabulary of daisy-cutter bombs, anthrax spore clusters and Islamic jihad – all phrases that have been spewing out of the news media.

According to numerous linguists, lexicographers and teenagers themselves, it has actually jumped on to the cutting edge of linguistic invention, walking a fine line between humour and tastelessness.

Yesterday's Washington Post reported from a ethnically diverse Virginia high school and found increasingly regular use of phrases such aa "terrorist", "Taliban" and even "Osama yo mama" as insults between classmates. Unduly harsh punishment was dubbed "total jihad", while students wearing unhip clothes would be asked, "Is that a burqa?"

The American Dialect Society has noticed and recorded similar usages. It also notes inventive neologisms such as "shuicide bomber" (a reference to the alleged shoe bomber, Richard Reid) and even "Osamaniac", meaning a woman who might find Mr bin Laden sexually attractive.

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