Kennedy: Want to talk to Zoomers? Ask them, ‘What’s your sign?’

Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

Do you have a child or a grandchild who is part of Generation Z (born 1997-2012, according to Pew Research)?

If so, you might reasonably have come to the conclusion that they speak another language -- to the extent they speak at all.

Back in the day, we baby boomers used to talk about the "generation gap" between us and our parents. These days, the generations have more of a communications gap.

Below are some hints on how to converse with the Zoomers in your life. I'm no expert, but I do have two Zoomer sons and I've taught tons of Gen Z-age students as an adjunct college instructor. Along the way I've been taking notes.

Here's what to do to better connect with people in their teens and 20s.

-- Mention astrology.

Boomers, listen up, this is magic. Not since the 1970s have so many conversations between teens and 20-somethings begun with the phrase: What's your sign?

In just the past couple of years I've noticed Zoomers talking about the signs of the zodiac with all the passion of Gen-Xers talking about the Myers-Briggs or Enneagram personality tests. There seems to be an endless human desire to put people into cubbyholes by personality types.

When I asked my college students last week if they are into astrology, their eyes got wide and their hands shot up.

"I'm a Gemini," I said to get the discussion rolling. "It's the sign of the twins. Sometimes I think I have two personalities, half introverted and half extroverted."

"You seem more like a Cancer," said a young woman in the second row, who said she is also a Gemini and definitely not introverted.

When I probed the students about why astrology is on the rise, they said it's a good conversation starter and makes for good social-media content.

So, Boomers, brush up on your star charts and read your grandkids their horoscopes.

-- Beware of punctuation.

One of my friends in the newsroom sent me an interesting article from The Washington Post last month that essentially says Zoomers are nervous about punctuation. The Post story quoted a 23-year-old professional in Chicago who was adjusting to seeing periods in Slack messages and emails.

From the Post article: Once she received a comment from a colleague saying "good job." But the period made her second guess whether she was actually being praised.

"I'm like, 'Is it a good job?'" she said. "It just makes me nervous. I even had to ask, and then I'm like, 'Oh, I'm overthinking it.'"

Further down in the piece, another Zoomer admitted to finding ellipses (three dots) unsettling.

"If anyone ever uses dot, dot, dot, I just think, 'Oh my God, I p----- them off,'" the source told the Post.

So, when you text those grandkids, don't over-punctuate. To this cohort, formal punctuation is jarring and marks you as an oldster.

-- Start swallowing your t's.

This one slays me. (Note, "slays" is a popular word with Zoomers, according to the Post.)

More and more young people are changing the language by swallowing the internal t's in words. For exampled: Button becomes buh'un, and mountain becomes mouw'un.

I have heard a young media member refer to the Tennessee Ty'uns. Just this morning I heard a young weather person on TV say "Day'un, Tennessee."

I'm not sure if this is an affectation meant to signal that "I'm young and hip" or if it's the beginning of some evolutional shift inside the human mouth.

But if you want to connect with your kids, remind them to buh'un up their coats before they head up the mouw'un.

They will know exactly what you mean.

Family Life publishes on Sundays in Life. Email Mark Kennedy at