It's an annual tradition here at HuffPost Canada to round up the hottest slang terms making waves on the internet.
This year, after some in-office discussion about where so many of these terms come from, we're doing things a bit differently and sharing some context about origin and usage. There's a reason there was a backlash when the Monterey Bay Aquarium recently called one of its sea otters "thicc," and it wasn't because Twitter was angry about the animal being fat-shamed.
In particular, several terms referenced originated from African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and specifically reference Black women's bodies. Using them in a sea otter meme without that background makes insinuations we never intended. We need to do better. 3/4— Monterey Bay Aquarium (@MontereyAq) December 19, 2018
Many of the words and phrases that blew up on social media this year come from Black Twitter, American black culture and African-American Vernacular English (AAVE). So, is it appropriate to use these words if you're not black?
The issue of co-opting black slang words taps into the bigger problem of cultural appropriation.
What is AAVE?
AAVE is a dialect of English spoken by many African Americans and some black Canadians. It has its own grammatical structures, vocabulary, and accents, which makes it just as valid a variant of English as British English.
Black people are still the targets of systemic racism in North America and around the world. Simply being identified as black can negatively affect access to employment, housing, health care, education, and fair treatment by law enforcement.
Watch: "The Daily Show" correspondent, Dulce Sloan on cultural appropriation and being black in America. Story continues below.
When black people use AAVE or another dialect like Jamaican or Trinidadian patois, they can be penalized for it in many situations, and seen as uneducated or illiterate.
The continued systemic oppression of black people is why the blending of black slang into mainstream language is seen as appropriation and exploitation, rather than appreciation and shared cultural mixing. Where it's risky for black people to use their own dialect, non-black people can pick and choose terms and use them to sound "cool."
"Appropriation occurs when there's a power difference, and the source of the lexical item is stigmatized, persecuted, or otherwise 'lower' class," social scientist Taylor Jones explained on his blog. It's different from linguistic borrowing, which is when "one language [or dialect] acquires a word or phrases from another."
Pancakes on fleek.— IHOP (@IHOP) October 21, 2014
Before words like 'bae' and 'on fleek' go viral on social media and are adopted by the non-black masses, they're considered improper, and the black people who coined the terms and use them in everyday ways lose out on opportunities because of how they're perceived.
Yet, companies constantly profit off of black slang after these words hit the mainstream, and black people rarely ever get credit for it. Take the case of Peaches Monroee, aka Kayla Lewis, who coined 'on fleek' in a Vine video when she was 16.
She's now hoping to trademark the term, but this all comes after companies have used the expression to sell tacos and t-shirts.
"Back in 2014 I came up with the phrase/word 'Eyebrows on Fleek' on a 6 sec video on a app called VINE ... Everyone has used the phrase/word but I haven't received any money behind it or recognition," she wrote in the description of a 2017 GoFundMe she'd started for her upcoming cosmetics line.
The mainstream's dismissal of the validity of AAVE and black dialects can have serious consequences.
Black people who don't want to appear "uneducated" may have to resort to code-switching — a practice where they switch back and forth from AAVE to "standard English," depending on the situation they're in, as seen in the 2018 movie "Sorry To Bother You."
Watch: "Sorry To Bother You" trailer. Story continues below.
A 2001 study found that landlords were more likely to call back white people inquiring about apartments. Black people were also less likely to be told a unit was available, and more likely to be asked for credit checks, according to Business Insider. But, black people who code-switched had better response rates than ones who didn't.
The mainstream group gets to control the word
Once the mainstream has seized a "trendy" term, people use it for as long as they think it's interesting, and then dictate when it's "over." People who continue to use it — mainly those same black people who have always used it — are still punished for using their own dialect.
"Language appropriation is further problematic because it gives dominant groups control over the language. Dominant groups get to decide, for example, when and if certain words are worth appropriation, when and how the words should be used, and then when the word becomes cliché, overused and therefore passé," communications professor Robin Boylorn also explained in an opinion piece for the Guardian.
