The digital-communications maven Arik Hanson recently posted on his blog a list of what he called “terms we obvi need to totes elims from our lexi forevs.” It was basically a diatribe against some slang, abbreviations, and acronyms he feels are “totes” overused on Facebook, Twitter, texts, and e-mail.
I found I was familiar with some of the terms (including maven) but not others, and in a flash of inspiration I sent the list to my daughters, Elizabeth Yagoda, a first-year graduate student, and Maria Yagoda, a college senior, so as to hear from “the young people” (as Ed Sullivan might have put it). Here’s a selection of some of Hanson’s bad boys, with comments from Elizabeth and Maria. (Elizabeth is still on break, so she has more time on her hands. Note also that Maria’s comments do not end in punctuation. She has expressed to me that ending an online sentence with a period—as opposed to one or more exclamation points or question marks, or nothing—makes you appear ironic.)
MY: Totes is sort of going out of fashion, but is still a thing
EY: Frequently used (at least at Vassar) in the expression totes cray-cray meaning totally crazy.
MY: People also say jel, or jeal, probably now more that than jelly
EY: To me, jelly connotes the Beyonce song “Bootylicious” ["I don't think you ready for this jelly/I don't think you ready for this jelly/I don't think you ready for this jelly/Is my body too bootylicious for ya babe?"—BY], but I don’t think it’s used to mean jealous in that example. My internet research sent me to Know Your Meme, which explains that it’s often used by internet trolls, especially in the phrase u jelly?
MY: Obv is now a thing, with no “i”; or obvz
EY: Vacay is part of the abbreviation thing, but Staycay is more part of the trend of modifying words/creating single-use neologisms to indicate something for a New York Times trend piece (see mancession, manorexic and tanorexic).
BY: Not to mention flexitarian, metrosexual and bromance!
MY: Adorbs is very popular and very rarely written with the “z” unless someone is trying to be funny/ironic
Noms and all variations, including nom noms and nomming
MY: Noms means snacks. Example: “im going to go get some noms.” Or can be a “im nomming right now”
EY: Definitely from lolcats. Can be applied to cute animals—that they are so cute, you want to eat them.
MY: Haven’t heard this one in a while
EY: I’ve used -sauce for many things, mainly lamesauce. Awesomesauce was featured on an episode of Parks and Recreation. Here’s the relevant dialogue:
April: I love you.
Andy: Dude, shut up! That is awesome sauce!
MY: Nope no one no one no one says this
EY: I actually remember hearing this word on an episode of Chip and Dale: Rescue Rangers.
BY: And I actually remember my mother saying it circa 1962. I believe Peter DeVries also has a suburban matron in one of his novels of the same period use it, in order to mock her.
EY: Means angry. Can be specific (“Ugh. This paper is making me so stabby”) or free-floating (“I’m so stabby today”). Is used as a topic trend on Jezebel for both forms.
Elizabeth observes, more generally,
Honestly, I feel like young people have always used slang words that “the olds” don’t really get and feel are a bastardization of the language. Would the tone of this list be any different if it was written in the 1960s about young people saying chick, bummed out, groovy or “cool?” Or in the 1920s?
Her point is well taken, but I feel there’s more going on here. Arik Hanson’s LinkedIn profile says he graduated from Winona State University in 1996, which puts him just a bit shy of 40 years old; and he makes it clear that he encounters these terms not when trolling teenagers’ texts, but in the communications of his fellow public-relations professionals. Thus it seems that significant numbers of older folks are embracing a whole bunch of childish lingo.
Its popularity is definitely not only, or even mainly, a matter of time-saving efficiency. As Hanson points out (contrasting adorable with adorbs), “It’s three more letters people. Really? REALLY?” For realz and amazeballs actually add letters to the “straight” term, for that matter. Nom nom, vacay, coinkydink: What all this is, let’s face it, is babytalk.
This doesn’t represent a threat to the republic, or even to the integrity of the language. But it’s kind of weird. For realz.