TikTok is full of tryhard slang (2024)

Right now, language is exploding on TikTok. It is kind of beautiful until you understand why. With every scroll, new terms compete for space in your brain: “orange peel theory,” “microcheating,” “girl hobby,” “loud budgeting,” “75 cozy.” They are funneled into the collective consciousness not because they are relevant or necessary but because random people have made videos inventing these terms in the hope that the wording will go viral. The other day, I saw one where a guy was like, “Does anyone else just love a ‘dinner and couch’ friend? Like, you just have dinner and then you sit on the couch?” The video currently has more than 100,000 likes and 600 comments. He then repeats the term as if to drill into the audience that this is a phenomenon that deserves its own designation: “dinner and couch friend.” Fascinating!

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There is a case to be made that the constant stream of phrases vying to become widely used slang exemplifies a deep appreciation for language among the extremely online, or a desire to connect over the intricacies of the human experience. Perhaps you, too, can relate to the concept of “polywork” (that is, working multiple jobs) or having been raised by a diet-obsessive “almond mom.” Maybe this guy’s video coining the term “weekend effect” to describe the feeling of wasting your Saturdays and Sundays really speaks to you; maybe “first time cool syndrome” is something you’ve personally overcome.

But chances are, either you have never heard of any of these terms or you have heard of so many that you are starting to become a little bit fatigued by them. It is not novel to note that TikTok has sped up the trend cycle, creating incentives for users to remix or react to the latest viral video and forget about it once it’s no longer a reliable source of views. What this has wrought is a graveyard of microtrends and niche aesthetics for people to try on, care about only to the extent that they generate attention, and then discard for the next thing (who even talks about “e-girls” or “goblin mode” anymore?). And over the past few years, TikTokers have clamored to coin the next new trend.

It has become such a frequent occurrence that some TikTokers have even made parody videos about the thirstiness of aspiring term-coiners. “This is my impression of a TikTok influencer who comes on here and starts to explain an experience or a feeling or a kind of person that is literally definable in the dictionary,” says Brenna Connolly in a video posted last September, “like they are the first person to ever encounter or feel something like this and they speak about it in a crazy authoritative, educational tone.” Connolly, a 20-year-old student in New York, says her video was inspired by a different viral video where a woman laments a phenomenon she coined the “‘what about me’ effect” to describe when people on TikTok comment on a video and “find a way to make it about them.”

“I’m sure she’s great and kind, but there are ways you can describe this by just speaking a sentence. We don’t really have to label it something silly,” she tells me. She guesses the onslaught of made-up TikTok terms she’s noticed over the past year or so is from a collective search for identity; the way we’ve tried to seek it out is by labeling and pigeonholing every possible part of the human experience.

In her newsletter on Gen Z consumer trends, After School, Casey Lewis leads each issue with a subject line devoted to two of these viral terms. That there are enough of them to populate an email subject line every single day says plenty about the pace at which they’re fired off; some recent examples include “Doomscrolling and Daylists,” “Work Island and Generation Zyn,” “Stanley Moms and Sephora Tweens,” and, a personal favorite, “Earnestcore and Resolutionsmaxxing.”

“Gen Z are nothing if not marketing geniuses,” she says of TikTokers’ ability to push out viral phrases. Having covered youth culture and marketing trends since 2008, Lewis is struck most by the shift from where these terms and phrases used to originate versus where they do now. “When we were kids growing up, magazine editors and fashion designers were determining trends, but now editors are literally just reporting on what people on TikTok are doing.”

Unlike slang, which generally spreads organically within particular groups and is then co-opted (and often appropriated) by the masses, these kinds of catchy phrases or new terms have historically been disseminated top-down — that is, from cultural products like books or film. Shakespeare, for instance, coined an arguable 1,700 terms, while “gaslight,” “friendzone,” and “catfish” all stem from professional screenwriters. That’s not to say this doesn’t still happen: In 2016, the Cut coined the term “millennial pink,” though if such a phrase were to come about today, it’d be surprising if it didn’t come from a TikToker.

And unlike slang, these phrases are invented for a more cynical purpose: that other people might use them. When then-16-year-old Kayla Newman posted a Vine admiring her eyebrows, she wasn’t intending for the phrase “on fleek” to become a contender for 2015’s “word of the year.” But it did, and she never made a dime off of it (she later crowdfunded a campaign to launch a hair extensions line; the website currently appears to be down). “I gave the world a word,” Newman told the Fader at the time. “I can’t explain the feeling. At the moment I haven’t gotten any endorsem*nts or received any payment. I feel that I should be compensated. But I also feel that good things happen to those who wait.”

TikTokers, knowledgeable in the ways that social platforms profit from minority cultures, most notably Black femmes, have also learned from previous generations’ inability to profit from their contributions to the culture. They know it’s highly improbable that they’ll make a fortune from naming the next new trend (you can’t trademark slang, after all), and few term-coiners profit meaningfully beyond — if they’re lucky — a brand sponsorship deal or two. Instead, they’re after authority and clout. They are, to borrow from Mean Girls, “trying to make ‘fetch’ happen” just to say they made “fetch” happen.

