February 22, 2024

Gen Z v Millennials: The Gen Z words you probably don’t know. Video / NZ Herald


Sorry Millennials, you’re not cool any more.

BC (Before Covid), the NZ Herald ran the upbeat game show Who Wants to Be a Millennial? in which the Herald’s resident Boomer tried to guess the meaning of Millennial slang words.

But in 2022, it’s not about Boomers versus Millennials any more – it’s the Millennials who are being left confused when Gen Zs returned to the office and started signing off their emails with phrases like “main character energy”.

So say hello to the new and improved NZ Herald Lifestyle game show: Millennials Aren’t Cool Any More. Before you Millennials throw your Country Road mugs and avo toast to the ground in outrage, our Millennial editor already vetoed that name.


Enter the Millennial Vibe Check, where millennials try to guess Gen Z words – and Gen Z learn a few lessons of their own.

Here, the Herald’s certified Gen Zs, Bethany Reitsma and Lillie Rohan, give their Millennial coworkers, Lifestyle and Entertainment editor Jenni Mortimer and Front Page podcast host Damien Venuto, the ultimate vibe check.

Watch the video above to see how they did – and put yourself to the test at the same time.


What the Millennials said: Jenni: “a simpleton?” Close, but no.

What it means: A simp is someone who does way too much for the person they like without getting anything back. And while there’s nothing wrong with going above and beyond for the one you love, someone who is a simp gives off huge Debby desperate vibes. If she stops replying, just focus on yourself bro.

Vibe check

What the Millennials said: At first Jenni said this phrase gave “instant sex vibes”. But then Damien hit the nail on the head, guessing it meant checking out the vibe of a room.

What it means: Exactly – it’s like when you go back to the stale, musty office for the first time and you don’t like the vibe. It did not pass the vibe check.

Pick me girl/boy

What the Millennials said: Jenni and Damien weren’t far off the mark with this one, not to be confused with main character energy.

What it means: She’s not like other girls, he’s not like other boys. A pick me is someone who tries so hard to be different from everyone else that they get what they tried to avoid so hard in the first place, their own stereotype.

Short king

What the Millennials said: Damien: “A man who’s short but attractive”. Lillie: “Damien, are you telling us you’re a short king?”

What it means: He’s right – a short king is a man who doesn’t need to be tall to have confidence. Think Tom Holland standing next to Zendaya, or Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas. Men, it’s finally time to embrace the 5’9. But remember, you don’t have to date a tall queen to be a short king.

Tom Holland and Zendaya, a tall queen and her short king. Photo / Getty Images
Tom Holland and Zendaya, a tall queen and her short king. Photo / Getty Images


What the Millennials said: Damien said a glow up must be something to do with “a lot of glitter”. For Jenni, it was giving post-lockdown makeover.

What it means: She wasn’t wrong. A glow-up is the ultimate transformation, whether you’re changing up your style, adopting a new attitude, or taking care of yourself. It’s growing up into the best version of yourself.

Main character energy

What the Millennials said: Both Jenni and Damien thought this phrase referred to someone who’s always trying to one-up everyone, or as Jenni said, “They’re always the bride and never the bridesmaid.”

What it means: But as Beth explained, “it’s more like when you’re on the bus and it’s raining and you’re having a moment like you’re the main character in a music video”. Who hasn’t had a main character moment?


What the Millennials said: Jenni revealed she’s felt the ick before, but could never put it into words. Well, now she can.

What it means: The ick is a sudden and unstoppable feeling of instantly being put off by someone. The ick has no rhyme and reason. It could be the way they chew their food, push a pull door, or confidently sing the wrong lyrics to a song, but once you get the ick there’s no going back.



What the Millennials said: There’s nothing Millennials love more than a nice cuppa tea – and it served them well when it came to guessing the meaning of this word. Jenni was on the money with this one.

What it means: Spilling the tea means sharing the goss. Full points for Team Millennial.