"Every year new slang from Black culture is beat into the ground by people who just catch wind of it, without any knowledge or care of its origin. RIP Turnt and Bye Felicia," writer and comedian Luna Malbroux shared in a blog.
Dominant groups get to decide, for example, when and if certain words are worth appropriation, when and how the words should be used, and then when the word becomes cliché, overused and therefore passé.Robin Boylorn, communications professor
But some words are so ubiquitous in current North American English, that it's hard to remember they were ever AAVE at all. Terms like "cool," "my bad," "hater," "24/7," "back in the day," "high-five," "lame" and "rip off" are only a few that started out in black communities but are now used everywhere and by everyone, according to Vox.
Everyone, including Black people, is erroneously taught that Black genius is more or less, public property with no clear 'ownership.'Chaédria LaBouvier
This is linked to the history of slavery in the U.S. The most accepted theory is that slaves combined their native languages with English, or invented new words entirely. White people would then hear slaves use the terms, and would start to use them too, which led to these words becoming popularized. Even after slavery ended, this pattern continued, according to Margaret Lee, a linguist and author who spoke to Vox.
Questions to ask yourself
Why do people feel so entitled to black culture in particular, and more so than any other culture that also exists in the greater fabric of North America at large? The most prevalent theory is that black culture is so integral to pop culture in general that it has become synonymous with it.
"Everyone, including Black people, is erroneously taught that Black genius is more or less, public property with no clear 'ownership.' They're taught that it's morally acceptable for pretty much everyone to consume Black culture, with little regard or examination of one's own anti-Blackness," Chaédria LaBouvier wrote in an opinion piece for Vice's Motherboard.
Malbroux has four questions she suggests non-black people ask themselves before using words that have their origins in black culture:
Is it being commercialized for financial gain?
Is the usage performative or tokenizing?
Are you in proximity to the culture that originated the terms?
Are you using the language to "level up" or earn yourself "street cred"?
When in doubt, give it a pass. There are no hard and fast rules, as she says, but it's important to reflect on your usage and authenticity, to acknowledge where language comes from, and to be aware of the current vocabulary. So, we've included a list of popular terms from this year and their usage.
And if you decide you'd rather not toe the line on the latest terms, a helpful Facebook group compiled a document of non-appropriative substitutes for many of the words on this list (just switch the Google Doc from "suggesting" mode to "viewing" mode in the upper right hand corner to see the document properly).
2018's slang words:
An adjective that can be used when something is good, great, and fresh.
Example: I'm feeling gucci.
school is cancelled. feeling gucci— Hannah 🎄 (@i8pichu) December 9, 2018
As a verb, it essentially means to throw, and likely originated from this Vine video.
Example: Just yeet that into the trash.
Yeet has a second usage as an exclamation that can be found both on social media and in the basketball world ... but is also a dance move. You yeet in celebration, either vocally or physically.
Example: The Raptors won. Yeet!
i resisted the urge to yeet myself into the sun in 2018 so who's the real winner here pic.twitter.com/Q7z2ww9rwA— lena (@marveIfiIms) December 30, 2018
OTP is an acronym for 'one true pairing' aka the people that you 'ship' the most. Ship is short for 'relationship' and is basically a verb for wanting two people, either fictional or real, to be together.
Example: John Legend and Chrissy Teigen are my OTP, I ship them so hard.
Still can't believe that one of my OTP's actually got married irl! 🥰 pic.twitter.com/STC9nKO43d— aqeelah. (@aqeelahrhoda18) December 30, 2018
Bless up has two uses, one as a greeting, and another as a sort of thank you and show of appreciation and gratefulness for the people in your life.
Example: "I finished the project for you." "Bless up."
josh dun is wearing pink again bless up 💗💗 pic.twitter.com/JGsLAHTWBH— teeges •ғ̶ᴘ̶ᴇ̶• 182 (@TeegesMagee) December 29, 2018
A positive adjective for someone (usually a woman) who is full-figured, and usually has a big butt and curvy waist. It's been around for decades but seemed to find its footing in the mainstream after fans noticed a change in Rihanna's body shape last year. Shortly after, it was used as part of a meme to describe anyone from Mr. Krabs to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Rihanna talked about the pros and cons of being thicc in an interview with Vogue.
