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Slanguage 2022: Three key terms

Three teenagers wearing all-pink clothing looking at mobile phone
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Oct 15, 2022 By WGSN Insider

Social media platforms such as TikTok and Twitter have the ability to propel terms to go viral overnight. We analyse three key terms from the 2022 youth cultural lexicon, including phrases, slogans and hashtags that have emerged across the different social platforms.

Digital-savvy youth are accelerating the aesthetics trend cycle and engineering viral slang into public consciousness. Although platforms surface a revolving door of new terms daily, some words have lasting effects and are worth paying attention to.

Social listening is still key and tracking and understanding the context of new words can help brands connect with the youth market. However, it is important to pay close attention to the cultural context and the origin story of these words to prevent misuse.

It’s giving

The term “it’s giving” refers to when something or someone is emitting a particular vibe. The term “it” can be used to refer to anything or anyone.

“It’s giving” derives from African American Vernacular English (AAVE), specifically from Black Twitter and Ball Culture, which refers to the 1990s New York ballroom scene where queer Black and Latino individuals freely expressed themselves.

Across social media platforms, “it‘s giving” is shared in memes and captions. In November 2021, Little Mix, a British female pop group, tweeted a picture of one of its members, Jade Thirlwall, in a fur dress against a fur background with the caption “it‘s giving The Muppets.”

In 2022, the phrase continues to thrive and has been adopted in the mainstream. In August, @girlbehindphone tweeted a picture of a pasta salad on the menu at Dimes Deli in NY called “It’s Giving... Pasta.” The post generated a lot of engagement, with one user playfully retweeting it saying: “It’s giving carbs.”

Cultural context is key when tapping into slang and brands need to pay homage to original creators. @kristal100were on Twitter reminded followers: “Every bit of slang AAVE produces, someone non-Black either commodifies or appropriates.”

He/she is a 10 but

On TikTok, #HesA10But has gained over 619.6m views while #ShesA10But boasts more than 476.8m.

“He/she is a 10 but” was a gamified trend that went viral on TikTok and Twitter in June 2022. It aims to playfully highlight dating trade-offs and priorities in a partner. Users typically start their caption with “he/she is a 10 but...,” which is used to gauge how attractive someone is. The commentary ends with a personality trait or perceived flaw that might be seen as a “dealbreaker” to some. Users have also taken to captions with a low score, such as “he/she is a 4 but,” and then finished the sentence with a positive description.

The hashtags on TikTok reveal a library of videos from creators such as Miami-based @eugenetoks, who interviews people and asks them to share their dealbreakers when looking for a partner. On the other hand, @k8iee posted a video getting ready to go out with the caption “she’s a 10 but has to leave 2 hours to get ready knowing it only takes her 20 minutes,” essentially hijacking the trend by adding her own personal negative trait.

In my era

On TikTok, “in my era” has over 7.5m views, featuring creators who use it to visualise, articulate and make sense of their current behaviour.

Over the last year, the phrase “in my era” has populated TikTok and Twitter feeds, with the most popular references being “in my villain era” (which refers to when someone who is a people-pleaser starts setting boundaries with others) and “in my flop era” (which refers to when someone’s life is floundering compared to previous days).

Celebrities have hopped on this trend, which coincides with the rise of more humanised stars. In February 2021, American singer and songwriter Carolin Polachek tweeted she is entering her flop era. In July 2021, English actress Jameela Jamil tweeted: “Why am I enjoying my flop era so much? Has anyone else found an odd relief in not having to live up to expectations anymore? I think it’s been good for my health/mind/skin/hair/ego/perspective/career. You make better choices when you succumb to your own floppery and roll with it.” This concept aligns with young people showcasing more authentic depictions of their lives online than in the filtered past (look to the rise of the lowlight reels and anti-aesthetic movement on social media driven by Gen Z).

In 2022, the “in my era” phrase continues to be relevant and has even evolved, with users leveraging the phrase and co-opting it to express what “era” they’re experiencing. Recent posts have seen users nod to their “healing era” (see US-based @lexxhidalgo’s TikTok) and “my be selfish in your 20s era” (as seen on LA-based @irisdaileyy’s account), which showcases how some youth are moving towards intentionality, as noted in our Youth Culture 2022 report.

WGSN subscribers can now read our full Slanguage report, which contains eight key terms part of the 2022 youth cultural lexicon. It also serves as a guide for brands looking to understand how best to communicate with Gen Z shoppers now.

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