Thanks to the Internet and social media universalizing certain aspects of culture, our slang has become less regional and maddeningly uniform. So a black dude could trek from New York City to the Atlanta University Center in his Timbs and not be clowned for saying how long it took, “dead ass.” Because he probably won’t be saying that. Though he will be clowned for wearing his Timbs at the freshman-year pool party. Because he probably never took them off.
But while this melding of regional slang and YouTube-driven colloquialisms should be celebrated, the use of words like “lit” and “fleek” and “dab” seems to upset many of our elders, who are mad because we’re not speaking the Queen’s English. Thing is … many of them do the exact same thing. But unlike the innovations of their 14-year-old grandchildren, these words are just misuses of existing words. It doesn’t matter which part of the country they’re in; your moms, pops, auntie, uncle and dem are probably f—kin’ up some English in the following ways:
1. Adding a gratuitous “s”: Red Lobster is singular. No one is being taken to Red Lobsters, unless you are indeed going to multiple Red Lobsters. In that case, tell me which one has the best cheddar biscuits. With that said, here’s a handy list of other not-actual things:
* Bella Noches
* Krispy Kremes
* the Internets
For all you Atlantans, that means Essos, Visions and
Krogers–the locales of all your late-night flirtations and aggressive “get this damn 2-for-1 ladies-night promo flier off my car windshield” actions–do not exist. And neither does “Ofras” (that’s Oprah, according to my grandma, everybody).
2. Making plural words singular: In an odd stroke of genius, our elders’ capacity to pluralize words often does not extend to words that actually should be plural. This is especially so if you have family from the West Indies. In my kid days, I was instructed by the aforementioned grandma to pick up my foot (aka both feet), put on my pant (which, arguably, makes more sense) and stop smacking my lip.
3. Taking away people’s possessives: In a similar twist, because black folks are unpredictable, except when we’re not, Dave and Buster’s and Chuck E. Cheese’s just lost all possession of their respective adult/child playgrounds, because we have universally determined they will merely be known as Dave and Buster and Chuck E. Cheese.
4. The gratuitous “r”: I don’t know what an “idear” is. Or an “Obamer.” Or a “‘mote controller” or “cotrolla,” if we want to get technical. I do know what an idea is, that Obama is our president, and that a remote changes the TV channel … or so I’m told. Because “nearest child” has been used interchangeably in our house even when the remote is sitting right there, Ma!
5. On today; on yesterday; on tomorrow: Black people like to do the most. In this case, do less. If we just say “today,” “yesterday” and “tomorrow,” people will still know what we’re trying to say. I mean, I really don’t understand who started this. Was it the same New York City cat who, while standing behind the McDonald’s register to save up money the summer before his AUC trek, summoned the customer next “on line” instead of “in line” (this is real … and can only be found within the confines of New York City. Side note: Are New Yorkers so easily made fun of because they take themselves so seriously?).
I can tolerate us being “on one,” though I still don’t know what this means if we’re being honest. I can even get used to us being on CP time. That’s the only time that exists to me, really. I can probably also get past you saying “quote on quote.” But I will not, under any circumstances, be OK with you making plans for “on today,” “on yesterday” or “on tomorrow.”
6. “Valentime’s Day”: Just stop it. Saint Valentine turns over in his grave in every week preceding and postceding (see, that’s made up, but I’m consciously aware of this) his eponymous celebration. He also told me he wants you stop it. He hasn’t done either, but whatever.
For all you black-name-having black folks (like me, my name is very black), it’s like that thing when a teacher sees all the letters in your name at roll call, but she gets confused and she is under a lot of pressure because it’s the first day and she is human too so she just says whatever and now you’re “Melissa” instead of “Malaika” for a semester and even past that, like when you apply for your first office job because #racism and that’s the only time you get calls back. Thanks, Obamer!
7. The gratuitous “the”: Hey, Ma, yes I can log off “the Twitter” and “the Facebook.” Oooh, and guess what? I can also log off Twitter and Facebook in the same exact way.
Malaika Jabali is an attorney, writer and activist from Atlanta who, being from Atlanta, always has to talk about it. She’ll be writing other things on her soon-to-be-released site Freshphiles, which is like the love child of Afropunk and the Village Voice if that child read too much Malcolm X growing up and always tried to get you to sign a petition. She doesn’t “do” Twitter like that, but she’s on Instagram not smiling because she thinks it makes her look cool or whatever.