Prof. Jessica Penner | D419 | Spring 2023

Discussion Question: Mother Tongue & Code Switching: Language & Community

Think about language and the different ways you communicate or speak. Choose a word or phrase that you use with one group of people (family, friends, co-workers, etc.) that would not be understood by a different group of people in your life. What is the meaning of this word or phrase and how would you explain it to someone who is an outsider to the group who uses it?

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This is a low-stakes writing activity that is worth 30% of your overall grade for this class! Don’t skip out on this simple assignment!


  1. Zhihua(Tonny),li

    LOL-Laugh out lound,usally we use this phase when my friends share me something funny in group chat. People recognize this phase in the internet but my family just don’t it becasue they don’t go to the internet that much.

  2. Dany

    The phrase i use the most, especially with friends is “nah word”. My family members wont understand this phrase so i don’t use it with them. The way i use the phrase is to agree with someone , brush off their conversation or even just to annoy some people. i would explain it close to just use it to agree with someone on something.

  3. Alpha Barrie

    A phrase that I use with my friends is “You’re mad dayroom.” It is kind of hard to say the meaning but it basically means you’re weird kind of. A example is if your friend mess with your girlfriend you tell he/she “You’re mad dayroom.”

  4. Elena Carpencova

    When I am with my close friends or family, I can use the word “vkusnheashka”.This word means something extremely delicious. 🙂

  5. Ethan Tzik

    A word I commonly use specifically with my Jewish family is “Schvitz”. It’s a common term used by some New Yorkers, but it’s a Jewish word literally meaning “Sweat”. In my case, we use it often, such as “I was on the subway car today, and I was schvitzing!”. It’s not something I use with friends or with my other side of the family, as they don’t use this kind of language often. There are many other examples. If I had to explain this word to friends, I would probably just straight up say “It’s just a special word for sweating.”

  6. Jimmy

    A phrase that I use with my friends but not around my parents would be ” What The Fuck”. I do not use this term around my parents because they do not tolerate profanity. The phrase “What The Fuck” is an intensive form of the word “what’.

  7. David Mendez Medina

    I don’t really have a word or phrase that wouldn’t be understood by people. However, me and my family use the phrase you bozo to describe someone when someone does something dumb. For example when someone forgets there keys they are a bozo.

  8. Dante

    I sometimes use the non-literal meaning of “literally” among my friends for exaggeration. Most of my friends and peers understand that I mean which version of the word I am using. There have been times where maybe a family member or acquaintance thought I was using the other definition of “literally” when I really mean to just exaggerate a statement instead of implying what I’m saying is actually literal.

  9. Tymil L.

    a word that I use that with friends that would not be understood by another group is “jeffing”. what Jeffing means is your lying or procrastinating. how you would use it is ” Why are you jeffin” or ” I can’t believe you were Jeffing all day sleeping”.

  10. Oxana Bukher

    I use the word “clevo” it is equal to “cool”, “clevo” is a Russian slang

  11. Malak Alammari

    A phrase that I use often that may not understand by non-Arab speaker is “inshallah”. This word can have many meanings and you can use as why to reply to questions. it can mean yes, no, maybe or even I hope so. Also, you can use as way to deflect the is nuance word.

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