Slang as Inspiration
Marketing is about communication. Communication is all about language (or, as the wise folks at Britannica say, “a system of conventional spoken, manual or written symbols by means of which individuals express themselves.”) And language is always evolving.
Slang plays a major role in framing our cultural experiences. It can veil a speaker’s intent, define a group’s identity or enable humans to voice the unspeakable.
There is great power in these new words. Although, according to Max Décharné, they are probably old words with new meanings. His book, Vulgar Tongues, tells the story of how “the English language of Shakespeare’s day fragmented and twisted into all kinds of shapes, as people like pickpockets, beggars, sailors, musicians, gangsters, whores, politicians, gypsies, soldiers, gays and lesbians, policemen, rappers, cockneys, biker gangs and circus folk seized the King’s or Queen’s English by the throat and took it to places it would probably regret in the morning.”
In other words, language comes from life.
Want to connect with shoppers? You have to speak their language. The Urban Dictionary is your friend.
It may have started as a joke, but the online authority of all things slang is now a legitimate source for defining popular sayings. The words published in the pages of Urban Dictionary are commonly accepted vernacular. The resource is even being used in some courtrooms to define culturally acceptable slang terms.
I turn to the Urban Dictionary when I am creating Shopper Moments for the Digital Natives. (Not that I would ever try to adopt the words as my own; “grok in the fullness” is not cute coming out of this mouth.)
Here is a sampling of my favorite current slang:
To have a particular style or vibe that is central to your look; often a form of identification.
A way to describe someone who dresses, talks and enjoys the most mainstream and predictable things. Lacking originality.
A term added on the end of a sentence to signify some form of emphasis; a verbal exclamation mark.
When something has gone so beyond funny that you literally cannot handle it anymore. You’ve laughed yourself to death.
To be extremely OTT in every situation even (especially) when it’s not necessary. Excessive, dramatic or inappropriate.
An endearing term for the friends you trust like family.
To be able to scam, trick and steal with smooth style.
Acronym for “For Real,” used as a full stop to denote that something seemingly unbelievable is totally true.
Acronym for “Greatest Of All Time.”
When something is amazing, popping. Could also mean that you’re incredibly drunk.
Experiencing something so amazing that it’s making you finally “live.” It is giving “life.”
To state a distant unhappiness or displeasure at something or someone. Often referred to as “spreading the salt”.
To be the most badass, lethal person ever. Can be used in regards to arguments and takedowns; generally having a disregard for the consequences of your words/actions.
A way of acting disrespectful towards someone in a way that suggests helpfulness. Drag culture sees queens “throwing shade” at each other for their lack of style.
To endorse or support a romantic coupling, even if they aren’t a reality; a fantasy pairing.
To be so completely surprised by something that your body is literally shaking. Can also mean you’re scared/can’t believe your eyes.
Two meanings. 1) To have incredibly good looks and a body to match; to be so fierce that you look snatched. 2) To burn someone so effectively that their wig/weave is snatched.
Pronounced either as “tick” or “thicK” (with a heavy K) to refer to a person who is incredibly curvy and sexy. Larger than an hourglass figure.
Living in a state of awareness that is above the level of expectation. To be fully aware of current events and the world around you.