Example: Rihanna is looking thicc in that dress.
"You're a thicc one, Mr. Grinch. You reeeally are a snack.." pic.twitter.com/L8x0DAnIBI— Android 21 Savage (@InFeRn0AnT) December 24, 2018
"Wig snatched" and all variations including "wig flew," "weave snatched" and just plain "wig!" originated from the black LGBTQ community as a form of praise and endearment. The phrase has slowly trickled into online fandoms and become part of stan culture as we know it, and now fans everywhere type out "wig" when their favourite celebrities do anything remotely noteworthy, so that their proverbial headpiece flies off ... even if they don't wear wigs or weaves in real life.
Example: Ariana Grande posts a new song. "Wig!" types a fan in a YouTube comment.
MY WIG?? SNATCHED pic.twitter.com/PIJOVIGSaL— best of deanoru (@badpostdeanoru) December 20, 2018
An AAVE term for "awake." This word has gained traction in the past couple of years as a term for people who are socially aware and fight for social justice and causes.
Example: "Colin Kaepernick is woke."
As the federal election campaigning approaches, I urge racialized communities to stay "woke." Just because candidates show up to your community events doesn't mean their work is in your favour. Do your research.— Haneen Al-Hassoun (@haneenalhassoun) December 30, 2018
An acronym, stands for Greatest Of All Time, usually used to refer to athletes but anyone iconic can be the GOAT.
Example: "Beyonce is the GOAT." "Serena Williams is the GOAT."
An exclamation used when something is amusing. Literally implies you're laughing so hard you feel weak.
Example: "Did you see that video of the dog falling off the bed? I'm weak!"
y'all actually have finstas? i'm weak— 𝔇𝔬𝔩𝔠𝔢 (@ihtsmaryjane) December 30, 2018
A descriptor for a person who is over the top or trying too hard, being extra is not usually a positive.
Example: "Regina George's mom is so extra."
This lad was so extra pic.twitter.com/FZEhNh4vNm— fazlina (@eneffzee) December 30, 2018
"Mood" is a response to something someone else says/posts/does that is extremely relatable to you. Similar to replying with "same," "me too" or even just "relatable" Something that is even more relatable than the usual fare can be described as a "big mood." "Mood" can also be used as a response to a statement you agree with.
Example: "I feel like a dumpster fire today." In response: "Wow, mood."
Big mood pic.twitter.com/Maj8JpPqlV— AmBuLaNcE dRiVeR (@EMTShibe) December 30, 2018
Literally rest in peace, used when anything negative or unfortunate is occurring, or plans are falling through.
Example: "I stubbed my toe. Rip."
Example: "I have to cancel on our plans, family is coming over." "Damn, rip."
@ me next time/ don't @ me
Originated on Twitter in response to someone posting a vague tweet that was probably about you, you'd tell them to use the @ feature to tag you next time. This has now become a response to any vaguely relatable post on social media. You can ask not to be @-ed when you're posting something you don't want to be called out on.
Example: "Don't @ me, but Prince William is hotter than Prince Harry."
If someone could @me next time I'm being a dumb bitch that would be fabulous luv ya— maddy hoema (@duwurasbitch) December 28, 2018
Something that's great/beautiful/positive on social media is blessed. On the flip side, anything gross/unsettling/strange is cursed.
Example: "That picture of the baby cuddling the dog is blessed."
Example: "That painting is cursed, I'm so creeped out."
Complaining about something with a lot of passion. "Go off, I guess" is a response to someone ranting about something you think is seemingly insignificant or untrue.
Example: "He's gonna go off when he realizes she's cheating on him."
Example: "That's not what I said but go off, I guess."
weed is an addiction. some of y'all are legit crackheads. anything to get high. but y'all cool so go off I guess.— X Pac (@TYTHEACTIVIST) December 29, 2018
Feeling petty, bitter, annoyed and/or angry towards someone/something.
