Every generation has its own style of verbal communication. It usually starts young, so it makes sense that the prime users of social media can be blamed (or applauded, depending on your point of view) for the explosion of trendy slang we’ll call totespeak. Totes? Yes, it’s obviously a derivation of the word totally, which you squash down like this: “That puppy is totes adorbs!”
The Kids Are Alright
When a person of a certain age mentioned that “Beyoncé is on fleek,” they knew what it meant. And their friends know. Before long, they were typing it on their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, and the term spread like wildfire.
New verbal styles and trends spread as fast as the four bars on your phone’s screen will allow, and before you know it, your offhand slang hits the bigtime. It starts…trending. Once a new term takes off, and that concept itself is fairly nebulous, it’s not too far away from its Dictionary.com definition. It’s much different than the 1960s-1970s media era of Uncle Walter Cronkite, where you got the news at 6:30 every night, and you took it as gospel. Uncle Walter would never lie to you.
So The Word Becomes A Thing. Now What?
For one, it gets co-opted by the marketing departments. The current generation has more disposable income than ever before, and in order for companies to tap into that, they have to speak the language. This Martin Kozlowski-drawn comic from Contently says it all:
As you can so obviously see, the group, led by a rumpled, middle aged man, is trying to figure out how to use bae. Used as a noun, Dictionary.com defines bae as an affectionate term used to describe one’s girlfriend, boyfriend, or spouse (a shortening of “baby”). Shifting to an adjective, as in “baeer” or “baeest,” you’re then greatly admired or loved. Do you have an Australian friend? “Their accent is so totally ‘bae!’” Companies have taken to monitoring social media, so naturally they’re going to attempt to remain current (they read: “hip”) and maintain their connection to the targeted teen audience’s bank account. Remember, it’s always about the money.
Nowhere is this better illustrated than the Twitter account @BrandsSayingBae. The account looks to be rather dormant at this point, but it brilliantly showcased how brands insinuate themselves into the trending topics of the day, often with awkward results.
Where Are The Millennials, Anyway?
Marketers are desperate to stay ahead of the latest trends. Today’s trend is tomorrow’s afterthought. The worst thing to happen to them would be to appear out of touch to the millennials that are doing so much of the purchasing. They have to target the newest and latest communication platforms, too. Traditional radio? Dead. It’s Spotify or Pandora. TV? Sooooo last century. Millennials stream Netflix, Apple TV, and Amazon. It’s all about staying current.
Demographics And Dialogue
Nike knows a bit about its audience. CEO Mark Parker said in an interview with Fortune via HuffPo, “Connecting used to be, ‘Here’s some product, and here’s some advertising. We hope you like it.’ Connecting today is a dialogue.” So you can’t just toss a new pair of sneakers at ’em, you need to engage them.
There is another group that is anxious to “connect” and stay relevant, and that group is your parents. (At this point, bring up a visual of Ward and June Cleaver.) We define generation gap as a “a lack of communication between one generation and another, especially between young people and their parents, brought about by differences of tastes, values, outlook, etc.”
What Did You Say, Nana?
These cultural buzzwords are generally reserved for the high school set. Once they move onto a newer and older peer group, outside cultural influences tend to set in and overwrite the language set that was in use. This is why you (hopefully) won’t hear your 75-year-old grandma say, “I’m so upset I can’t even.”