Merriam-Webster announced the addition of 370 words to the dictionary including “sus” and “yeet,” according to USA TODAY. The word choices could’ve been more cringe (which is ironically another word added). However, it’s another example of how African American Vernacular English (AAVE) has become trendy and widely used by non-Black people.
Considering the way social media has adapted AAVE terms as “pop culture” language, the dictionary additions seem a little, well, sus. Coming from the northeast, I often heard “suspect” as a term used on its own to describe something or someone (which unfortunately has doubled as a slur against gay people). Then, younger generations shortened the word on digital platforms. But yeet?! I haven’t used or heard that word since 2014 when that Black boy on Vine went viral for his dance on the track field or when students were yanking each other by the backpack in the hallway.
Even when it was “trendy,” it was a Black thing - as a lot of things are in popular culture. Look at how they’ve adopted the “blaccent.”
BuzzFeed reporter Sydnee Thompson explains language appropriation in detail:
It’s the vibrancy and authenticity of Black culture that attracts appropriators, who, ironically, dilute those very same qualities. Black communities around the country are far from monolithic, but the stereotypes that fuel cultural appropriation assume otherwise. For example, while Black Americans have been affected by poverty in a variety of ways, the cultural mainstays of many urban, working-poor Black people (those “from the streets,” as Bhad Bhabie put it) are considered the model for understanding Black American communities as a whole.
Those mainstays include the long acrylic nails and bamboo earrings Bhad Bhabie wore in her Dr. Phil appearance and the “blaccent” that she, Cabello, and Rodrigo have attempted. These privileged young women reach for caricatures of low-wage Black workers when they desire edgy yet superficial makeovers.
AAVE is a living language that has evolved over centuries, but the ubiquity of the internet has made many aspects of the dialect more accessible and encouraged others to adopt it for their own use. And it has proven to be extremely popular.
Our language has a dictionary of its own - which is actually being crafted in a collaboration between Oxford English Dictionary and historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. Merriam-Webster will only start picking up our words and phrases and white people become more hip to them.
Now, some may not think it’s not that serious, but I’m #teamgatekeep. Some trends, styles, words that were started Black need to stay Black.