Keeping up with youth-speak or slang is a constant challenge for marketers, researchers and parents, alike.
Here's an article which tests your knowledge and provides some helpful definitions afterwards!
How Text Analytics Can Help Marketers Move at the Speed of Slang
It came as no surprise to the author of this, Tom Anderson, that one of OdinText's more popular blog posts of 2016 was a list of the 10 most fashionable slang terms as identified by OdinText.
After all, keeping up with youth-speak or slang is a constant challenge for marketers, researchers and parents, alike.
Here he'll repeat that exercise and offer readers a chance to test their teen-speak proficiency with his second annual list of the top slang terms!
But first, a note of caution for anyone who wants to stay abreast of trends…
The Problem with “Dictionaries”
Tom has noted in previous posts that one of the primary weaknesses of most text analytics software platforms is that they rely on custom, static “dictionaries” to process what is being said.
These dictionaries must be updated manually and cannot identify new slang or other terms as they emerge. So the onus for staying current falls entirely on the researcher. If you fail to identify new terms and update your dictionary, you can quickly miss out on key information, trends and changes taking place in your market.
In contrast, one of the unique benefits of using OdinText is that it can identify and quantify important new terms—acronyms, new product names, technical and scientific jargon, as well as slang and buzzwords—without help from the user and often before these terms appear in sources like the Urban Dictionary or Wikipedia.
The Internet has dramatically increased the speed at which language changes, as well as how quickly those changes spread. In fact, every year hundreds of new slang words and phrases that originated online are added to the terrestrial dictionary.
If you’re using a text analytics platform that relies on a rules-based approach, you’re putting your organization at risk of falling behind because language has become a moving target.
A Quiz: How Out of Touch Am I?
Let’s take a quiz…
Using OdinText, below we’ve compiled a list of the most popular slang terms circulating today, rank-ordered by frequency of mentions.
You’ll note that a number of these terms appeared on last year’s list, but have increased or declined in popularity. (This is useful to know and track for reasons that are hopefully obvious.) Other terms that made last year’s list like “bruh” and “bazinga” didn’t make the cut this year.
In addition, many of these terms have more than one meaning depending on context, and some may even be used differently by different demographic groups or even within the same demographic group.
Lastly, a note about “Trumpisms”…
Last year, the term “Trumped”—a verb closely associated with “schlonged” and whose meaning is too vulgar to explain here—appeared with enough frequency to make our list. This go-around, we decided to exclude it along with a number of other new terms associated with politics (i.e. new words like “Fake News”, “Alt-Right” etc.).
Now, without further ado, here are the top 10 slang terms circulating today!
Without skipping ahead to the definitions, how many do you know?
BONUS QUIZ: Words to Watch
The list above contains slang terms that are already popular and have mainstreamed. But what about those terms that are just starting to bubble up and may be en vogue next year? We’ve included some rising stars here. Do you know what these terms mean?
Like “dab,” “yeet” started as a dance craze on Vine popularized by a 13-year-old named Lil Meatball. The term has since evolved to become something of an exclamation or hoot of excitement, and may be used as a verb meaning to cheer for someone.
This one really took hold over the past few months. Rooted in “family,” “fam” refers to those with whom one shares an extremely close bond, whether by blood relation or just as often not.
Last year it was speculated that “swag” might be on its way out. Boy, this was wrong! “Swag” mentions increased nearly 100% over last year. Derived from “swagger”—the supremely confident style of walking or strutting—“swag” has come to refer generally to an urban style and look associated with Hip-Hop. It could relate to a haircut or shoes, or simply an attitude or presence that exudes confidence and even arrogance. Example video: Soulja Boy Tell’em – Pretty Boy Swag
#7 “Dab” or “Dabbing”
“Dab” is up almost 50% over last year. Originally inspired by a dance move popularized in a 2014 video by Atlanta rapper Skippa da Flippa, “dab” or “dabbing” is often used as a sort of victory swagger (“Keep dabbin’ … let the haters hate … Dab on”). Check out this YouTube clip for more. By the way, “dab” or “dabbing” also refers to a relatively new but increasingly popular form of marijuana consumption.
