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Millennials are killing words

The “news” sites catering to bored millennials and ripping off Reddit are leading the charge in pulverising the meanings of newfangled words.

One of our readers posted on Facebook how modern technology has given so many options for people to express their opinions, and people still chose to “type lyk dis”. I totally got where he is coming from, but responded with a “tl;dr” for fun. I totally typ lyk dat. I get that too. Its kewl, or like, whatever. I can understand that languages are perpetually in a state of flux, and that they are rapidly evolving. I have no problem keeping up with netspeak. The problem is that somewhere along the way people have started arbitrarily using words without even knowing what they mean. The result is tons of mumbo jumbo that I cannot just make head or tail of. Typically, people also don’t care enough to understand the drivel, and just look for a chance to respond with their own nonsense. Another opportunity to rant to validate their own opinions.

When a friend got engaged, someone posted in the group chat, “congrats bro! You also got banged!” I found that inappropriate, but none of my friends did. When I pointed out that it was in bad taste, one of my friends told me that their “receiving power” was very good, and that they understood the meaning. Apparently, I need to work on my receiving power a lot more.

A factoid is not an obscure or trivial fact, it means something that is untrue. There is a difference between scripting and programming. A router is not the same as a modem. The CPU is not the cabinet. While there could be something that can be described as a “ransomware virus”, the catch-all word for harmful computer programs is malware. Those getting abuses hurled at them can be described as getting “roasted”, if there is any legitimate criticism buried in off colour statements. The American slang word means “subject to good-natured ridicule”, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, as used in the Comedy Central Roasts. In either case, roast cannot be used interchangeably with “troll”.

Then there is the inherently cringeworthy phrase “Netflix and chill”, which is made worse by misuse. The phrase “Netflix and Chill” is often used in a way by “alternative news” sites, to imply that the people chilling are actually interested in consuming the Netflix content the sites are recommending. A typical post would be something along the lines of “these are the top ten shows to Netflix and Chill to this Chinese New Year.”

The list is endless. I cannot understand what the word “drone” means anymore. The word is increasingly used to describe all kinds of autonomous machines, from spacecraft, to submarines to aircraft, and even tiny probes within the human body. Examples include the underwater drones NASA is developing to explore the global subsurface ocean on Europa, and the droneships that act as landing pads for the reusable SpaceX rockets. Both the Cambridge and Oxford dictionaries define drones only as unmanned aerial vehicles, either autonomous or remote controlled. Only the Merriam-Webster Dictionary refers to at least the ship aspect, with the definition, “an unmanned aircraft or ship guided by remote control or onboard computers.” There is a word that more accurately describes the object being discussed in the majority of the cases – just call it a “quadcopter”.

One of the biggest offenders is the word “meme”. Before the misappropriation by a bunch of nubs on the interwebs, the original meaning as coined by Richard Dawkins in the book The Selfish Gene, was somewhat different. “Meme” is a short version of “mimeme”, which comes from “mimema”, a Greek word which means “that which is imitated”. Examples given by Dawkins of memes include “tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.” The Oxford English Dictionary, which is clearly trying to keep up now, includes a definition of the second, more commonly used sense, “an image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.”

Apparently, virality is a component of what makes a meme a meme. However, all images with text on them are not memes, and this is the sense in which the word is commonly used now. In the early days of the 4Chan imageboards, which practically gave birth to “memes” as we know them, pictures with text on them were called “image macros”. Ya Dun Goofed.

Millhouse is not a meme. Millhouse can never be a meme.

Another frequently misused word, is “troll”. Listicle sites catering to a primarily millennial audience frequently contain headlines that involve a celebrity doing something stupid, and subsequently getting “trolled” by Twitter. Coming up with puns or joking about an incident is definitely not trolling. One easy way to tell is that a troll is not personally invested in what he is saying or doing, and the only purpose is to elicit a response from the target. Any kind of reaction. Without the reaction, the troll has failed. All those politically motivated, politically incorrect tweets typed lyk dis? Not trolling. Trolling has a loftier purpose.

Trolling is an art form. There have been some celebrated trolls throughout internet history. Willy on Wheels, who replaced the front page of Wikipedia with a custom logo, Jai Maharaj on Usenet imparting unasked for wisdom on spirituality and food habits, RBX on Yahoo! Answers, who made it a point to provide politically incorrect answers that just might actually work, or Anonymous working together to fix the 2009 Time Magazine Person of the Year poll to read “Marblecake also the game” when the list was read vertically.

The real trolls are legendary. “Troll” originates from the activity of fishing, as against the mythical beasts that come in all shapes and sizes. It involves dropping a line behind a boat and going through an area in the hopes that something catches. This is why posts that are meant to be provocative is known as “bait”. These are the trolls, baiting unsuspecting users. Consequently, those that get baited, respond to the posts, and end up “feeding the trolls”.

While chatting with my Warframe guild, one player started talking about how he was trolling the trade chat for a good deal on some stuff he needed. My receiving power was fortunately good in that instance, and I understood exactly what he was trying to say. It took a bit of back and forth before literally everyone else in the channel understood that he was actually looking carefully for a deal, as against finding a nub merchant to con. 

Now coming to the word “millennial”. This is again used frequently by listicle sites who troll their own audience by posting articles on the latest thing that millennials are apparently killing. Movies, relationships, golf, motorcycles, brands… there are probably enough dead things to make a list of. Next time you hear someone use the word “millennial”, ask them for the meaning. They are very likely to say something on the lines of “those born after the year 2,000”. Somewhere in their lazy heads, they have behaved exactly the way millennials do, and not bothered to find out what the word actually means.

Although not defined exactly, “millennial” describes those born from roughly the early 80s to the mid 90s. The word refers to a generation that were young adults at the turn of the century, not those born after. The post millennial generation, those that the actual millennials frequently like to rage about, are referred to as “Generation Z”. The next time you hear someone complaining about millennials, say ranting about how millennials are killing words, feel free to point out that they are actually talking about themselves. That would be terribly ironic. 

I am not advocating that the millennials acquire a Tharoorian lexicon here, bt it iz stil posebL 2 typ lyk DIS n uz d rght wrds.

Aditya Madanapalle

Aditya Madanapalle

An avid reader of the magazine, who ended up working at Digit after studying journalism, game design and ancient runes. When not egging on arguments in the Digit forum, can be found playing with LEGO sets meant for 9 to 14-year-olds.