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sick, peak, peng

January 31, 2016

I’ve noticed my son Fred (aged 11, nearly 12) using three particular adjectives a lot in the last few months; consequent on his having started secondary school, no doubt. The adjectives are: sick, peak and peng.

Sick, as probably everyone knows by now, is a term of approbation. If something is sick it’s really brilliant. I suppose it’s a form of irony; the word denotes the opposite of what it might seem to (like bad and wicked, both outdated now). Or maybe it’s based on the thought that something is so great it makes other people feel sick with envy? More probably there’s no logic behind it at all. Someone just said it randomly once and it caught on. It’s been around for a few years now. I have to say I don’t like it. As it’s become more popular it doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it once did; but to my ears it still doesn’t sound convincing. It sounds like a deliberate piece of slang: could anyone use it un-self-consciously? Well, I suppose they do at my son’s school because he says it all the time.

Peak means unfair, harsh, worthy of complaint. Of course 11-year-olds think everything’s unfair so I hear it a lot. But I actually quite like this one. Perhaps it should be spelt pique: who knows?

Finally, peng. This means something’s really great, the tip-top cream-of-the crop. Fred says he wants to get an i-pod and have it engraved with the slogan: This i-pod is peng and so is its owner. I tell him that in a year or two the expression will have gone out of date and no one will know what his engraving means. He says he doesn’t care.

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  1. Hi! Peng may be quite long lasting because of its Chinese origins as a common surname, plus the fact it is the name of a Chinese mythological creature. It means, I think, ‘friend’ and ‘touch’ (so it makes a brilliant engraving for a favourite gadget) and, of course, has all the additional connotations of something great/hot etc. (so it’s also great for a very sussed boy). Good job!

  2. John permalink

    These words have all been around for at least 10 years, especially sick which has existed in american (surfer/skater) vernacular for much longer. When I was a kid peng especially referred to some really good weed or a really hot girl, funny how it’s become more mainstream!

  3. Oy! I still say “wicked” all the time so it can’t possibly be outdated. When I read “peak” I assumed it would be a good thing, like tip-top or even excelsior. Perhaps it should be “pique” which already has negative connotations. “Peng” sounds strange indeed but I quite like it (never heard it before). Agree with you on “sick”. Similarly I can never get used to “dank” which is meant to be a good thing (this comes from stoner subculture, which clears it up a bit) but I could never say “You’ve got a nice home, really dank”.

  4. Oh, well, if you say ‘wicked’ maybe it’s still in date. As for ‘dank’ – nein danke.

  5. This post is Sick, I think it’s peak that the youth are still using the same London Slang my ‘1980/90’s generation’ created before UK Garage/Hip-Hop urban culture hit the mainstream! Peng post!

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