America's most hated slang words, explained
Bae. Lit. SMH. Love it or hate it, few linguistic topics are as polarizing as slang. Beloved by youth culture and loathed by purists, the more widely used a slang term becomes, the more likely it is to irk the general population. Some phrases are loathed simply from overuse, while others are cringe-inducing by their very nature.
Slang words saunter in and out of fashion. Their general purpose, however, remains the same. According to noted slang scholar Jonathon Green, slang exists to distinguish those in the know from the rest of society: a secret code used to identify insiders. Once a given word enters the general lexicon, it’s almost universally eschewed by the very community that coined it.
Music has always been a rich source for slang terms, with hip-hop in particular offering extremely fertile ground in recent years. Social media also has its own distinctive argot, composed of initializations and acronyms designed for ease of typing or texting. Thanks to the internet, these terms quickly cycle through cyberspace and onto the lips of people around the world.
Market research group OnePoll in 2019 surveyed 2,000 Americans to gauge how slang words are used and regarded. Forty-four percent of those polled expressed concerned about using slang correctly, while 46% use slang terms without fully understanding the current meaning. The data also reveals that most Americans think people older than 43 should refrain from using slang altogether, and 25% believe anyone older than 25 should avoid trendy lingo of any kind. As far as the workplace is concerned, 37% hold a dim view of using slang on the job and more than half echo that sentiment when it comes to interacting with superiors. Almost half of those surveyed thought it was OK to use “lol” when emailing a coworker, however.
Stacker mined data from SWNS Digital regarding OnePoll’s survey (data last updated March 25, 2019) in order to compile this slideshow of the 20 most annoying slang terms for 2019. Words are ordered by their polling rank. Scroll through to see if your pet peeve made the list, and which slang world was inducted into the venerable Oxford English Dictionary.
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An amalgam of true and real, “trill” describes someone who is genuine, down-to-earth, and hardworking. Believed to have originated in the Texas prison system, trill entered the rap lexicon in 2005 when it was featured in rapper Paul Wall’s song “The People’s Champ.” The word has mostly fallen off in recent years.
A modern take on the old phrase “good enough to eat,” “snack” refers to an attractive person, generally by an admirer. Frequently found as part of the larger phrase “lookin’ like a snack,” it made its first documented appearance on Twitter in 2009. Several years later it was absorbed into general parlance, subsequently spawning endless memes.
Blood may be thicker than water, but it doesn’t necessarily make you “fam.” A truncated form of “family,” fam is used to describe a group of close friends. Coined in the U.K., it first gained traction in the U.S. in 2003, with the release of “This Is What I Do” by the New York rap group The Diplomats. The term is still widely used throughout the U.S. and U.K.
#17. Spill the tea/sipping tea
Eager for some hot gossip? You might just be lucky enough to get someone to “spill the tea.” Although the phrase evokes images of Earl Grey or oolong, it actually derives from the letter “T,” used as an abbreviation for “my thing,” or “my T,” in John Berendt's best-selling 1994 novel “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”
“Lit” has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, originating as a synonym for “intoxicated.” In the past decade, however, it has come to mean exciting or excellent, as in “this party is lit.” Thanks to rap artist A$AP Rocky and his 2011 hit song “Get Lit,” the word has come full circle, standing in once again for “inebriated” or “intoxicated.”
“Thirsty” is used to describe one's desperation, most often in a romantic sense. It first emerged in the black community, making its debut on Urban Dictionary in 2003. Soulja Boy introduced the term to a broader audience in 2007 with his hit song “She Thirsty.”
A 1930s jazz standard immortalized by the legendary Louis Armstrong features the memorable lyric, “Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those peepers? Jeepers creepers, where'd ya get those eyes?” In 2014, rapper Drake, guesting on Nicki Minaj’s single “Only,” reinvented the phrase with the line, “I been peeped that you like me.”
#13. Turn up/turnt
Like “lit,” “turn up” and “turnt” refer to either a state of inebriation or excitement. A popular music staple, turnt turns up in both Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and Ciara’s “Super Turnt Up.”
#12. Clap back
“Clap back” is similar in meaning to “comeback,” but with a sharper edge. Ja Rule launched the term into the popular lexicon with his 2003 song, “Clap Back”—a diss track directed toward fellow rappers 50 Cent and Eminem.
A favorite of the tween set, “totes” is a monosyllabic abbreviation of “totally,” a slang term immortalized by Valley Girls in the 1980s. Actor Paul Rudd popularized the phrase “totes McGoats” in the 2009 film “I Love You, Man.”2018 All rights reserved.