In Germany, kids of age 10 to 15 tend to evolve a language pattern that uses a certain word that has a negative connotation to describe everything they approve of, be it an impressive slam-dunk or nice cars on the street.

Every generation seems to choose their own word for this, so after some years the word changes, but the meaning stays the same.

Examples that come to mind are

übel (sick/disgusting) and more recently mies (lousy):

"Meine Mutter hat mir zehn Euro mitgegeben." "Miiiiies!"

"My mother gave me ten EUR to spend." "Looooousy!"

The only aquivalent i can think of in the english language would be "sick", but that's maybe connected to skater/surfer slang.

Is this a common behaviour in UK/US/English speaking kids as well?

Edit: After some discussions in the comments I thought to specify my question further. I'm especially interested in the described mechanism of one word replacing another over the years, allowing to place users of such word into a certain age range for example.


1 Answer 1


The practice might be older than you think, and in 600 years time we might be using sick, bad etc with completely different meanings. Lok at the transformation of nice from Online Etymology:

nice (adj.) late 13c., "foolish, stupid, senseless," from Old French nice (12c.) "careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish," from Latin nescius "ignorant, unaware," literally "not-knowing," from ne- "not" (see un-) + stem of scire "to know" (see science). "The sense development has been extraordinary, even for an adj." [Weekley] -- from "timid" (pre-1300); to "fussy, fastidious" (late 14c.); to "dainty, delicate" (c.1400); to "precise, careful" (1500s, preserved in such terms as a nice distinction and nice and early); to "agreeable, delightful" (1769); to "kind, thoughtful" (1830).

"In many examples from the 16th and 17th centuries it is difficult to say in what particular sense the writer intended it to be taken." [OED]

By 1926, it was pronounced "too great a favorite with the ladies, who have charmed out of it all its individuality and converted it into a mere diffuser of vague and mild agreeableness." [Fowler]

"I am sure," cried Catherine, "I did not mean to say anything wrong; but it is a nice book, and why should I not call it so?"
"Very true," said Henry, "and this is a very nice day, and we are taking a very nice walk; and you are two very nice young ladies. Oh! It is a very nice word indeed! It does for everything." [Jane Austen, "Northanger Abbey," 1803]

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