Born between 1996 and 2010, Gen Z is now coming of age and shifting culture all over the world. Vietnam is no exception. As digital natives who grew up with mobile technology, apps, and texting, Vietnamese Gen-Zers are playing a major role in creating network language across social platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
An extension of the spoken word, Internet slang is a dynamic digital dialect of its own — with a plethora of abbreviations showing how much of culture today is produced on mobile devices. As the world’s first generation to grow up with this digital fluency, Gen-Zers are always creating and evolving their online slang. Here are 7 terms and phrases to know if you want to text like a Vietnamese Gen-Zer.
“Khum” is a cute affectation on the simple word “no” in Vietnamese, it is an adorable way to “say nay” or refuse something, among the Gen-Zers: “khum” is pronounced similarly to “không”, which means no in Vietnamese. When someone says “khum” to you, it’s quite obvious that they consider you as a close friend — somewhat like saying “nope” instead of “no.” It’s a way to relax the rules in speaking and texting.
J dz tr
“J dz tr” is an abbreviation of the phrase “Gì vậy trời?,” meaning “What’s going on?” or, more literally, “Oh god, what is it?”. It’s a quick way to text an expression of surprise, confusion, but also sometimes maybe aggression. The letters “J dz tr” are used to more literally mimic the relaxed pronunciation of consonants in the Saigonese or southern Vietnamese accent. This sentence represents the creativity and humour of Gen Zers, as well as their proclivity towards quicker conversation and texting.
U là tr
“U là tr” is a shortened, text-friendly version of “Ơi là trời”, which is translated to the exclamation “Oh my god” in English. “U là tr” is often used to express feelings of boredom, helplessness, and sometimes being pissed off of a Gen Zer. The English text equivalent would be “omg.”
The phrase “ủa em” is used to express disappointment towards someone for their behavior or work. It’s roughly equivalent to “What’s wrong with you?” in English conversation. This term has become popular among young people who work in creative fields like marketing or media. Once your team leader says this, it’s usually a sign that something has gone wrong. When texting, adding a “?” after “ủa em” can snowball into a worse and more anxiety-inducing situation.
“Cột sống” Gen-Z
This phrase is used by Gen-Zers to poke fun at their own life experience. The phrase “cuộc sống” means life — but the phrase “cột sống” means “spine.” So this hilarious term is a joke that references the stereotypical difficulties of the modern Gen-Zer: eyes staring at the screen for hours, exhaustion, and, yes, even a backache (even at our young age).
Another popular term is “Gòy soq”, which is a reaction of despair towards a bad situation — like acknowledging when you’re in big trouble. “Gòy soq” is a play on the phrase “rồi xong”, which means “now it’s over.” A close approximation in Western slang is the term “dead meat.” However, as dramatic as this term may be, Gen-Zers in Vietnam tend to view obstacles in life through optimistic, sometimes rose-tinted lenses.
“Chằm Zn” is a play on the words “trầm cảm,” which literally means “depressed.” This one isn’t as straightforward: “Zn” here refers to the chemical symbol for the element zinc, which in Vietnamese is the word “kẽm.” Therefore, “chằm Zn” can be read as “chằm kẽm,” which sounds similar to trầm cảm. However, just as American Gen-Zers exaggerate and say “I’m dead” or “I’m dying” when they are tired, “chằm Zn” simply refers to fatigue or exhaustion — rather than actual depression.