The Brief: Check out StayHipp's (non-exhaustive) list of the top slang and internet lingo of 2020.
Throughout 2020, as the pandemic required people to avoid gathering in-person, the internet became all the more essential for the proliferation and evolution of language. Some of the most prominent slang terms, shorthand jokes, and emoji combinations originated from online subcultures on TikTok, Twitter, Discord, Reddit, etc. before they hit the mainstream and entered popular vocabularies.
Here’s StayHipp’s compilation of the most significant and widespread slang terms and social media lingo of 2020 that is bound to keep showing up in 2021:
A lasting effect that the Among Us boom had on wider culture is the popularity of the expression “is sus.” Previously used to describe someone suspicious in general, the term became associated with the game as it’s a common way to subtly accuse someone of being the impostor.
This gaming term has been overused to the point where it’s more likely to be used ironically than seriously.
Simp has evolved over time, developing various connotations both positive and negative. While it’s often used to make fun of boys and men for respecting girls and women by implying that they’re only doing so as part of sexual pursuit, it can also be used to emphasize someone’s devotion to a crush. After simp became widespread on the platform as a disparaging slight, Twitch’s updated harassment policy will ban the use of “simp” as an insult along with “incel” and “virgin.”
The two fingers pointed together emoji, often paired with the phrase “I’m shy” and the pleading face emoji: 🥺 were popularized on TikTok as a way to represent someone who is meek and shy. They’re also associated with flirting and simping.
Pandemic Slang: Rona, Pandemmy, Vacky Etc.
In 2020, Karen became a multi-use term to characterize entitled white women who use their privilege to do things like call the police on Black people, refuse to wear masks, and demand to speak to the manager at retail stores. Karen has also been applied in broader contexts, including the labeling of Elon Musk as Space Karen and the ironic fetishization of karencore on social media.
The 2020 TikTok iteration of the “not like other girls” trope is “girls who say hiii” vs. “girls who say bruh.” While the former is characterized as traditionally feminine and flirty, the latter is supposed to be more chill, cool, and “one of the boys.”
Across the internet, Gen Z-ers and Millennials are embracing a “bimbofication” by prioritizing kindness and good looks over book smarts. Twitter discourse about whether or not “himbo” was “ableist” because it fetishized people based on a lack of intelligence brought the term into the mainstream where many people decided that not only was it not ableist, but it was something to aspire to. Thembo is a non-binary option to characterize people who are strong, good-looking, respectful, and not necessarily traditionally intelligent. For more information, check out this “I Need A Himbo/I Need A Hero” song parody.
Who knew a nickname for hot dog would become so widespread.
The word to describe the experience of scrolling through bleak social media feeds during a dark time was popularized by the reporter Karen K. Ho who tweets nightly reminders for people to stop doomscrolling.
By referencing past behavior that doesn’t match up with the current image someone is trying to present, the short phrase “this you” efficiently calls people out for hypocrisy on social media.
Shorthand for how things feel different depending on the context.
Indicative of a wider trend of online spirituality and self-help guides, the idea behind this buzzword is to make dreams a reality.
Popularized on TikTok, this phrase illustrates things that are too relatable or poignant.
- Eboy: although it wasn’t a new concept in 2020, eBoys continued to gain traction throughout the year.
- Bayang: a quarantine haircut that’s not for everyone.
- Entanglement: Jayda Pinkett Smith’s euphemism for affair.
- F to pay respects: this age-old gaming term is still widely popular.
- 🙈: the “see no evil monkey” emoji also works more generally to represent someone hiding their face or covering their eyes.
- Wallet: a clapback for men who refer to women as “dishwashers.”
- Big peefy: a word that only Robert Kardashians hologram knows the meaning of.
- Doomer: a meme and big mood for 2020.