Urban Dictionary — resource for writers who lead a sheltered life

From my Writer’s Toolbox: Here’s a good resource to keep you from ‘stepping in it’ literally when it comes to slang and the new urban language. For instance, I want to use the word ‘wuss’ in a children’s book and I need to know if it has any off color overtones that would be inappropriate for my young readers. I’m not ‘up’ on my slang or ‘tween language. (Who is?) and many words these days are used differently than when I was…um…younger. With the  Urban Dictionary I’ll know what to use and what to avoid, especially since I am writing for the YA and children’s market.

I checked ‘wuss’. It means: A person who is physically weak and ineffectual. Often a male person with low courage factor, as in “Tobias, you’re such a WUSS!”  So it means what I thought it did and it seems safe to use for my middle-grade fantasy.

Be forewarned though. The Urban Dictionary is not for wusses. Anyone apparently can add a new word, or define a word and it contains a lot of sexually explicit verbage. What it will give you is very current, up to the minute social connotations for any word you enter in the seach bar. There’s close to 5 million definitions and the Word of the Day section is updated daily with words and phrases you’d be hard-pressed to find all in such a convenient location.

Here’s some examples of the ‘cleaner’ entries:

Fax potato: A person who faxes from one floor to another instead of getting up and running the information because they’re too lazy to get out of their chair.
Protohype: The process of leaking a prototype device to generate buzz about a product you don’t quite yet have ready for market to a friendly tech website who will promote the gizmo well before it’s ready to go.
Tree-book: A book printed on dead trees, i.e. paper, as opposed to an e-book, which only exists electronically. Compare with snail mail.
Pi Time: The time of the day where a digital clock reads 3:14.
Child supervision: When an older person, especially a parent, needs a tech-savvy kid to help him/her with computers or other electronic devices. 

Do you write for middle grade or young adults?  How do stay current with their language and their world?


6 thoughts on “Urban Dictionary — resource for writers who lead a sheltered life

  1. Great post, Rahma. A while back, I used the initials BFF to describe my husband’s relationship with one of our dogs. Then, I thought I better check out the slang meter. Oh my, was I glad I did! The first entries for BFF were innocent but they turned raunchy fast.

    1. I’ve never used these shorthand expressions for relationships, so I’m always a little flummoxed by what they mean. I’m sure it doesn’t matter as much in blog postings since most people are more ‘hip’ than I, but I’m glad you got the street translation from the slang meter. One can only imagine….

  2. I can’t: I’m locked into 1970’s Britain. A 13 year-old recently read one of my books, and liked it, so maybe I don’t need to be hip. Hip – is that still…hip?

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