SLAY and the words we say

There’s one word I see almost every single day that really grinds my gears. It used to have a whole different connotation: think knights taking down dragons. Or perhaps a warrior on the battlefield rampaging through a horde of orcs.

Just thinking about this word makes my brain break a little bit. So, I took a break from writing this post, opened a tab for Facebook, and there it was.


It haunts me wherever I go.

This word, any many others that are now part of Millennial and Gen Z-ers natural speech, are words that I am convinced BuzzFeed has played a huge role into helping infuse new slang into our natural speech patterns. Because of its popularity with these age groups, it’s obvious as to why these words catch on the way they do.

Of course, BuzzFeed didn’t start the whole “slay” trend. From what I can tell, it began around 2013 according to this Urban Dictionary post. From there, you can see its early uses on BuzzFeed in late 2013-early 2014 (this is one of the first posts where “slay” is in a headline).

But it’s not just slay. There are many more words and phrases that BuzzFeed writers frequently use that once you see there, you see everywhere. Some examples:


“Can’t even”


On fleek

and an oldie, but goodie: YOLO

What is happening here? This all reminds me of my seventh grade English teacher analyzing the once common greeting “whazzup.” (I feel old even saying that.)

According to his calculations, we’ve gone from “what’s up” to “whazzup” to “sup” and one day, we’ll be down to “up?” and the letter “s.”

It was silly then, but for some reason, it all makes sense now. BuzzFeed is not to blame for this insane amount of “new,” annoying words — it just happens to be an extremely popular site that is targeting the same group of people who are likely to identify with the content via cultural experiences and backgrounds. It’s just a natural evolution of our casual speech patterns. The point is, with the increasing connectedness of our lives to the outside world, we are so much more inundated with the latest trendy words and phrases.

I don’t know a lot of people who would say “slay” in a personal conversation. Might they say it online though a Tumblr post or on their Twitter? Maybe. It’s this weird in-person vs. online representation of ourselves that I find almost nauseating in some cases. Are we trying too hard? Some would say no. Like I said, this is just a natural progression of how we communicate our thoughts.

We should, however, consider how much of a role Internet culture has played into the way we present ourselves, online and off.

And now for some analysis

I played around with Keyhole to see what’s happening right now with these popular buzzwords. Tonight is the BET Awards, so many tweets for “slay” are revolved around this. (I also only have the free version for Keyhole and it only lets me pull the last day or so of data.) But let’s take a look:

You can see the huge uptick of the use of “slay” or “#slay” online that corresponds perfectly to tonight’s event.

Also, it seems that Twitter users are using “slay” way more than other social media platforms. Most of these are in the form of RTs.

Here, you can see where people who love “slay” are located. Europe is pretty divided — either you slay, or you don’t. Also, women are more likely to use this word.

Texas slays harder than any other state.

And finally, as I mentioned, with the BET Awards, this is a major event that is causing many people to turn to social media tonight and say who is slaying, and who’s not. But at the moment, it does look like Nicki Minaj might be slaying a little harder than Beyonce (uh oh). Also, that iPhone source metric is pretty staggering — it also makes me sad to see how small the desktop category is.

But what does it all mean?

This social data is in constant flux. I’m guaranteed to see a different story tomorrow. Perhaps Beyonce will have #slayed more. Perhaps Texas will no longer be the queen/king of slayage.

The point is, just like how popular words and phrases come and go, so do a lot of things in our culture. Fast fashion, Iggy Azalea — things that were once on top are forgotten and we find something new to cling onto.

I just hope this whole “slay” trend ends soon for my own sanity.