5 Slang Words That May Never Be Legit

By Mark Nichol

OK, like, OMG, I’m totally not bagging on you for tweeting or FBing or blogging these words, but they are so bogus in formal writing. LOL

1. Amirite

This trendy favorite of commenters on pop-culture Web sites, meant to suggest a glibly tossed “Am I right?” — I figured that out after initially wondering what the heck uh-mere-uh-tee meant — has about as much chance of making it into the dictionary as fuhgeddaboudit. Save it for the fanboys — you can do better than that.

2. Craptastic/craptacular

These mash-ups of, respectively, crap and fantastic and crap and spectacular first cropped up in snarky online lambasting of overhyped pop-culture phenomena in the 1990s. I chuckled the first couple of times I came across them, but though they are ideal terms for assuming a sarcastic tone, they are best used in moderation and are not, and perhaps will never become, mainstream expressions of derision. Safer alternatives for general publication include absurd, laughable, ludicrous, preposterous, ridiculous, and risible.

3. Genius

Out of seemingly nowhere, online correspondents began to use this as a short form of ingenious, as in “That’s such a genius move.” It has not acquired legitimacy, and in other than jocular usage, you don’t have to be a genius to avoid it.

4. Ginormous

This collision of gigantic and enormous, dating from the 1990s, is a vivid term, but it is superfluous, considering that humongous, which also seemed to appear spontaneously in casual usage when it came on the scene in the 1960s, has already acquired a respectability the newer term as yet lacks.

Plenty of words meaning “extremely large” exist: colossal, gargantuan, gigantic, immense, mammoth, massive, monstrous, prodigious, titanic, and vast, for starters. None of them has the neologistic cachet of ginormous, but the letter is for now only suitable in informal writing.

5. A Slang Word That Isn’t

The adjective cliche, used in place of cliched, as in “That’s so cliche,” was originally on this list, until I looked it up and discovered, to my surprise, that it is a legitimate variant. Its sudden recent vogue lured me into thinking it was being misused in an affected manner much like the adjective genius (see above) is. It’s correct, but you’re welcome to use one of many synonyms, like hackneyed or trite.

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17 Responses to “5 Slang Words That May Never Be Legit”

  • Cecily

    “Ginormous” isn’t new, at least not in England. I used and heard it in my childhood, but that was long before the 1990s. So I looked it up and discovered it originated as British military slang in the 1940s.

  • Gila

    Just thought I’d point out a typo:

    In #4, you wrote, “…None of them has the neologistic cachet of ginormous, but the letter is for now only suitable in informal writing.”

    I believe you meant to write “latter”, not “letter”.

  • jake

    Likewise I used ‘ginormous’ in the UK as a child in the 80’s. The teacher made a point of telling us it wasn’t a proper word which suggests we must have been using it quite a lot.

  • cmdweb @ freewritingadvice.com

    Amirite is a new one on me.
    I do have to say that in spoken language I find these kind of words and colourful phrases quite enjoyable. I don’t like seeing them written however. It really winds me up.
    …and don’t start me on texting.

  • Heilagr

    Sadly the term “that’s so gay” while maybe not in the dictionary, probably should be because of its ubiquitous use by the under 30 population.

    Sadly we went from Gay meaning happy, to homosexual, to being a term with mildly to major negative connotations.

    I understand language changes over time, but some rationality please.

  • Tully Tremaine

    This would have been good had you not used “OK,” “OMG” and “LOL” to introduce it. Sheesh! Not even ingenious.

  • Claude Nougat

    I always read your posts with pleasure and learn something new – like humongous that dates back to the 1960s…that’s when I was studying economics at Columbia U. – which explains I use that term rather than ginormous (I don’t like the sound of it, much prefer humongous: there’s a rythm to it that suggests vastness!)

    As to cliche, that’s French and it ought to be spelled with an é: cliché. I know, because French is my mother tongue!

  • val

    “That’s so cliché” sounds ridiculous to my ear; I really like the Wikipedia article regarding that word!

  • Bob Kaplan

    I don’t even regard clichéd as a valid word, since cliché is a noun and cannot have a past tense. However, language is constantly changing and since most of those changes started out as incorrect usage, I’ve learned to accept it (although I don’t use it myself).

    As for all the other words, I hope you’re right, but I wouldn’t put any money on it.

  • fred files

    The first time I heard the word Ginormous was in Transrformers: the Movie back in 1986, as spoken by Jazz (Scatman Crothers).

  • Jedwardcooper

    I’m okay with a “genious move”, similar to “idiot move”.

    “Bossy” is the adjectival form of boss, yet there’s a difference between a “boss comment” and a bossy one. Similarly, the genius move might be one that a genius might make, not necessarily an ingenious one.

  • hz

    Hi Mark,

    I could be wrong, but I think genius in the context “what a genius move” is being used as a synonym for “smart”. So “what a smart move”, not necessarily poor word choice.

  • Mark Nichol

    HZ:

    Understood, but smart is an adjective; genius isn’t. I don’t dislike the usage. I’m just pointing out that I don’t think it will ever obtain respectable status.

  • Mark Nichol

    J. Edward Cooper:

    I see your point; both “idiot move” and “genius move” adopt a noun as an adjective. Many nouns work as adjectives without alteration — “table leg,” “dog tired” — but neither idiot nor genius is established in adjectival form. That’s fine in informal writing, but they are likely to indefinitely remain nonstandard usages if they survive for long at all.

  • David

    I’m not sure I agree with your choice of “genius”. To me it seems very similar to the way the Brits use “brilliant”, and that seems to be fairly popular even here in the States (for which I thank the brilliant Harry Potter movies).

    And I would suggest that “legit” belongs on the list. 😉

  • Mark Nichol

    David:

    As I mentioned to a couple of other commenters above, I like the informal adoption of genius as an adjective. I’m just pointing out that, unlike brilliant (and, as I just discovered, cliche), it is not formally recognized as an adjective.

  • Dale A. Wood

    “Amirite” looks like a blend of “amicable” and “arbitrate”.

    We hope to deal with and amicable arbitrator…..

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