Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

“Dank” slang words

credit: Song

One of the most interesting things about college is the vocabulary you pick up. I’m not talking about words like “salient” or “dichotomy”: I’m talking about words like “hella” and “dank.” When I first heard the word “dank,” I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“Wait, so is that a good thing?” I asked my roommate from Portland.

It seemed counter-intuitive, but I learned that yes, “dank” is in fact a good thing.

Likewise, most of the people living in my residence hall section had never heard the word “obvi” (short for “obviously”) or “totes” (short for “totally”) before.

In this increasingly interconnected day and age, it’s sometimes hard to attribute slang words to specific places since information, including language, covers a lot of distance very quickly. Still, there are certain words that are simply not popular in other areas of the country: for example, you rarely hear anyone outside of Massachusetts or New England describe something as “wicked,” by which they mean “great” instead of “evil”: and there are certain words that are simply unheard of outside of their area of origin. Regional slang words are not a new phenomenon, but are brought out (or made salient) in a college setting, where words familiar back home are now met with expressions of puzzlement.

At Carnegie Mellon, some people say, “These clothes need washed,” instead of “These clothes need to be washed.” Apparently it’s a central Pennsylvanian thing.

Midwesterners, I learned from my RA, say “uff da” when lifting heavy objects. I tried to tell this to my friend Tom, who was skeptical.

“Why would that word exist? People don’t say words when they’re lifting heavy objects. They make grunting noises,” Tom said.

He didn’t quite believe me until I asked Vincent, a friend from Wisconsin, to explain “uff da” to him.

“It’s like an exclamation you make,” Vincent said.

“Like when?” asked Tom.

“When you’re moving something heavy.”

I was under the impression that maybe “uff da” wasn’t a common phrase when my RA told me about it (she’d described it as something her grandparents said, usually jokingly), until my Minnesotan friend Rachel asked, “I don’t understand how you guys don’t say ‘uff da’: do you say something else?”

Whether there is any intrinsic correlation between slang words and the geographical regions they’re used in is questionable. One friend theorized that New Yorkers abbreviate things to allow them to talk faster: you know, because they’re pushy and always in a hurry. So does it mean anything that Midwestern slang seems to be onomatopoetic (such as “pop” for “soda,” “uff da” for grunting noises)? What does it say about West Coasters, then, that the word they use to mean “cool” or “awesome” sounds like it should be describing a moldy basement?

Probably nothing.

It turns out that “uff da” is Norwegian for “I am fatigued.” (I learned this from Wikipedia.) “Need washed,” like “obvi,” is an abbreviation, but I wouldn’t say that the residents of central Pennsylvania are in any more of a rush than the rest of the country.

Nevertheless, certain words carry a certain stigma. For example, the word “word,” has been “banned” from one of the rooms in my section by its residents.

“It doesn’t mean anything; that’s why it’s annoying,” said one of them. “It’s just weird. Say a real word instead of just saying ‘word.'”

The thing is that, depending on where you’re from, “word” can, in fact, be a real word. We create the meanings of words when we use them, so “word” starts to mean something the moment someone says it. Regional words are regional simply because of where they’re used and learned.

I mean, obvi.

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