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A politics guide to Gen Z’s internet slang – POLITICO


“Vladimir Putin has lowkey been taking Ls, with a mid performance that shows a mad lack of rizz. But he’s got a pick me boy ever since the sus handshake: Viktor Orbán. It’s giving villains, no cap.”

If you understood that, then no need to go any further.

For our actual readers, you might want to stick around for the next five minutes.

POLITICO recently took an L (we’ll get to this in a second) when it ranked the most “rizz” politicians, and our newsroom got flak for not using the Gen Z slang properly. (For the last time, you can “have” rizz but can’t “be” rizz … We’ll explain more below.)

As some of the youngest staffers in the office, we thought it was time to restore POLITICO’s reputation and prove that, despite being hardcore politics nerds, we know how to use our generation’s lingo.

We’re not here to take part; we’re here to take over …

Mid: Saying something is “mid” means it’s average, mediocre, of poor quality. It is one of Gen Z’s favorite insults, so keep an ear out for this one. For example, Season 8 of Game of Thrones was mid — and so are the EU spokespeople’s responses to any huge world event.

Pop off, king: You usually use “pop off” to compliment someone when they did something impressive or cool, to indicate they went above and beyond. For example, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz really popped off with his idea to guide Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán out of the room at the EUCO, a strategic masterstroke (at least if you believe the Scholz camp) which allowed leaders to approve opening accession talks for Ukraine.

Lowkey/Highkey: This has been around for a while, but it’s essential. You can use lowkey when you want to express a feeling in a subtle way; somewhat similar to “slightly” or “kinda.” Highkey means the opposite. For example, over the summer tech billionaire Elon Musk and Meta boss Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t shut up about their planned scrap. Musk was highkey excited to get his ass beaten by Zuckerberg. But Zuckerberg was lowkey annoyed by Musk and canceled the cage fight.

Rizz: “Rizz” can be used to indicate “style, charm, or attractiveness” or “the ability to attract a romantic or sexual partner.” It’s hard to tell which politicians have rizz (if any?) — but we for sure know who’s got none at all: Donald Trump. Even though a “Karen” might fancy Trump, Gen-Z thinks Trump has no rizz, after hearing him say “grab them by the pussy.” With that one vile sentence, Trump gave us the ick. (Ick is a bonus word which means doing something unpleasant or gross.)

Pick me girl/boy: A pick me girl or boy is someone who seeks validation by underlining how different they are. A pick me girl will keep insisting that she is not like other girls just to get attention from men. This one is kinda hard to translate to politics, but remember Karin Kneissl, the Austrian ex-minister who danced with Putin at her wedding? She is not only a pick me girl, but she even got picked — she now lives in the Russian president’s hometown of St. Petersburg.

Take an L: “L” is short for “loser” or “loss,” so “taking an L” means failing at something. It can also be used when something unfortunate happens to you. For example, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took an L earlier this year when he lost the election to a coalition led by Donald Tusk. That, of course, was a big “W” for Tusk.

Outgoing Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki took a major L when he lost the election | Wojtek Radwanski/AFP via Getty Images

He/she ate: No, this has nothing to do with dietary habits. Very similar to the above “pop off, king,” when we say someone ate (or devoured) we mean that they just did something exceptionally well. Can sometimes be followed with “and left no crumbs.” Another similar way to express praise for someone is by saying they “serve” or “slay.”

For example: Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg really ate with her iconic clapback at misogynist influencer Andrew Tate last year. The online guru was “flexing” (showing off) his cars and their emissions in Greta’s direction, when Thunberg replied “yes, please do enlighten me. email me at [email protected].” Needless to say, he was gagged (speechless) and took the L.

Vibes: This one has layers, so bear with us. We can use this when referring to someone’s vibe, aka their energy/mood. Someone’s vibes can be off, in which case you want to stay away from them. But places and situations can also have vibes. For example, the vibes at this year’s COP28 climate summit were pretty tense. Or Putin might ask “what’s the vibe there?” before choosing to skip the G20 on legal grounds.

It’s giving … : This is a way of saying that something reminds us of something else; it gives off a particular energy (or vibe, see above). As in: When the European Commission unfreezes €10 billion for Orbán and he drops his veto on Ukraine’s accession talks the day after, some might say “it’s giving blackmail.” “It’s giving” can also be used on its own to compliment someone or something.

Situationship: You are in a situationship when you just started having a thing with someone and it is more than friendship but not yet a relationship. For whatever reason — mostly out of fear of commitment — you decide not to label the relationship, thereby making it more complicated. Since Brexit, the EU and the U.K. are in a situationship. Switzerland has also been in a serious situationship with Brussels for years now. And don’t even get us started on the EU and Mercosur — that’s a 20-year situationship!

Let them cook: Letting someone cook means stepping back to give them the space to do what they need to do — because they’re nailing it. The EU opened the door to enlargement again during Ursula von der Leyen’s annual State of the European Union speech in 2023, and they’ve at least started to follow through. The bloc has opened up accession talks with Ukraine and Moldova, plus granted candidate status to Georgia. If the EU keeps cooking, the bloc could go from 27 to more than 30 members.

Sus: This one translates down generations, but anyway, have you seen the way Florida governor and U.S. presidential candidate Ron DeSantis walks in cowboy boots? That’s what we’d call “sus” — or suspect. Many have pointed out that he probably wears height-boosting lifts. (And three experts POLITICO asked agree with that take.) So, it’s also pretty “sus” that DeSantis claims he’s 180 centimeters.

Mother: OK, we know Ursula von der Leyen is a mother (to seven, by the way). But is she “mother” (without the article)? The term originated in the queer ballroom scene, where members are part of houses led by a “mother.” It’s been adopted by the internet, though, to mean more broadly having admiration for any iconic person (mostly women, but it can apply more widely). Some might look at a top female EU leader — such as former Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin or current Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas — and say: “that’s mother right there” or “mother is mothering.”

Simp: When someone is a “simp” for another person, it means they’re submissive and generally sucking up to them. At this point, we could say that about Orbán or Slovakia’s Robert Fico in relation to Putin, right? Orbán and Fico may be in the EU, but they still love to cozy up to Daddy Vladimir. (Although the Russian leader is not entirely convinced by such displays of obsequiousness.)

Cheugy: Cheugy is what you are going to call POLITICO after reading this article: trying way too hard to be cool.

Sabine Martin contributed reporting.

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