KYM Review: Slang Memes Of 2015
Editor’s Note: This article is part of Know Your Meme’s annual Top Ten Review series looking back at some of the most memorable and popular memes, events and people that defined Internet culture in 2015 as we know it.
lang is perhaps the original meme – new derivations in language that spread quickly and completely far pre-date the Internet, and probably helped us invent all the different languages we have today. Nonetheless, we admire the quickness by which new slang spreads online; new coinages pop up everywhere, all the time, and with use pervade into the deepest corners of culture.
We need new words online to describe new practices, like freebooting and kinkshaming, or new concepts, like a Trump presidency. But lots of slang comes fom needing new ways to describe ancient concepts that we talk about constantly, like cute animals or asking people over for "intimate purposes," because otherwise language would be boring. If poetry is the dynamic description of the everyday, slang is poetry, adopted by the masses.
Here are our favorite slang terms of 2015, complete with deliberate, step-by-step instructions on how to restore your chill.
In 2015, many content creators saw their videos downloaded and re-uploaded to Facebook and other portals, which effectively nixed their ability to monetize their own work. Viral content aggregators ripped videos off YouTube and re-hosted them, hoping to get some of that sweet, sweet cash. This practice was named "Freebooting," and was reviled by those who love to see good people make money from their hard work. Freebooters were banned from the viral video central aggregator /r/videos, but that didn't stem the flow.
Slide Into Your DMs
This possibly mutated slang term, which means "to smoothly direct message someone on social media", epitomized the year in connecting and meeting new friends online. See a cute new buddy on Instagram? Go ahead, slide on in. Of course, not everyone was smooth about their slide. . .
This phrase was so popular that two separate songs were written about it, the first by a teenage rapper known as M-Boy; the second, by the much more famous Yo Gotti, is now receiving regular airplay on hip hop stations nationwide.
Social Justice Blogging, political correctness, and identity politics were as contentious in 2015 as they have been in recent memory, but luckily this year people who had concerns about the content of other's posts had a single, simple word with which to voice their concerns: problematic. See someone being racist in a reposted meme? That's problematic. Draw fan-art that doesn't represent the character in a completely unbiased way? Problematic. Several controversies this year resulted from arguments about what was problematic or not; for instance, the Tumblr craze Poot Lovato was deemed problematic by many who saw it as ridiculing the differently-abled.
In one severe case, called the Zamii070 Harassment Controversy, a fan artist who's drawings of characters from Steven Universe were deemed problematic by the fandom attempted suicide, showing that even the idea of calling someone out for being problematic can cause its own set of – well, problems.
On the other hand, this popular slang term might be considered problematic. Since the beginning of time, man has admired the Tiddies of Anime, but it was only in this year that the descriptor really took off. The Internet loved anime tiddies, and it liked them big, but of course everyone was just watching it for the plot.
The image above was perhaps the progenitor of the misspelling that led to the bountiful assets of anime and manga females being referred to as "Tiddies" but once it spread, it spread far and wide.
Make America Great Again
Donald Trump infected the consciousness of 2015 with his strange rhetoric and endless viral presence, but what many associate with the politician is the catchphrase that adorns his campaign's trademark canvas "baseball" cap. He claimed to invent the phrase, but many of our parents will remember when Reagan used it in his 1980 election – if Trump came up with it, well, that sure would be quite the coincidence.
But back to the hat: it proved so popular that it sold out quickly and inspired much bootlegging; people began posting pictures of themselves wearing it over the summer. As the year went on, Trump's campaign became less humorous and more frightening, causing the phrase to take on new, ironic meanings, but we're sure that a "Make America Great Again" hat is going to worth something on eBay soon enough.
The first of the chill-flavored slang memes to make the list, to possess no chill is to be irrational or psychotic. If you need to be told to chill out, then you have no chill. How do you get back this mysterious "chill?" With Netflix, of course, but we'll get to that later. In the meantime, as accusing your friends, parents and bosses of having no chill became de rigueur, people started to wonder: if no one has any chill any longer where did it all go? Such was the beginning of an adorable image macro trend, where many tried to search for their chill. Is it under the couch cushions? Nope. No chill here.
Real Nigga Hours / Smash the Like
These slangs, often combined, both come from the same impulse: social media begging. "Real Nigga Hours" is technically a photo trend, usually accompanied by a strange hyper-compressed, artifacted and multi-layered image of a character like Squidward, straining to stay awake with bloodshot eyes. But it also specifically means "the time between 2:30 am and 5 am when no one else is usually awake;" what our parents called "the witching hour." Posting about real nigga hours is a way to find out if you have friends who also suffer from insomnia. If so, you can figure out if they want to chat by suggesting they "smash the like," a way of asking for social media attention that began in YouTube video game playthrough videos and spread quickly throughout the web. On Instagram especially, the image type paired with both phrases became popular, perhaps as an invitation to "slide into one's DMs."
If the adoration of cute baby animals could be converted into electricity, the world would finally have a clean source of renewable energy, and all war would end. Unfortunately, that's not possible, and instead we just have to come up with new words to describe these tiny, precious things. Enter "smol," a mutated spelling of "small" that provides inflection and tone. First used to describe a childish member of a boy band, smol came into vogue as a creature descriptor on Twitter and Tumblr in 2015 and brought with it an entirely bizarre new way to baby-talk about the animal kingdom. Those outside of the trend were either incredibly confused or brutally annoyed, but smol continues to be used widely as a way to make sure everyone knows that the animal you are describing is not just cute, but awwdowable.
You can read about the year's conspiracy theories, hoaxes and lies here, but if there was one rallying cry that erupted around them all, it was the phrase "Wake up, Sheeple!" This pejorative combination of "sheep" and "people" (get it, because sheep are followers?) can be traced back all the way to 1950, when it was used in a volume of the Emory University Quarterly, and was later popularized in the 1980s, but it made a comeback into fashion in 2015, especially with the use of conspiracy theories like Jet fuels can't melt steel beams in ironic memes.
Netflix and Chill
So, you have no chill; how can you refill your chill? Well, in 2015, we learned that you use Netflix! The web-streaming service was thrilled to become an essential part of the Internet's shorthand for inviting someone over to half-watch television while boning, so much so that it created a "Netflix Switch;" which would dim the lights, connect to the show, and otherwise set the scene for the viewers to get busy.
The exact origin of the phrase is unknown, but it started out in the lexicographically influential world of Black Twitter, and moved on from there. A longer form, "30 minutes into Netflix and Chill and (S)He Gives You This Face" became a popular image-style meme, featuring creepy, lecherous faces from all sorts of humorous sources. The trend became so pervasive even parents purportedly began to find out about the meme; one widely-distributed hoax post claimed that a mom had sued Netflix after her daughter had become pregnant during a Netflix and Chill sesh.