Origins of 10 Popular and Played Out Slang Terms

Bae

Slang is something that is constantly changing and evolving, and even the word itself is one with a mysterious origin. Slang differs all over the world, even in different regions in the same country, and different age groups use different slang terms. In this list, you’ll read about where ten popular slang terms got their start. Five of them are pretty old, and then five of them are ones that have only recently popped up on Urban Dictionary.

Nitty-Gritty

Nitty-Gritty

Getting down to the nitty-gritty is what someone says when they want to get to the point and discuss the smaller and finer details about a particular topic. While there is no specific period or person associated with the origin of this phrase, there is a reason why people say this. Nits are the eggs of lice which are very small, and you’re probably familiar with the ground hominy breakfast food, grits. Because these are both extremely small, that is why people say nitty-gritty.

Buck

Buck

While this term for money is often erroneously attributed to slavery, that’s not the case. Saying buck instead of dollar traces back to the 1700’s when deerskin was a conventional means of exchange. Conrad Weiser, who was a Dutch pioneer that worked as an interpreter and diplomat between the Pennsylvania Colony and the Native Americans first mentioned this in his journal. Of course, we don’t trade in deerskin anymore, but the term stuck and has adapted to our means of exchange now, the dollar.

To Deck Someone

To Deck Someone

To deck someone is to punch them very hard, and it is something that many people still say all the time. It has always meant the same thing, and people have been saying it since the 1950’s. At the time, to deck someone meant to hit them hard enough that they would pass out, or hit the deck (which is the platform of a ship). This is related to the saying of ‘hit the deck’ meaning to get to work and is most often attributed to sailors, who originally popularized the saying.

Cut To The Chase

Cut To The Chase

Cut to the chase is something you would say when you want someone to get to the point of their story, or just tell the truth rather than beating around the bush. The saying started in the 1920’s and is attributed to filmmaking as most movies set up long or romantic stories before getting to ‘the chase scene’ or climax of the film, which is what is considered the most exciting or best part.

Birds And The Bees

Birds And The Bees

This term has no clear origin, which is interesting for any aspect of language because most of the time, people can pinpoint where something started. The birds and the bees is a conservative way to refer to sex or the infamous ‘sex talk.’ One of the earliest instances of the use of this idiom was a 1640 poem by Thomas Carew, where he relates sensuality to nature. The birds and the bees were often used to refer to nature in general, and a 1928 song by Cole Porter called “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love” was the first time it was attributed to sex, and it seems to have evolved from there.

Bae

Bae

The first iteration of the term bae, slang for your romantic partner, to pop up was on March 14th of 2003. A user called Trong on Urban Dictionary submitted the term and described it as a “bastardization of the word babe.” Rap songs have been using the term bae since 2005, but it didn’t become popular until 2011 thanks to internet memes claiming that “bae caught me slippin’.” Since becoming part of the everyday vernacular, people have retroactively begun to claim that it has always stood for ‘before anything else.’

Lit

Lit

Lit generally means intoxicated, but it can also be used to say that someone had a good time, and you’ll be surprised to know that this slang term has been around for a century as of 2018. The first time it was ever used was in a book called War Birds: Diary of an Unknown Aviator published in 1918 by the author John McGavock Grider who said “We walked into the vamp’s house. We all got lit and had a hell of a time.” In the past ten years is when it was first used to mean exciting or excellent.

Trill

Trill

Chad Lamont Butler, a rapper better known as Pimp C and known for his work in founding the Underground Kingz, was the first one ever to use the word trill. On a 1988 EP titled The Southern Way, a track featured the word for the first time, and it is still used in rap songs and the names of rap musicians today. It is the combination of the words true and real and has come to mean someone who is well-respected or very bluntly, someone that is very true to themselves and keeps it real.

On Fleek

On Fleek

An Urban Dictionary user called Dan Blue first submitted the word fleek in 2003, defined as “smooth, nice, sweet.” Another user, Alycyn, proposed the term as a synonym for awesome in 2009. However, it wasn’t until Peaches Monroee published a Vine in 2014 declaring that her eyebrows were on fleek that the term took off. It was one of the most used words of 2014 and ranked among the top 15 most hated words of the year. It means to be on point, or on the mark. Linguists compare it to the term sleek and believe that it may be an adaptation of that.

Bougie

Bougie

Bougie, or sometimes boujee, is a term used to describe a person who tries to appear above their social class or to describe an item that is considered excessive or lavish. It comes from the term bourgeois. It has almost always been derogatory, and bougie was first seen in 1996 in a song by Westside Connection, in which it was used in a hostile manner and spoke about class struggle; it was brought back by the Migos track Bad and Boujee in 2017. The class struggle behind this word has subsided, but the meaning hasn’t shifted all that much.

About The Author
Beth Sloan