The 2010s: Slang That Stuck

Dec 29, 2019
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The 2010s gave us a lot of things to talk about and a lot of fresh ways to talk about them.

KIERAN DAHL: I know the term GOAT - it means greatest of all time. I just saw "Uncut Gems," the movie with Adam Sandler. And I think it might be the GOAT.

NIKKI SHEARS: FOMO - oh, fear of missing out.

KARA POWELL: Lit. I have described celebratory situations as lit. Like hey, you know, the fact that there's no traffic - that's lit.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We roped in listeners Kara Powell, Nikki Shears, and Kieran Dahl for those examples. There was also binge-watching, buzz-worthy, mansplain and the one that Kieran thinks might define the decade, adulting.

DAHL: Adulting, to sort of do basic things associated with adulthood that have kind of a self-congratulatory slant - paying your bills on time and cleaning your apartment and doing your laundry. That's a big adulting day.

EMILY BREWSTER: Oh, I don't think we can talk about the words of this decade without talking about the word woke.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Emily Brewster, senior editor at Merriam-Webster.

BREWSTER: That word is defined as, aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially issues of racial and social justice.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Woke became widely used in 2014, after the shooting of Michael Brown and the rise of Black Lives Matter. But woke dates back to the 1970s, actually. In fact, much of this decade's most popular slang started before 2010.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: I guess the bromance is over.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bromance, a platonic yet intense relationship between two men. Bromance was coined in the 1990s.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: I've used clapback sparingly. You respond pretty rapid fire to a perceived threat.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Clapback, as a verb, started in the 1990s, too, as a noun, the 2000s. And then there's this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE")

LATRICE ROYALE: The ultimate shade of it all.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shade, as in throwing shade. Shade is a subtle sneering insult or expression of contempt. This decade it was everywhere.

E PATRICK JOHNSON: Oh, my goodness. I can't believe shade is now on CNN.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's E. Patrick Johnson, a professor of African American studies at Northwestern University. Here's why he thinks shade took off.

JOHNSON: A term like shade is really crafty. When you think of standing in shade, meaning you get a cool breeze. Or you're being shadowed. It's a really wonderful turn of phrase.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Shade and tea, as in to spill the tea or to gossip, are from the 1980s. They came from black gay culture, then sashayed to the masses this decade thanks to the popularity of RuPaul's Drag Race.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "RUPAUL'S DRAG RACE")

RUPAUL: (Singing) May the best woman, best woman win.

THE VIXEN: Gay is, you know, in.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's the drag queen known as The Vixen from season 10. She says another thing that was heard everywhere this decade - girl. But watch out how you say it.

THE VIXEN: Just with the inflection, it can say so many things. Something good can be girl. And something bad can be girl.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Now, slang in the 2010s flourished and spread quickly, driven on social media by, of course, young people and created for fast thumbs - TLDR, too long didn't read, ICYMI, in case you missed it, fam for family. Now, predicting what expressions would take off and stick in the next decade - that is a tricky business. Remember on fleek and YOLO? Both hot for a moment and then not? Emily Brewster of Merriam-Webster says one word does have potential.

BREWSTER: Yeet, Y-E-E-T.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Go ahead, ask a 10-year-old. They'll know it. Yeet bubbled up a few years ago after a Vine video starring a dancing teenager from Dallas, Lil Meatball.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: ...Yeet. Ya, ya, ya, ya, yeet. Ya...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeet seems to be very flexible. Some people use it as a verb for the purpose of throwing something over a long distance. I yeeted that ball. It can also take the place of yes. You want a mimosa? Yeet. And it's also an interjection. You use it when you're excited, like Tuesday night at midnight, when 2019 rolls finally into 2020. Yeet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.