Here and There: Navigating Slang in the Age of Abbreviations

You down to get turnt tonight?

My first week of college, phrases like “Is everyone down to get hella turnt tonight?” and “I’m so up for that” were among the first paradoxes I overheard. It was my first day on campus, and I didn't want to sound confused so I followed with a “Yeah, totally,” not knowing what I’d signed up for.

That night was “dope.”

All of these new terms prompted me to think critically about slang in India. Yes, in India we don’t speak Hindi, but English. During a conversation with one of my friends at CMC, I told them about the “neg” (it means anything remotely negative) that I had after I attended an 8 a.m. class, and he looked at me as though I was crazy. The words of your home end up slipping into your language in a way that is stronger than any accent.

I spent my first few days of college hearing people tell me, “Your friend is such a baddie.” Am I hanging with the wrong crowd? I thought. Thinking about the next four years left me majorly confused, because nobody wants “baddie” friends until you know that it actually means hot.

The awkward encounters continued when I heard, “The dinner at Scripps is sick today!” I interpreted this negatively, thinking that Scripps would make me physically sick. In turn, I ate at Collins more than I did at Scripps. So, positives and negatives mean nothing in slang? A negative word can actually be a compliment? Eventually, some of the words started to make sense and I almost stopped wishing for a College 101 class.

Where do these words and phrases come from?

“They just popped up,” Felipe Sant’Anna CM ’19 said. “[The word 'fleek'] came from a YouTube video of a girl talking about her eyebrows.” 

Have you ended up using such words with your clueless mom, only to receive a confused smile? Slang can be so obscure that even other Americans don’t understand it.

“It’s hard to explain American slang to someone who doesn’t know it,” Camerin Barney CM ’19 said.

Not only is there American slang, but there is slang from either coast and from every state.

“My sister calls her steak 'prime'—like optimum,” Barney said.

Prior to college, I understood that slang varied coast to coast, but this didn't hit home until I was sent a comprehensive list of New York slang. Of the 22 terms, I knew none. Not one.  

Still, these new words and phrases are slowly becoming part of my set vocabulary, and this makes me feel more at home than anything else could. While slang might be odd and funny to think about because the words make no sense grammatically, it also helps communicate emotion much more easily.  

For those of you who are also navigating, here is a cheatsheet: 

(This list is only tentative. My Urban Dictionary skills are a work in progress…)

“I'm up” … all night?

“I'm down” … wait, but weren't you just up?

“Sick” … do you need a tissue?

“Bae” … the preferred S.O. term and acronym of our generation.

“Sus” … an abbreviation of suspicious, apparently.

“Y'all” … Southern.

“Thot” … that hoe over there, often displayed in plural form: thotties

“Salty” … versus sweet—a narrative of emotions based on tastebuds.

“Raw” … can we cook that broccoli in the CMC dining hall?

“Thirsty” … has nothing to do with acquiring a drink.

“Fuckboi” … this may shock you, but this term is universal. (Yes, “fuckboiz” are everywhere.)

“Loud” … I can’t hear you through the smoke.

“Turn up” … it’s been 99 degrees this week, let's not.

“Action” … this is also used in India, let that sink in.

“Sloppy” … finally, a word that fits the description of thotties at TNC.

“Smoking grass” … #droughtawareness

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