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Bye Felicia — It’s Not Your Slang Anymore

(Graphic by Helen Jane Hearn/TueNight)

“Terry Gross is bae.”

“Trey Gowdy’s contour game is on fleek.”

Those are two bits of slang I read on social media this week. If you can’t tell, the sentences in which the slang words appear are somewhat dubious.

Supposedly, one would do best to use slang words as an instrument, not as a crutch.

[pullquote]Slang is the new hip-hop now that hip-hop truly belongs to everyone.[/pullquote]

Slang dropping is not like name dropping. Name dropping is: “I was talking about trans-racial adoption with Angelina and Brad the other day…” Slang-dropping is: “I swear, one of my coworkers thinks she’s slaying the email game. But if she ends one more message with ‘Make sense?’ acting like she’s the only one who has a clue, I’m gonna write back, ‘Bye, Felicia.’ I try to be cooperative, but I’m low-key losing all my chill. I am not the one to communicate with like I’m a three-year-old up in these internet streets.”

Who knows when or why some words cross over and become slang-stream (slang mainstream), like:

Bling: (noun) All the bling on your fingers and around your neck. Jewelry, diamonds, etc.

Rock: (verb) To wear. As in “I think I’m going to rock my LBD at the cocktail party tomorrow night.”

Work: (verb) Do the damn thing. As in “Work it, girl”

Sup: (interjection) Short for “What’s up?”

But you know all those definitions, right? Because slang has truly crossed over when it no longer needs an explanation.

The genius of the writer Zora Neale Hurston was her ability to capture Black Talk, the language, pronunciation, inflection and rhythm of Black folks speaking. In my opinion, the popular blogger Luvvie Ajayi is the new Hurston. When I want to know when new slang happens, I check her Facebook page.

Luvvie reports slang just as it has struck gold. But if you want to hear slang right before the rest of the country catches on, then watch Wendy Williams (by the time it gets to Wendy, the word is near common knowledge to everyone except women over the age of 40).

The popular blogger Luvvie Ajayi is the new Hurston. When I want to know when new slang happens, I check her Facebook page.

Slang is the new hip-hop now that hip-hop truly belongs to everyone. You know that song by The Weeknd about “I can’t feel my face when I’m with you”? Well, I first heard it when my friend Tara, who is a white 37-year-old mom of two, played it on the jukebox at a local bar. Slang doesn’t belong to the conventionally hip any more than Jay-Z belongs to Brooklyn.

I’ve always treasured my ability to work a room no matter who was standing in it. It’s a skill that my parents knowingly cultivated. Speaking well. Speaking so that people can understand you. So taking on too much slang has never been my thing. I love slang. I love the way it bends language. I love Black Girl Talk (whatever that means) and White Girl Talk (whatever that means.)

Why do some slang words cross color lines and others don’t? I think that’s an unanswerable question. Don’t get me started about “slay” and “twerk” and the newfangled Black vernacular.

The two white guys behind me just said “stunnuh” (as in stunner.)

A 30-year-old white folk singer who I met the other day peppered an anecdote with “Bye, Felicia,” a phrase often used by Cookie on Fox’s Empire, and originally uttered by Ice Cube in the movie Friday, which came out all the way back in 1995.

I was thinking about starting “The Slang Project” to create my own slang. I posted an announcement about it on Facebook. Then six hours later, I called the project quits. Why? I was skimming an article so quickly that I misread the word “hunger” for “hanger.” Then I was like, “Hanger! That’s genius. So hungry you’re angry.” Like any good reporter, I Googled the word just to make sure it hadn’t yet taken off. Well, of course, it had. There were memes. There were scientific studies. “Hanger” was everywhere.

I give up, I thought. Slang is not bae. Slang has no chill. When I see slang, I’m like, “Bye, Felicia.” Because I don’t rock with slang like that.

Word.

Filed under: Culture

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Penny Wrenn

Penny Wrenn is a Harlem-based writer who was raised in Lancaster, PA. (Right? Can't you just see the From Amish Country to the Apollo memoir now?) Penny's work has appeared in Esquire; Essence; Glamour; Marie Claire; O, The Oprah Magazine and Redbook, among other publications. She writes a weekly (or twice weekly or, sometimes, thrice weekly column, "Penny For Your Thoughts" for MadameNoire). And, by the way, she doesn't usually use the word "thrice" in conversation.

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