I’ve been glued to Channel 4’s Derry Girls this month, a comedy about a group of school girls set in the early 90s against the backdrop of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
I love it as much for its humour as its period detail – anyone who grew up in the 90s will be instantly transported to a world dressed in plaid, velvet chokers and baggy denim, raised on a diet of Vanilla Ice, EMF and Cypress Hill.
But its nod to 90s pop culture reaches its language too – in the first episode one of the main characters, Michelle, greets her pals with “Motherfuckers!” explaining it’s a new phrase she’s just learnt from a film her dad was watching.
Pulp Fiction gave us so many great pop culture moments that I’d forgotten that word was one of them. It’s slipped into our lexicon without much of a backward glance. Unlike others from the same decade – remember ‘rad’, ‘mega’ and ‘wicked’? These are now just as ageing as ‘far out’, ‘hip’ and ‘groovy’ are for the Baby Boomer generation.
It’s funny that some words get adopted and others are just as quickly banished to the Chesney Hawkes Museum of Old Things* along with all those payphones, fax machines and copies of the Yellow Pages.
So which are today’s ‘motherfuckers’ and which are today’s ‘right ons’? As a Gen-Xer, I couldn’t possibly say. But not using them hasn’t stopped me being curious about what they mean.
So here are the ones I’ve earwigged lately – along with a rough translation, for the uninitiated…
Not as in physically having just woken up, but more mentally. The Urban Dictionary explains that ‘being woke means being aware… knowing what’s going on in the community (related to racism and social injustice)’. It’s terribly woke to be commenting on #MeToo, for example.
Previously known as: Politically correct
Not a comment on the weather, but used for when someone says one thing but means another. Famous context: the reality TV show Love Island, as in: “Olivia said she loved Chris, but said she’d sleep with Mike.”
“Damn that’s so muggy”.
Previously known as: Well dodgy
A fancy-pants way of describing someone’s sense of style, whether it’s clothing, interior design or their online presence. Example: “I love her wedding aesthetic.”
Previously known as: Good taste
A style of low-budget film using real people or improvised performances. A bit like the film equivalent of drinking home brew in a jam jar while sporting a beard and tattoos. The production is so low you can’t hear it, but who cares when it looks this real?
Previously known as: Ken Loach’s Kes.
Ooh this is quite a controversial one.
It’s a new term for looking after one’s self with a view to good mental health. It focuses on small, everyday, personal acts that can go a long way, such as cooking a meal, taking a bath or meditating.
It’s been criticised for typifying both the millennial generation’s snowflake tendencies and their obsession with giving new names to things.
Previously known as: A duvet day
There’s no doubt we love all love a catch phrase, whether it sticks around or not. So while I might feel too old to be using words like ‘woke’, I love the way our language is unpredictable and ever changing.
It’s wicked. LOL.
*Sadly this only exists in my dreams ☹️