Example: "She's feeling salty because she humiliated herself in front of the whole class."
Some people that I used to know (Exes) are so salty that I have another child. Like I was going to take them back or something. pic.twitter.com/l8d9RHPiyZ— Mom. 2 Boys! 😍 (@Chef_Lelo) December 29, 2018
The "on fleek" of 2018. If someone looks good, you say they look snatched.
Example: "Damn, her eyebrows look snatched."
SIS YOURE LOOKING SNATCHED, I hope you had a good bday!!🥰— ѕαrα (@missarasofia) December 30, 2018
Anything that is beyond great. Something that is fire is good, straight fire is beyond that.
Example: "That outfit is straight fire."
Manchester has been straight fire the past 3 games oh my— No_L's (@no_Lmuniz) December 30, 2018
Exactly what it sounds like: having the characteristics that will turn this person/thing into an icon. Stan Twitter likes to use it in reference to anything their favourites do.
Example: "Beyonce's outfit was iconic."
bringing these pictures of jensen back because they're iconic pic.twitter.com/Wrbz9QVc0g— megan (@marvelsziams) December 30, 2018
The acronym stands for Big Dick Energy. It originated in a Tweet from Toronto writer Kyrell Grant after the death of culinary legend Anthony Bourdain, and has now spawned a phenomenon that won't seem to subside. Everyone on the internet is arguing about who has BDE. BDE isn't about the size of actual genitalia, but is more about attitude, or an aura of easy self-confidence that doesn't cross the line into arrogance. Anyone can have BDE.
Example: "Beyonce has BDE."
One of my New Years resolutions is to give off more BDE and also more HGE (horse girl energy)— Adam Rippon (@Adaripp) December 29, 2018
The act of tying down a significant other. Cuffing season is in the winter, where most people are locking down people to keep them warm.
Example: "He's so hot, but I think she already cuffed him."
its almost cuffing season bitches who tryna get w me and then stop talking to each other like 2 months after 😍😍😍😍— sYUHRAH (@SYUHR6H) December 30, 2018
When someone looks beat for the gods, or has their face beat, it basically means they have applied so much makeup (in a good way) that they've gone from ordinary to out-of-this-world stunning.
Example: "Dress on, face beat, I'm ready for this party."
Hair is a mess but my face is beat pic.twitter.com/5Qb5kUCFos— strega nona (@mootmagoo) December 29, 2018
Had me rolling
A response to something that is so funny/amusing that you're metaphorically rolling on the floor with laughter.
Example: "That tweet had me rolling."
I mean I haven't followed the comics but damn it was amazing. The post credits scene had me rolling.— Keenan Pacut (@kjpacut) December 30, 2018
Take an L
The L stands for loss — taking an L just means to accept your fate and take the loss that's been handed to you by life, whether it be failing a test, getting rejected by a romantic interest, or just plain old losing a game. Can also be used to goad your opponents if you're trying to psych them out before a situation where one of you will be winning and one of you will be losing.
Example: "Take the L, bro, she's not into you."
Being in love with someone who don't give a fuck about you is the biggest L you can take.— Die$elGotem (@Macailaaaa) December 29, 2018
Secure the bag
An expression used when someone is taking full advantage of a situation and extracting as much value out of it as they can, originally started out as encouragement to go get and lock down money.
Example: "Ladies, it's time to secure the bag by investing in bitcoin."
Me: Money isn't everything.— zellie (@zellieimani) December 24, 2018
Also me: Secure the bag
Thanks, I hate it
Slang that originated somewhere in the internet, possibly on Tumblr, that is used in response to a post or image that is unsettling, disturbing, or gross in some way but interesting enough that there's some value in sharing it. Media critic Lindsay Ellis used it to popular effect in her review of the live-action remake of "Beauty And The Beast."
Example: Someone posts a picture of a fully peeled lemon. "Thanks, I hate it," someone adds when they share the photo.
wow thanks zenni i hate it pic.twitter.com/lp7N1IVeaD— ⛄filthy ness main🎄 (@hann0rz) December 30, 2018