“I understand why people would want to come up with something that’s used all over the internet,” says Connolly. “I think about the girl who came up with ‘girl dinner,’ and how awesome it must feel to see everyone saying it all the time. It’s like starting an inside joke with your friends and your entire circle continuing to use it.” But it is also sort of thirsty behavior, and Lewis predicts TikTok’s biggest user base is starting to see through it. “I do think there’s going to be a backlash this year against content that is created like, obviously, just in the hopes of going viral,” she says.

Of course, TikTokers aren’t the only ones trying to make their various fetches happen. Judging by the sheer volume of coverage on phrases like “beige flag,” “quiet quitting,” or “mob wife aesthetic,” journalists on the culture beat are essentially captive to whatever happens to be trending online in the hopes they might capitalize on its existing virality. So, what the hell, I might as well join in: I’m calling the rash of tryhard slang online “trendbait,” and if you make a TikTok about it, please be sure to tag me.

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TikTok is full of tryhard slang (2024)


What is POV in Gen Z? ›

POV – Point of View: Often used in captions and on-video captions to signify when the viewer is meant to be watching it from their own perspective.

What is the slang FYP? ›

FYP is an acronym that means “For You Page.” It refers to the tab on TikTok that is filled with recommended content and videos the app thinks you'll enjoy the most. Some creators use the #fyp hashtag to try and get their video on other users' For You Page to help increase views and brand visibility.

What is a POV in slang? ›

POV stands for point of view. On TikTok, POV is often used in videos or as a hashtag to indicate that the video is meant to be watched as if the viewer were present or the viewer is in a specific situation. While the acronym POV is not exclusive to TikTok, POV videos are a popular video format on the platform.

What do TikTok stand for? ›

It went international in 2017 as TikTok; the name, apparently, is a play on tick-tock, onomatopoeia for clocks and a term for countdowns and minute-by-minute action.

What is a hot girl slang? ›

Synonyms for hot girl in English
  • hot chick.
  • hottie.
  • sexy girl.
  • hot babe.
  • cute chick.
  • pretty girl.
  • nice girl.
  • cutie.

Is Rizz a Gen Z word? ›

Rizz, for instance, is Gen Z slang for a quality several previous generations have staked their own claim on: Swag being its immediate predecessor, and mojo sliding in much earlier. Sexual charisma is just something humans never stop thinking about and reacting to, so new words keep bubbling up to describe it.

What does Gen Z say instead of cool? ›

Dank- While the dictionary definition of "dank" means unpleasantly humid or damp and chilly, as slang the term refers to something else entirely. The word can be used to describe someone's level of coolness. Calling someone “dank” is the equivalent of calling them cool or great.

What is Gen Z lingo? ›

Just like the generations before them, Gen Z uses an extensive list of slang words. "Bussin'," "ick," and "mid" are popular among Gen Zers. Social media helps slang spread rapidly, but proper credit is often lost along the way.

What does POS mean? ›

It stands for “point of sale,” which can be defined as the place where a transaction takes place between a customer and a merchant.

What does BSF mean? ›

In slang, "BSF" means "best friend." Another definition, although much less common, would be "best sister friend"—AKA a friend close enough to be a sister. As one user explains on Urban Dictionary, a BSF is "a best friend who is like a sibling to you or just a best friend."

What does >>> mean in chat? ›

In texting and online messaging, ">>>" is often used to indicate a strong or intense emotion, such as excitement, enthusiasm, or emphasis. It's a symbol meant to convey an extra level of intensity beyond a regular exclamation point or other punctuation marks. For example: "I'm so excited for the concert tonight >>>"

What does "pookie" mean? ›

Just like honey, sweetheart, and darling, “Pookie” is a cute nickname some people might give to something or someone they see as very cute and lovely. The nickname “pookie” has been around for a while, but it's become even more widely used thanks to users of TikTok using it to refer to their loved ones and pets.

What does pob mean? ›

a numbered compartment in a post office where mail is put to be called for. synonyms: PO Box, Post-Office box, call box, letter box. type of: compartment.

What does OG mean? ›

What does OG mean? OG, short for “original gangster” or “original gangsta,” is a slang term for someone who's incredibly exceptional, authentic, or “old-school.” OG was originally used in gang culture, but it is now used as a general term to praise someone who is an expert at something.

What are TikTok key words? ›

What are "Keywords"? Keywords and phrases are sourced from TikTok ads' voice-over audio, text overlay on the ad, and caption text on the ad. Then, the keywords are organized so that users can learn from commonly-used and top-performing keywords to inform ad copy development.

What are TikTok terms? ›

Subject to the terms and conditions of the Terms, you are hereby granted a non-exclusive, limited, non-transferable, non-sublicensable, revocable, worldwide license to access and use the Services, including to download the Platform on a permitted device, and to access the TikTok Content solely for your personal, non- ...

What does ⬛ mean on TikTok? ›

Refers to p*rnhub. Black and orange are the colors of the p*rnhub logo so these emojis are used on platforms like TikTok to talk about the site and to find X-rated content.

What is typical TikTok text? ›

The font used for the Classic TikTok font is Proxima Nova - Semibold. It's part of the Proxima Nova font family, which is free for personal use but not commercial use. If you've already licensed Proxima Nova and have permission to use it, great.

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