I can no longer embrace slang, and regurgitate it with nonchalance

Or as the junior researchers on Grace Dent's new TV show would say, “You're getting old. You don't seem super-chill about it, doe.”

Grace Dent
Saturday 31 October 2015 01:55

It was one of the last, distinctly warm days of the year, and I was at my beauticians. “This fan is giving me life,” said the girl applying squished guava to my face. “Eh?” I said. “This fan,” she said, pointing at the air-conditioning unit, “it's giving me life today.” The fan wasn't “giving her a fresh lease of life”. And it wasn't “the only good thing in her life” on a warm day. It was “giving her life”. And at that point, I had to admit defeat in the shifting slang game. “Giving me life” simply sounded daft.

My capacity to embrace slang freely, without fear, and then regurgitate it with nonchalance, has gone. Or as the junior researchers on my new TV show would say, “You're getting old, Grace. You don't seem super-chill about it, doe.”

I remember watching “Giving me life” appear on Twitter around the time, a couple of years ago, that RuPaul's Drag Race hit UK screens. Then it moved on to my Instagram where it peppered the comment boxes under a hundred different plates of pappardelle with ragu. “This pasta is giving me liiiiife.” Lord, there were many, many years when I'd have grabbed “giving me life” myself with both mits. I'd have rammed it into conversation. I'd have developed my own idiosyncratic head tilt to make it truly zing. I'd have rolled on the floor of the editoral room in a tantrum at sub-editors who changed it to “really cheering me up”. But I just can't do it. It doesn't go with my gait, my brow, or my demeanour.

Anyone being called ‘beaut’ is borderlinen rough and in fact being patronised

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Perhaps because I have less time on Earth left now, I just want to be understood. Other words I'm currently in a private struggle with include anything perfect being described as “on fleek”, which sounds like the noise a feminist like me might make while standing on a chair waiting for a man to appear and remove a mouse.

See also the current en masse knee-jerk reaction to typing “Squad!” under any photo of more than one human being. “Shall we go to the cinema tonight, every- one? Woooh squad goals!” I do, by the way, love “basic bitch” to describe the sort of girl who thinks Lush bath bombs are a real treat, but I've never quite taken to “Bae” to mean anything from “friend” to “someone I rub genitals with”. I mean that's just silly. It makes me think of the bay windows my grandmother used to sit in reading the Cumberland News with a magnifying glass.

There's also an infuriating craze among my friends right now for typing the words, “You beaut!” under other people's selfie shots in order to denote that they look beautiful. I hate this mock-Cornish, oddly Elizabethan pseudo-matey bollocks. “Beaut” makes my teeth feel itchy. And it's highly likely that any person being called “beaut” does not look remotely beautiful and is in actual fact borderline rough and being heavily patronised for effort.

Adding “beaut” to someone's selfie is only a tiny bit less lazy than pressing the red heart to signify “Like”. You'll notice, incidentally, that I have no problem with the word “selfie”, as that appeared in about 2006, before my official slide into becoming a dictionary dinosaur. Anything after about 2013 – which was coincidentally the time I began enjoying Michael Portillo documentaries on European railways more than anything on MTV – I want banned or merely heavily taxed.

Age turns us all, eventually, into a boss-eyed Points of View moaner, peering down the fuzzy Skype camera of life. “How can a fan give you life?” I want to say. “It's giving you cold air! It's not extending your life! Speak more clearly, you confusing youth! I'm an ageing lady! I lost a lot of my hearing and brain cells during the battle of the Hacienda nightclub in 1991!”

Incidentally, my fellow fading flames, the phrase “going clubbing” is now the territory of utter geriatrics. Proceed with caution. It's been replaced with non-specific mumblings about being “in the club” which is very confusing because when I was at the age where I “went clubbing”, the act of finding yourself “in the club” meant missing a menstrual period and a hard stare at the double blue lines of doom on a Clearblue One Step.

Suffice to say, that these days I'm so confused over what to call the experience of being out of the house after midnight in a room where music is playing that I now call it “the discotheque”, purely in order to antagonise millennials. “Oh yes,” I say loudly, “I still enjoy an occasional jaunt to the discotheque.”

My father used to do the exact same thing to me in the 1990s. He would rush to the front door as I was heading out for a night of excess, theatrically pulling on his Marks & Spencer beige quilted dog-walking jacket while shouting, “Ooh! Are we off down the discoteque? Can I tag along? I fancy shaking my tail feather!” I would shriek in complete disgust at everything he represented. And now I represent that too. In a funny way, it's giving me life.


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