“Fleek” appears to be falling out of favor. The term, which is most often associated with eyebrows thanks to Kim Kardashian, dropped 14% compared to last year. Still popular among younger women, “fleek” is a synonym for another popular slang phrase, “on point”—basically looking sharp, well-groomed or stylish.
You may have heard that this one was on its way out, but our data shows “Fetch” has actually doubled in popularity since last year. An adjective synonymous with “cool” or “awesome,” “fetch” originated with the cult hit “Mean Girls”. Ironically, in the film the term never catches on despite one character’s dogged attempts to popularize it.
Are you as surprised as we were? Most of us oldies know this one, because it was around as far back as the 60s. In those days, “dope” referred to drugs—particularly marijuana—but it evolved in subsequent decades to also become synonymous with “bad” (i.e., tough, sexy and/or generally cool). The lattermost use—“dope” as in “cool” or worth appreciating—is seeing a resurgence, which may be connected to the recent Hip-Hop nostalgia trend. “Dope” as a term for drugs also withstands, but today it’s used primarily in reference to heroine. [Above trailer from the 2015 Hip Hop nostalgia movie called ‘Dope’]
#3 “One” or “1”
Another holdover from last year’s list, “one” or “1” doesn’t always signify a quantity. It can also mean “One Love” and is used frequently in parting (like “goodbye”). The term increased in popularity 32% over last year.
There is a second meaning and reason however it appears here and there on the internets as a purposeful typo to indicate excitement or just a form of leet speak acknowledging the “!1” Phenomenon
Twice as popular as last year! “Bae” is a pet name for one’s significant other. It may have been derived from “baby” or “babe” (like “B” and “boo,” which also showed up in our analysis) or it could be an acronym for “Before Anyone Else.”
“Lit” is the current “it” word! Since we reported “lit” last year, the term has skyrocketed 700% in popularity! Moreover, our analysis shows it’s evolving, with variations like “litty” cropping up. Lit can refer to being intoxicated (“He’s lit.” “Let’s get lit.”), but the much more frequent use we see is to indicate that something is exciting, cool or worthwhile, as when used in a phrase like “Come on down to the party, it’s lit!”
This one’s a popular meme, but the term’s meaning varies slightly depending on the context. Generally, “shook” refers to a state of fear or of being shocked or stunned. It can also refer to a state of being deeply affected by an experience (implicitly traumatic) or even the way one might be momentarily struck by the beauty of a romantic prospect ala Elvis Presley’s “I’m All Shook Up.”
To succeed, overcome, “kill it” or dominate. It’s not a far cry from the old, “The comedian slayed the audience,” but slay can refer to anything from performance to appearance (especially sexual).
To be completely, totally, thoroughly serious.
In spoken conversation, this can sometimes be the lazier cousin of “sup” (“What’s up?”), but what we’re referring to here is actually akin to the slang term “sister” (meaning my female comrade, not my actual sibling).
Another word for “lit.”
Don’t Let Words Fail You!
We hope you had some fun with this quiz and maybe picked up some new vocabulary, but would like to emphasize that slang isn’t the only terminology that changes.
Keeping on top of new market entrants, drug names, etc., is important. If you don’t have a technology solution like OdinText that can identify new terms with implications for your business or category, make sure that you at least set up a manual process to regularly check for them.
Until next time, one!
Ps. See firsthand how OdinText can help you learn what really matters to your customers and predict real behavior. Contact us for a demo using your own data here!
About Tom H. C. Anderson
Tom H. C. Anderson is the founder and managing partner of OdinText, a venture-backed firm based in Stamford, CT whose eponymous, patented SAS platform is used by Fortune 500 companies like Disney, Coca-Cola and Shell Oil to mine insights from complex, unstructured and mixed data.