What are the kids these days calling each other?
September 4, 2014 11:55 AM   Subscribe

What are teenagers, and college-age kids calling each other when they are trying to flirt?

As part of a sexual harassment training that I am working on, I'd like to include a list of pet-names to avoid using while at work. Honey, baby, sweetie sound a little old-fashioned to me, and I'd like to include some more current terms.
posted by JennyJupiter to Human Relations (23 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

A lot of this is area dependent. Can you call your local high school or college and ask them?
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:59 AM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bae is the choice du jour in my area (SoCal, Tumblr)
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:01 PM on September 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Bae/Bay are probably most current. I still hear Boo a lot but mostly jokingly.
posted by gatorae at 12:04 PM on September 4, 2014

Best answer: Bae and bb or beebs.
posted by quince at 12:04 PM on September 4, 2014

Nicknames from popular culture - for example, in 1990 being called "Hey Vanna" (reference to Vanna White from a TV game show) wasn't cute, even if the female in question was working on presentation slides (at a major international business computing company).

Similarly, calling a chemistry student intern "Bubbles" was also inappropriate, no matter how much glassware she cleaned.

These were older people addressing a college-aged person, and maybe not exactly what you're looking for. They probably fit the bill, though. I wish I'd known how inappropriate they were then.

Why, yes, these are taken from life.

Contemporary names in a similar vein might be any pop culture icon primarily recognized for physical appearance rather than other accomplishments.
posted by amtho at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2014

Could you not get them to do a little exercise where they come up with a list of names they would call someone they were going out with? You could start with your own examples and go from there.

That could then be the basis for a list of names you don't call people at work.
posted by mr_silver at 12:06 PM on September 4, 2014 [13 favorites]

I would not use the word "bae" in an office presentation on sexual harassment. That may be a word that is growing in popularity among teenagers, but if you do want to be as current as possible, I like mr_silver's idea.

Honey, baby, darling, sweetie are all good. Obviously anything like sexy, hot stuff, good-lookin' -- basically any name related to appearance -- would also be included. I think those are the types of words you're mostly likely to hear from people trying to patronize or demean women in the work place.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:11 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

The other tack you could use instead of listing inappropriate terms is be firm that the only proper term to call one another in a professional environment is someone's name.
posted by quince at 12:20 PM on September 4, 2014 [6 favorites]

Yeah, came over to say "bae".

That said, "bae" is more of an intimate/boyfriend-girlfriend thing, and not really the most obvious choice for sexual harassment (unless it's the kind of sexual harassment that pertains to repeated asking out, or "we kissed at the holiday party and now I'm under the mistaken impression that we're dating").

When I think sexual harassment in the workplace, I'm more inclined to think "Hey, Girl" or "How YOU doin?" type stuff, if you want to get more modern than honey/baby/sweetie.

Also, in my experience you really hear the "inappropriate things to call coworkers" issue coming up with older people, anyway, who don't get that you can't just call all women "honey" at all times, because we're human beings with names and identities and such. Related to referring to admin staff as "the girls", and the like. I can't really see someone who would have trouble with that aspect of gender relations in the workplace going to "bae" rather than "baby" or "sweetie".
posted by Sara C. at 12:22 PM on September 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd definitely steer away from using language associated with particular cultural groups. For example, "bae" and "boo", "shorty" would all be associated with Black or urban culture, "mami/papi" with Latino culture, etc. Context is completely important in these instances; they are just as often used as a familial term, with no sexual connotation. If someone else uses that word as a means of flirting, doesn't make the word itself to blame/be banished. Try guidelines that make it clear the context is more important than what you say, and that colleagues should try to speak to each other with respect and lean towards more formal language if they don't know each other.

I'd also add that I don't think "Honey" "Baby" "Sweetie" are bad because they are sexual harassment - they are bad because they are condescending as shit and they are sexist to boot. They are demeaning language coded to put women in their "place". Sexual harassment would be more focused on their body (calling a woman "Hot tits" or "Legs" or whatever) or their sexual behavior (calling someone a slut or spreading rumors).
posted by SassHat at 12:28 PM on September 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

The afternoon run FedEx guy who comes to my workplace calls me bae*.

This is a word that people use.

In addition, I'm sure, to many other words.

The UPS guy calls me mama.

