How Your Customers Speak - OdinText Indexes Top Slang and Buzz Words for 2018
Understanding how your key customer demographic communicates about your category, and your product is key in learning how to communicate with them most effectively.
One of the posts I’ve come to enjoy most, yet also the most difficult to write, is our annual list of Slang words. OdinText has been indexing unusual/new/slang termsnow for three years, and so we have a good understanding of not just which slang and buzz words are most popular, but also how terms are moving up or down in popularity.
The interesting thing about all trends including buzz words and especially slang is change. Just because you think you know what one word means today, doesn’t mean that same word won’t have a completely different meaning tomorrow. For this reason, even trusted sources such as Urban Dictionary can fail you, because they list the most popular definition first, not the most recent ones. To understand slang you really have to understand movement. If a slang word has been in decline for a while, and picks up in usage, it may well be that there’s a new meaning for it.
Understanding what a new slang word means is often more difficult than it sounds. Context in any comment is often not enough, and various comments may use same term very differently. Neither is relying on any one source such as Urban Dictionary sufficient, far from it we’ve found. An approach of triangulating on the most current definition by considering multiple sources including online videos/song lyrics, internet meme’s, social media comments and, considering date of each are often the best way to arrive at a more current definition. Often it’s the success of a certain artist and how they use the word which propels it. If you default to looking something up in Urban Dictionary, know that the #1 ranked most popular definition may well be quite dated and incorrect.
ABOUT THE INDEX: We define our slang/buzz word index as terms or phrases that have entered public awarenesss, usually not at the general population level, but often, though not always in important youth or online subgroups. These terms occur in social and mainstream media, are often used by artists, youth and sometimes in digital speak. This year we have started allowing a few more general and political terms into the index. You can think of the terms in the index as terms that are some of the most dynamic in either proportion of use/awareness, and also sometimes in the way they are defined, as many of these have multiple meanings and are in a state of ongoing flux. The majority of the words in our index can be classified as slang.
Dog. As with most slang has multiple meanings, some of the more well known are “A man who can’t commit to one woman”, “a close buddy”, and to “fornicate” among others. A newer meaning, and the reason we believe helped dog just make our top 10 this year is that dog is becoming more general in use, and may soon be more gender neutral, as female rapper Toni Romiti says “If he a dog, I’m a Dog too!”
Yeet, Tied for 10th this year is a term we indexed and started tracking back in 2016 also in 10th place then. It’s popularity was due to a new dance move and and internet video meme. You can check out our definition from last year here. But as with other slang it tends to transform and take on multiple meanings, including being used simply as an expletive connotating excitement.
Bruh reached #10 back in 2015/2016 and has been holding steady and even gaining slightly. There are now even some female or gender neutral off shoot variants like Bra, in part promoted by advertising related to breast cancer (someone who supports you when you have breast cancer). The meaning of Bruh has been changing for sometime from a term of endearment (brother), to Bruh?! Meaning “Oh no… why did you do that?!”
Bet moved from #18 to #8 this year. That usually has to do with new usage and/or inclusion into some popular lyrics or meme. Moving from a simple term indicating agreement, e.g. “want to go to the movies?” “Sure, Bet!”, bet has been changing to just mean “yes”, and then ironically the total opposite of agreement, meaning doubt and sarcasm or simply the opposite of what someone wants or No. “Yo can you help me clean my room” “Bet (leaves walks out of door)”. It has even come to be used as a sort of replacement to Yolo., but the newest and most popular meaning currently is as the opposite of the older meanings, a negative sign of disbelief. Basically a sarcastic "No".
Woke moved into 20th place about a year ago and has also increased in popularity tremendously this year. Woke means being intellectually aware, on point and in the know, but can have broader meaning as well. “After taking that class in feminism, he’s really woke to gender issues”
In the past we’ve purposely kept political words out of these lists. Political terminology is more mainstream, and behaves differently from youth slang. That said, these terms too enter the general vernacular seemingly from nowhere and become very popular, perhaps now more than ever. So this year we’ve decided to include a few of them. So in 6th place (and 2nd) we have political words this year.
Snowflake is generally used to describe liberals who are overly sensitive and too easily offended by some general term or belief that doesn’t take into account that everyone is as individual as a snowflake. Though it is sometimes used to describe anyone who is overly sensitive.
Unlike most of our slang terms that tend to skew more urban and lower income, this one actually skews slightly higher income and older, and is in fact often used to describe millennials or Gen Z.
Fleek did a good job in maintaining its position this year, but is still down from a high (our #2 word) at the end of 2015. Fleek skews female quite a bit and generally means ‘on point’ “on fleek” and is often used when describing eyebrows.
Fetch climbed from 6th place back at end of 2015 and has maintained at 4th place this year. After “Bae”, it’s the second most female scewed slang term we track. This term was popularized by the movie Mean Girls and means cool/chic.
