This is a list of the most relevant words or phrases from 2013, measured by a few different components. The first criterion would be “twitteriness,” i.e. how much you’d see it hashtagged now relative to prior years. Other qualities include “knee-jerkiness,” which includes terms that people like to throw out in a very reactionary way, and, not-so-unrelated “i-dont-know-what-i’m-saying-ness,” or terms that have become hip this year even though no one really knows what they mean but use them to sound culturally literate.
Every year there’s some slang that really makes a dent in the vernacular, and though ‘ratchet’ may be more used among high-schoolers than us 20somethings, I think it deserves a spot on the list. It means bad or janky or gross, I think, often used to describe ghetto women according to urban dictionary. I don’t know, I feel like it scores well on the Twitteriness index because it’s short, easily definable and only recently widespread. Also because it was originally a different part of speech (noun meaning socket wrench), which the slang creation committee loves. Turning nouns into verbs (to friend, to ball, to peace), or nouns into adjectives (ghetto, ratchet, suss). Currently I can’t think of any slang where adjectives or verbs have become nouns, but it sounds like something that would be done.
- “Harlem Shake”
Harlem Shake faded out as immediately as it began, but that’s cause it was interchangeable and had no staying power, like all of those dumb ass dances. Still, if the Dougie was 2011, and Gangnam Style was 2012, Harlem Shake was 2013. There will always be a niche for these. For what it’s worth though, the Harlem Shake is a better song than GS, and the Miami Heat making their own in the middle of their dope 27 game winning streak was enough to get me to finally watch it. I do believe that’s the only one I’ve actually seen, though. Had some choice production quality and great costumes from Lebron and Bosh and stuff. We’re all eagerly awaiting what’s next in the world of viral dance.
The first entry of our what-am-i-talking-about category. Here’s how I imagine the typical conversation goes: “So why is there a shutdown?” “You know, Obamacare” “Like, it’s bad?” “Republicans don’t like it” “So what’s gonna happen?” “Well, if it doesn’t get resolved soon….” “Then what?” “There might be a sequester!” “What’s that?” “…You know, sequestration.”
“Sequester” – not to be confused with “furlough”. You know, shutdown-related terms that are much easier and more fun to say than to define. It’s all about presentation though. Seeming like we understand and are on top of shit. It’s why we use big words that we can’t define and it’s why we buy complicated bedframes and nice china and silverware even when sleeping on a mattress on the floor is just as comfortable and eating over napkins just as practical. Appearing like an adult is way more valuable than actually being one, or maybe they’re one and the same.
I dislike the word, just aesthetically, but I can’t deny its rise to eminence. People used to do the camera phone in the mirror emo thing, but I guess selfies are different, or they’ve evolved or whatever. Often times now, you can’t even see the camera! Technology never ceases to amaze me. It does just seem like a very narcissistic act – taking a picture of oneself. I did it once, but in that case it was a lot more about the Taco Bell in my mouth than it was about my face. The messed up part about it is that even while I tried to claim that the picture was about the food, it took me multiple tries to get the shot right. My efforts to not be vain were in vain. But think about it – as selfie-ndulgent as the internet has seemed this year with this epidemic, true human nature is 4 or 5 times more so, because on average, that’s how many failed attempts there are per picture.
Uber was once just a prefix reserved for gamer nerd bros, but it transcended into one of the most commonly uttered party words. My good friend works at Lyft, which is the superior ride service, but even he would admit that Uber is much bigger and since my lyst doesn’t have room for both, gotta go with the more established name. Been a really tough year for taxi cabs ever since these alternate services came into prominence. I don’t actually have either of the apps and am pretty far in the red in terms of paying for these rides, which is one downside of this new paradigm. Since the whole paying this is just kinda magically taken care of in a way that taxicabs don’t provide, it’s harder to collect from the bros when you are the one that orders. I got some 20s for Hannukah, I guess I’ll just throw one at the next person who hooks it up. Won’t undo everything but will be good for my karma.
I don’t know though, how exactly are Uber and Lyft game-changers? Is it way cheaper than a cab? Is it way less waiting? I guess it is, if you’re living in some outskirts. Seems like the biggest difference is the marketing – Uber and Lyft are waging a pretty aggressive war out there on my news feed, which is really why they make the list.
The biggest news story of 2013 was undoubtedly all the surveillance Edward Snowden government scandal stuff. This would be higher on the list, but there’s no real catch-phrase that encapsulates the scandal so I’m going with NSA just for relevance’s sake. People got extremely up-in-arms about this but I don’t really think it’s a huge deal. My photos, emails, and texts are benign as shit, and so are yours. It would be a problem if my friends, family and employers received daily printouts of my search history, but what the government is captable of seeing of mine matters as much to me as it does to the government. “BUT ITS THE PRINCIPLE OF PRIVACY!” Whatever man, you can’t value privacy and then just snapchat your cock all over the god damn place.