Related this to my coworker who replied, "lol, bae caught me shippin'."
posted by phunniemee at 12:30 PM on September 4, 2014 [11 favorites]

not clearly sexual harrassment but oh so yucky and a potential gateway down that road - "little lady" or the ilk.

most teenagers mean bae in the most flattering way possible and not always opposite sex. it is a good thing. it also makes me feel like a cranky old fart because i HATE it. so dumb.
same thing with "my ride or die". i get they mean it as a compliment, but hell if i know why it's a compliment.
posted by domino at 12:52 PM on September 4, 2014

I should clarify - bae is not always referencing someone you are in a romantic relationship with, it is also used in place of best friend 4ever as is boo, bb, my babies, bestie etc. still dumb though.
posted by domino at 1:00 PM on September 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Agreed that "bae" or "the bae" is what teens call each other to flirt right now, but it's an affectionate term that's not sexual or demeaning. Kids in my neighborhood use Mami, Mama, and Shorty too. These aren't the seemingly-mild-but-demeaning things I dislike being called in the office. I detest being called "honey" or "sweetie," and those are much more typical in the office.
posted by pineappleheart at 1:05 PM on September 4, 2014

This is a little outside the scope of your question, but I'll add one of my pet peeve words that I would hate to hear at work.

It is the term "females", and is used pretty commonly in pop culture. It gets my dander up because it defines the person(s) in question solely by their sex, and when I hear it in songs or what-have-you it's usually in a derogatory context (like as a synonym for "bitches").

My just-older-than-college-age nephews and their friends have been using this word for a few years, and I don't think they really understand the derogatory nature of the word. They seem to think it's just another synonym for women. They know enough not to use the word bitches in mixed company, but think nothing of using the word females.

And they don't get that they very rarely hear of men being referred to as "male(s)", with the exception of watching cop programs.

I think it's more appropriate to at least use the term "woman/women" in a formal setting such as work if not, ideally, the polite "ladies" (but I have a tendency to say both "ladies" and "gentlemen" in public, regardless of situation).
posted by vignettist at 1:08 PM on September 4, 2014 [10 favorites]

it's an affectionate term that's not sexual or demeaning
Isn't it derived from "baby"? Baby/Babe is pretty demeaning (at work) and is often sexual. Harassment is not solely about intent, it includes effect.

"Boy", "son", "gramps", "young man" and "young lady" are all inappropriate despite them not being sexual.
posted by soelo at 1:50 PM on September 4, 2014

I sort of feel like you're conflating thee things here.

One is sexual harassment, which can involve being called pet names or whatever, but is more often something that's expressed through physical proximity, overlong stares, and sexual jokes and innuendo.

The other is the way that many men casually demean the women that they work with, calling their peers by diminutives (which is where stuff like honey and sweetie--both of which are still common, in my experience--are seen), referring to the administrative staff as "the girls", etc. Many people (including me) find "ladies" almost as objectionable, because it's still calling us out by gender for presumably no reason, and also because lady has certain connotations regarding class, race, and capability that aren't are kinda gross.

The third is the relatively harmless way that people from certain subcultures and demographics refer to each other with terms of casual, friendly affection and respect--for many people, this encompasses things like boo, bae, mamí, etc.

Two of these things are clearly problematic; the third is, in my opinion, not at all problematic. Context matters.
posted by MeghanC at 1:54 PM on September 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

Bae is definitely the one my nephews, who are in their teens, have been using.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 3:32 PM on September 4, 2014

Bae wouldn't strike me as harassing either. Maybe inappropriately informal but not necessarily sexual. Kids use it affectionately with platonic friends.
posted by third rail at 5:35 AM on September 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!

The workshop is mostly aimed at university staff with faculty occasionally in attendance. However, I may be asked to present to student employees and wanted the content to be relevant to that age group too. The workshop is primarily focused on understanding university policies, relevant laws, resources available and what to do if you experience/ are accused of a violation. I will review discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, Title IX and other laws.

Others will be responsible for educating students on available resources, bystander intervention, understanding rape culture, etc.
posted by JennyJupiter at 6:28 AM on September 5, 2014

"Honey" and "sweetheart" and "dear" are still pretty common in this sort of "benevolent" sexual harassment, in my experience.

When I'm being hit on by random strangers, it's always "baby".
posted by capricorn at 6:30 AM on September 5, 2014

With a student employee or young staff crowd I would be more intent on talking about repeated/persistent asking out, and less intent on "little lady" type stuff.

To the extent that I get anything that could be called sexual harassment at work from male peers (as opposed to older men), it doesn't typically center on being called term X, Y, or Z, but just general unprofessional behavior, often centered around being treated like meat. Certainly in professional situations where I've felt most uncomfortable, the problem has been more about that than the notion that someone's going to call me hot tits or something.

(Not that you shouldn't also mention it's not OK to call someone hot tits)
posted by Sara C. at 7:11 AM on September 5, 2014

Response by poster: Oh yes, forgot to mention that verbal harassment is just one part of the training that I needed a little inspiration for. I'll be covering physical and nonverbal forms of harassment as well and feel like I have a good handle on those.
posted by JennyJupiter at 7:37 AM on September 5, 2014

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