17 Phrases Gen Z Says Don’t Belong in Today’s Society

The English language is in a constant state of evolution, and sometimes old sayings just have to go. Our society has progressed tremendously over the past couple of centuries, but some outdated phrases don’t reflect that. Here are 17 phrases that many Gen Zers think are offensive or outdated.


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Most of us may be oblivious to this term’s troubling roots, but Gen Z is bringing more awareness to the subject. Today, the phrase simply means an easy victory, but a “cakewalk” was originally a dance performed by enslaved Africans to mock slave owners.

“Master Bedroom”

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While the exact origins of this phrase are unclear, many believe that it is rooted in racist or sexist power dynamics. For some Gen Zers, the use of the word “master” evokes connotations of the old master and slave dynamic of America’s racist past. As a result, a few people are choosing to adopt more neutral terms, such as “primary bedroom.”


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This phrase may seem harmless enough, but it actually has origins associated with slavery and racism. “Nitty-gritty” was originally used to refer to the dirt left behind on slave ships and later became a slur used against those being traded.

“Illegal Immigrant”

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While some see this phrase as an accurate description of those illegally entering another country, Gen Z is not as convinced. There’s a growing consensus among younger people that the term “illegal immigrant” is dehumanizing and insensitive toward those deemed “other” from ourselves.

“Sold Down the River”

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Yet another phrase with racist origins is “sold down the river.” The term originated when slave traders in the 1800s would sell enslaved African people to other traders further south, where they were often treated even more inhumanely.

“Boys Will Be Boys”

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The potential issues with this phrase are more readily apparent. “Boys will be boys” is a term often used to justify and trivialize inappropriate male behavior based on unfair stereotypes and inequality. This goes against Gen Z’s prioritization of gender equality and accountability.

“That’s So Gay”

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Another problematic phrase that speaks for itself is “that’s so gay” and the general use of “gay” as a negative adjective. This outdated phrase was often casually used to describe something negative or undesirable, thus implying that being gay is inherently a bad thing.

“Man Up”

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This phrase has been criticized in recent years for implying that only men possess “tough” traits such as bravery, resilience, and strength. Gen Z typically values emotional expression and condemns toxic masculinity, and this term is also often used to tell a man to stop acting emotionally.

“No Can Do”

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Most of us think this phrase is just an innocent, silly way of saying that we cannot do something. However, the phrase actually has racist origins and was used to mock non-native English speakers, especially Chinese natives.

“Going Postal”

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“Going postal” originally referred to violent outbursts by postal workers and is now used to mean “to become extremely angry.” However, this phrase is now seen as insensitive toward those with mental health issues and work-related stress.

“Eskimo Kisses”

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While this phrase was very common a couple of decades ago, it’s now seen as outdated and offensive toward Inuit and Yup’ik people. Gen Z typically strives to maintain cultural respect and sensitivity, and “Eskimo” is now seen as a derogatory slur toward these groups of people.

“Ghetto” as a Descriptor

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Using “ghetto” to describe something negative, cheap, or low quality is increasingly seen as racist and classist by Gen Z. As “ghetto” refers to low-income areas where high numbers of African Americans reside, many younger people now see the use of this descriptor as insensitive and offensive.

“Playing the Race Card”

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People often use the term “playing the race card” to dismiss someone for bringing the subject of their race into a conversation. As such, Gen Z is beginning to phase out the phrase and call it out for being dismissive, insensitive, and potentially racist.

“Peanut Gallery”

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This old phrase began as a way of referring to the cheapest seats in a theater, but this was also often where African Americans were segregated. Because of this, some members of Gen Z are starting to argue for the disuse of the potentially problematic term.

“Turning a Blind Eye”

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While this phrase may initially seem harmless enough, many people are beginning to argue that it trivializes blindness and promotes the use of ableist language. As such, some Gen Zers are suggesting other more neutral terms, such as “ignoring” or “overlooking.”

“That’s So OCD”

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We all know Gen Z is a big proponent of mental health and well-being, and this phrase goes against that philosophy. Many people view calling something or someone “OCD” (who does not actually have the disorder) as offensive and trivializing a very serious and damaging disorder.

“Wife Beater” for a Sleeveless Shirt

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According to the New York Post, Gen Z has had enough of the term “wife beater” to describe sleeveless shirts. The origins of this term are up for debate, but many believe that it stems from a 1947 murder case when a man wearing a sleeveless top was arrested for killing his wife. Many younger people see the phrase as trivializing domestic violence and perpetuating damaging stereotypes.

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