Over twenty years ago, the New York Times published an article on the grunge trend, “Grunge: A Success Story,” which bears the distinction of being both the Styles section’s editorial zenith and nadir—a dichotomy which is no small feat to pull off. The article was designed to illuminate this exciting “new” subculture for Times readers of the early 90s, in much the same way that the Styles section now serves to expose its readers to things like man-buns and monocles. Except, you know, that grunge was real. But you know what wasn’t real? The lexicon of grunge terms that the Times published along with the article.
Below is the entire list of “grunge speak” that genius 25-year-old Megan Jasper, a receptionist for Sub Pop Records, made up and told the Times reporter, who then clearly didn’t bother doing even the most rudimentary fact-checking, and ran the faux-lexicon, thus confusing countless teenagers whose parents tried to relate to them by commiserating about what a harsh realm it was when My So-Called Life was canceled.
WACK SLACKS: Old ripped jeans
FUZZ: Heavy wool sweaters
PLATS: Platform shoes
KICKERS: Heavy boots
SWINGIN’ ON THE FLIPPITY-FLOP: Hanging out
BOUND-AND-HAGGED: Staying home on Friday or Saturday night
HARSH REALM: Bummer
COB NOBBLER: Loser
DISH: Desirable guy
BLOATED, BIG BAG OF BLOATATION: Drunk
LAMESTAIN: Uncool person
TOM-TOM CLUB: Uncool outsiders
ROCK ON: A happy goodbye
Well, lo and behold, despite once being burned by youth culture and its language trends, the Times has waded back into the slang pool and published a quiz on current Internet language trends. The quiz asks the all-important question: Are You On Fleek? It’s your job to see if you are by choosing the best definition for words like “bae,” “lordt,” and “bruhhh.” It’s a pretty basic—as in every meaning of “basic,” which, no, is not on there—quiz as far as it goes, and if it weren’t already obviously laughable enough, it has now been turned into a segment on The Today Show, which, once, I remember seeing one morning before heading off to middle school, had a guest who was there to explain what it meant to say someone was a “Baldwin” or was “going postal,” because Clueless had just come out and the olds were confused.
Obviously once slang hits the mainstream in the form of a morning show segment or a Times quiz (or, you know, brands use it on Twitter), it’s probably on its way out already. All language trends are ephemeral—that’s the nature of a trend. So, you know, use fleek now, if you’re ever going to, because it’s pretty clear that we have reached peak fleek, and there’s no going back.
Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen