Defining Things Teenagers Say: Swerve

Sometimes the things teenagers say don’t make sense. Don’t worry, this is supposed to happen. It’s all part of the master plan. Your teenagers are supposed to start breaking away from the comforting nest of the familiar. Part of this break-away occurs in their language. They develop a language all their own that helps them communicate with their kind – we’re not supposed to understand it!

Definition of Swerve

Until now….

Some brilliant genius created the online Urban Dictionary at UrbanDictionary.com. I don’t know who the original target audience was for this website or whether it was created as a plot to help teens talk to each other so their parents wouldn’t understand them, but no matter – the secret is out! Now you, too, can look up the confusing things your teens say and get some idea of what they mean!

Here’s how you use the Urban Dictionary to understand the things your teens say:

My teens have used the word “swerve” with me several times and I’m really not tuned in to what it means. I’m pretty sure they are insulting me (in a funny way – they’re just kidders) but then again, I’m not really sure. I do know that they like to use those code words with me to see my reaction. So, after asking for an explanation from the source:

Me: “What does swerve mean?”

Teen: “Just swerve.”

I go to UrbanDictionary.com and type in the mystery word at the top of the site where it says: “Look up any word…” I hit enter and Voila! a bunch of definitions for the word appear on the screen. I amenlightened. And I am pleased to see that my kids aren’t actually insulting me. This is what swerve means to my teens:

Used in place of “swag”. Derived from the lyrics of “Mercy” by Kanye West, it is commonly slipped into conversation in response to a “Ballin'” remark. (from UrbanDictionary.com)

After checking this definition directly with them, my teens explained that they would never use the word “swag.” (But that’s not really important because you and I understand it.) According to them, swerve is actually used more like “word” (check my post defining this here). But, then they don’t really use “word” much anymore. (!)

So, when I say something they agree with, their answer is: “swerve.” Simple, concise.

Me: “We’re going to the movies after dinner.”

Teen: “Swerve.”

A word of caution

Now it’s your turn. Head over to UrbanDictionary.com and update yourself on the slippery state of popular phraseology. Have fun. But one word of caution. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can insert these words into your personal vocabulary. That just doesn’t work. Take it from me. While I was asking my daughter about “swerve” for this article, she said to me: “Oh, now you’ll start using it!”

Translation: when parents or other adults start using a code word to try and be cool – it can no longer be used. It is basically the death of the word. Which is why the things teens say are so elusive.

I assured her I wouldn’t use swerve.

You shouldn’t either.

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14 thoughts on “Defining Things Teenagers Say: Swerve

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  2. Hi there,

    Hope you’re doing well. Not sure if you check comments on your posts still, but I just wanted to let you know that the common usage around the word “swerve” has changed slightly since this post. I am a 26 year old who listens to a lot of hip hop and rap music. Though I am technically a millenial, I often find myself looking up words on Urban Dictionary to get the most meaning out of the music that I listen to. Currently, “swerve” is used to dismiss or say no to a request or unwanted proposition or can generally be understood as “dodging” something in the same way we understand “swerve” in the context of driving. I am not sure that it ever meant what you first thought it did and I wonder if that is due to misguided Urban Dictionary posts in combination with your kids not properly understanding the meaning of the word. It’s interesting how how our culture and language evolves so rapidly with the youngest generation and we get a mixture of many different sects of our society contributing to it.

    Best,
    Quazi

  3. You are doing a great job with this Laura. I love the idea of an Urban Dictionary! What a great tool. For those writing contemporary YA to those of us who want to just understand and see the evolution of words. Thank you.

    I really like this generation. I’ve been teaching college for many years and when these kids came along, I was like, “Well. Who are you???” They’re pretty wonderful.

    1. Thanks for your comment Janet! So nice to hear from you. I agree with how wonderful this generation is – loving the moments left with my youngest who just turned 18! Soon I’ll be an empty nester – but the nest is never really empty is it?

  4. That’s not what “swerve” means. It’s used to dismiss people when they’re either doing or saying something that’s disagreeable or plain stupid. It’s not used like “cool” or “word” and never has been. It’s usually used when someone is being out of line or simply ridiculous

    1. Thanks for your comment – it didn’t occur to me that swerve might be used differently by different people, but that makes sense. What I’ve written is the way my kids use the word. I’ll leave your comment up for others to see – thanks again.

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