When Kiana Sinaki, 21, eager to share a juicy tidbit of workplace gossip, told her 26-year-old coworker at a fitness facility in Santa Barbara, Calif., “I have some tea for you,” the confused woman replied, “Oh, no thanks. I have enough tea bags of my own.”
This wasn’t the first time Sinaki said she’d been misunderstood by a millennial colleague, who in this case hadn’t caught Sinaki’s use of the Gen Z slang term for “gossip,” and instead thought her junior was offering her a hot beverage.
“I’ve said ‘No cap’ to some of my coworkers and they’ve had no clue what I’m talking about,” laughed Sinaki, an environmental engineering student at the University of California, Irvine, who regularly stumps her more mature colleagues with her trendy lexicon.
The phrase “no cap” means “no lie” in African American Vernacular English or AAVE — black culture vocabulary from which the majority of Gen Z slang has originated. The phrase was popularized in songs by Grammy winners Drake, Future and 2 Chainz.
The term and others like it, such as “a vibe,” and “I’m Gucci,” have since become mainstream expressions for folks between the ages of 18 and 25, owing to their exhaustive use in video games, YouTube clips and TikTok posts, where the hashtag #GenZSlang has amassed more than 26.8 million views.
And despite the staggering 65% of Gen Zers who, per an October study, vowed to quit their jobs by the end of 2022 amid the so-called Great Resignation, plenty are staying in the rat race, and they’re committed to making their own unique way of speaking as much a part of work life as water cooler gossip.
Natalie Jones, a 23-year-old reporter for Dayton.com in Dayton, Ohio, scored more than 4.3 million TikTok views on a video in which she challenged her 30-year-old coworker to interpret hip words like “drip,” which refers to a person’s posh fashion sense, and “bet,” which simply means “okay.”
The uninitiated thirtysomething failed to correctly define the terms.
But Jones told The Post it’s crucial that she teach her workmates, most being 15 to 20 years her senior, the lingo, because it helps keep them abreast of the latest trends in a corporate climate now driven by social media and pop culture.
“In a digital world that’s constantly changing, it’s important to stay relevant and up to date,” said Jones. “Understanding Gen Z slang terms helps everyone create content for a wide range of people. It allows older generations to connect with the next generation.”
However, some on TikTok are intentionally using cool-kid talk in meetings and emails to confuse their elder associates. “Gaslighting my millennial coworker into thinking he’s old by quizzing him on Gen Z slang,” one user bragged. A separate TikToker shared a clip of herself testing her co-workers on slang for her own amusement, and laughing at their wild misinterpretations.
But when Phoebe Kahn, 24, finds her older higher-ups fouling up Gen Z slang, she laughs with them, not at them.
Most days, Kahn, a media content producer from Melbourne, Australia, finds herself working overtime to ensure that her boss, a thirtysomething, doesn’t misuse the Gen Z slang she’s introduced to him while on the clock.
“I once had my boss try to understand ‘Gucci,’ which is another word for ‘good,’” Kahn told The Post.
“But he thought the term was ‘gooch’ which has a very different meaning!” she chuckled, noting that “gooch” is often used to refer to a specific area of human genitalia.
The steep learning curve aside, grasping unfamiliar language doesn’t just go one way in the workplace.
Sinaki admits that she’s picked up some valuable terms from her senior colleagues, too.
“They’ve taught me about the Yellow Pages, and they’ve explained to me what a Rolodex is,” said Sinaki of the nearly-archaic card index where names, numbers and addresses were once kept in an office.
“I just thought it was a really old Rolex.”