Photograph by Elijah Nouvelage — Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
June 11, 2015

Taco Bell’s CEO Brian Niccol has dropped a few clues lately that he really gets his millennial customers. Exhibit A: In talking to Fortune about the restaurant’s new experiment with serving alcohol, Niccol said Tuesday that “the twenty-something crowd enjoys a beer with their taco.”

Brian, you literally could not be more correct.

But the taco chain exec wants his understanding of millennials to be — as the kids say — next level.

That’s why the restaurant’s Irvine, Calif., headquarters has a “Millennial Word of the Week.” It serves as a reminder to employees to stay in touch with Taco Bell’s biggest fan base. Niccol told the Associated Press that the words are selected by a group of employees in their 20s, and then sent out in an e-mail once a week. The words are also displayed on screens around the corporate office.

Here are a few of the honorees:

Lit /lit/: The company-wide email said the word is used to describe a certain situation, person, place, or thing as awesome/crazy or just “happening” in general, as in “Taco Bell was so lit last night. I had to wait in line for 15 minutes before I could order.”

Throwing shade /thrō-ing shād/: to talk trash about a friend or acquaintance, to publicly denounce or disrespect.

Dat [blank] doe /dat_doh/: translates to “that [blank] though,” and it’s used to emphasize that something is particularly awesome. It’s often capitalized, as in DAT BURRITO DOE.

Niccol is likely particularly grateful for these explanations. Last year, when speaking to analysts and investors, he said that “on cleek” meant “on point.” He meant to say “on fleek.” So close.

The 41-year-old is still getting up to speed. “Some of these words you see, I don’t even know how you could use that in a sentence,” Niccol told the AP.


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