By the way, a couple weeks ago some bros had been staring at me for a while in this bar and finally one of them approached me 😉 and he was like “dude, you must get this all the time, but you look exactly like Edward Snowden.” I said no, actually I’ve never gotten that, and it’s only because we’re both fair skinned with glasses and our facial structures are not similar and that’s gotta be the laziest comparison I’ve ever heard. I took a picture with him though and managed to hold a resentful smile the whole way.
“Net neutrality” also could have made this list, by the way. I don’t know what it means, but I’ve seen it a lot and it feels like it has something to do with this.
4. “What Would I Say”
A pretty recent social media trend that went on far longer than the entertainment it provided. I am not sure how impressed to be with the algorithm that generates the results. I guess it’s cool that it comes up with relatively gibberish sentences that still make sense grammatically, but on the other hand, half of the posts are basically direct copies from previous status updates. Best case, the app is the equivalent of the band Girl Talk. Fine,they mashed some shit up and it sounds catchy. But they technically didn’t write any of the music so who really deserves the credit?
Also, after a couple days or so, it became clear that What Would I Say posts are pretty much only interesting to the subject, because the content basically ends up being an inside joke you have with yourself. You may have better luck telling someone about last night’s dream in great detail, or about your kids.
Note: “what would I say” is not to be confused with “what does the fox say?” which is basically the even newer Harlem/Gangnam dancy virus. I wanted to come up with some catchy title for this list item that would encompass what I and the Fox would say but I wasn’t really committed to the task.
3. “Bitcoin mining”
Even more than “net neutrality,” The ultimate “I don’t understand what I am saying” term of 2013. Though I’m admittedly technologically dim-witted and maybe too lazy to actually figure out what this means, I’d still bet that no more than like 6 people actually have any idea what bitcoin mining is, because I looked at the Wikipedia article multiple times this year and it still makes no sense. It’s a digital currency or whatever, and somehow people got rich off it, or they were trying to, it was like a big thing in February, and then it went away, and now it’s back because it’s IPO or something? All I would have to do to sound like I knew what I was talking about was phrase what I just said not as a question, and people would just assume I was right, because no one actually knows what’s going on and will trust anyone who sounds kinda sure. What does mining mean in an internet sense? I don’t even know what data mining is, bitcoin is a whole new wrinkle.
And speaking of vague, you know when you’re at a party and you’re like “so what do you do?” and they’re like “I do systems analysis.” It’s kinda like that. That’s probably happened to me like four times, and each time I actually followed up with “so what does that entail exactly?” and each time I immediately forgot what they were saying as they were saying it. I think the word “systems” might be the vaguest word in the English language. I totally understand what a system is, but when you pluralize it, you’re talking out of your ass.
For what feels like the third or fourth year straight, “bullying” continues its dominant run of perhaps the hottest button issue of our generation. High on the knee-jerk index, “bullying” has enjoyed multiple resurgences of relevance, from Aaron Paul’s campaign that raised over a million dollars to stop bullying in buildup to the Breaking Bad finale, to the recent shit-storm that is the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin Miami Dolphins fiasco.
What I don’t understand is why we’ve started hearing so much more about this recently – it seems like bullying would be a pretty constant part of society no matter what decade we’re in. Perhaps we as a society are ready to move past it just like we’ve made advances on gay/racism shit, but it’s not like kids with negligent parents (>99% of the bully population) know what the hell is going on. You already know that I love Aaron Paul, he’s a beautiful guy, but I wonder what his money exactly did. Did it “raise awareness?” Was the problem that enough people didn’t know that bullying existed and had a negative impact on people? Last time someone tried to raise money to build awareness for an anti-bullying campaign, he ended up tugging his nethers publicly in San Diego, and Kony is still out there being an unchecked douche.
Pretty clearly the ultimate social media word of 2013 and I don’t really have to defend this one. Twerking is fine, it was fine that Miley Cyrus did it, it became a huge deal, and ultimately a transcendent hashtag. The beauty of the term (as far as this list goes) is that it scores high on all of my measures – it’s very twittery because it’s short and only recently reached dictionary-level mainstream recognition, it’s very knee-jerky because of the outrage that it provoked (that by god, our children are inspired and influenced by sexually suggestive maneuvers performed by unbelievably attractive famous people), and it’s very what-am-i-talking-abouty because I can imagine parents at the dinner table shaking their heads going “have you heard about this twerking epidemic?” and everyone going “tsk tsk” and nodding disapprovingly while no one actually knows what it is.
I was going to conclude that Miley indisputably won 2013, but over the course of editing this article, Beyonce released another album that may have altered the power dynamic of the calendar year. I don’t really feel like addressing that though, and Miley still had a good run. She and Ed Snowden should bone and seek asylum in Twerkmenistan.