Dope moved up 3 from last year. Used a number of ways (see last years definition), including as a synonym for Lit, basically high in quality or mind blowing
Here’s our other political word in this years list. Again, not like slang in a number of ways including fact that it skews older and higher income. Still it hit 10th place on our new term index list last year even though we decided not to report political terms. As the name suggests, this term denotes political propaganda and unfactual unscientific information which is becoming ever more prevalent online.
Holding at #1 this year, Lit is literally still “cool” for now. It was 4th place back at beginning of 2016, it may be that its position gets challenged by Dope or something else later this year.
Top 5 Gainers
Each year these trendier terms compete with each other, some enter our list temporarily and then go off to die, sometimes to be resurrected years later, others get so mainstream that they enter our common lexicon and earn a place in the dictionary.
Here are the 5 terms which moved up the most over the past 12 months.
Mainstream media grabbed a hold of this word this past year and our indexing classified it as the biggest single mover in our index. I’m guessing you’re already well aware of this political term. If not check out the Wikipedia definition here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news
Our second biggest upward mover this year was Snowflake. It will be interesting to see how this one does over the longer term.
So you might say Bitcoin is a brand or product name, but this term which is neither slang not political still made our list because of its fast movement from obscurity to global mainstream. I wouldn’t be totally surprised if the term is split, morphed and transformed into some alternate meanings in the future.
Finally, our fourth biggest mover of the year are one of our slang terms. It’s interesting as far as slang terms in its positive connotation of reaching a more enlightened level of cognition.
Fifth biggest mover this year was Bruh which continued to expand and change in meaning (see above) after being somewhat down last year.
Top 6 Losers
Just as there are winners, there are also losers. Here are the 5 that dropped the most this year.
Looks like ‘Fetch’ may have peaked. It was always a bit of an outlier in terms of slang in that it was so closely tied to a single movie ‘Mean Girls’ and while obviously feamale oriented, but also unlike most slang less ethnic and higher income.
Swag seemed to come and go last year. It just never gained the foothold needed for stickiness.
This somewhat odd female slang term with a definite online meme-ish component had its peak two years ago and has decreased in popularity by half each year since.
The meme-able dance move known as ‘dabbing’ seems to have spawned and given way to a term of similar origin “Yeet”, which has taken on more meaning than dab. While the future looks dim for this term, its use together with marijuana could give it more life in the future.
Another big loser over the past couple of years is “One” meaning goodbye. It may be time to bid “One!” to ‘One’.
A somewhat surprising sudden drop to Bae this year is accompanied by lots of annoyance by those using the term which refers to "boyfriend" or "girlfriend"
Bonus Terms to look out for
Here are some fun new terms that crept onto our radar/index this year, though they didn’t enter our top list but we’ll be continuing to track their movement if they increase in usage over the course of the year. They could suddenly become even more popular, as they are on an upward movement though not quit as extreme as our top 5 above.
Squad may end up being replaced by ‘gang’. Since calling someone a “friend” simply is never cool enough, this term has come to replace the now somewhat corny ‘squad’. Believe it or not, 1 friend is a "gang".
“gang gang”, saying gang twice has also become popular, as plural and often used as a hashtag on social media, especially twitter #ganggang
This term which can be traced to Philly originally meant joint, then morphed to mean literally anything, usually any noun, person place or thing (but quite often a sexy woman )
Cringey or cringy is a fun term meaning something that makes you want to cringe. It has often been used in regard to internet videos, especially with amature home made videos on youtube by very young performers sometimes younger siblings.
We noted “bra” as a feminine derivative of sorts for bro, meaning “someone who’se always there for support'
Awesome, cool, or good. Here’s an example of Guzzi paired with Gang mentioned above.
gucci gang (Lil Pump)
Savage, means "Brutal yet awesome", a useful combination ;)
"Dad" & "Mom"
Not what you think. Rather new, this term is given to the highest ranking person in a given environment. For instance, if 4 guys are playing an online video game, the "Dad" is the person with the highest level game character.
These are our top movers for the year. There are many other pop terms of course. These are US focused and more general in nature. If you put additional lenses, such as geography, age, gender, category and source of data in play, other quite different terms may top the list.
Of course, unless your industry is dead, monitoring the way your stakeholders talk about a topic may be very dynamic without involving too much slang or buzz words. Often which competitors are mentioned, what items are seen as benefits or barriers, and which emotions surround these topics can be just as interesting or even more so. Longitudinal voice of customer data can be found in a variety of sources from phone logs, emails, chat logs, surveys and social media, to name just a few.
If you’re curious about tracking what your customers say, how they say it, and how you can use that to better connect with them and even predict their future behavior including satisfaction and repurchase please reach out. We're happy to show you what Your Data +OdinText looks like.