It is intriguing to see people try to handle slang. And while it is unclear where it is that yeet came from, it is intriguing to note that the grammar of the term, and whether it is a regular verb or an irregular one, has already become a matter of contention. There are some people who have no problem using the term yeet who think that it is gauche to say that something was yeeted instead of yote, although in my own hearing of the word yeeted is far more commonly used as the past tense for yeet than yote is, at least among the circle of practical linguists that I happen to be around. Indeed, I even know of synonyms for yeet that are well known within certain communities, such as the EU4 livestreaming community in which one Arrumbas bad heirs by yeeting them out the window in honor of a player who always talked about throwing his in-game children off the balcony if their stats were not good enough. How it is that words with no pedigree whatsoever should be the source of such fecundity and such controversy is deeply interesting to me.

Human beings are inherently creative people, and while that creativity is not always turned to good directions, it is something that can be seen very easily when it comes to language. There is, in our age in particular, a great deal of interest in the creation of words for various reasons, despite the fact that English has more words than we know what to do with and many remains of the attempts to have coined words or senses of words that have failed to be remembered or passed on to future readers and speakers. Every time a word or a new sense of a word is coined, it is done because of a shared meaning within a certain community and a way of expressing to others within the community that one knows or appreciates something that was shared between them. For words to last, though, they must find a way of being used outside of that community. All too often words are adopted to seem as if one is “cool,” but the word loses its cultural cachet when it comes too mainstream and fails to distinguish between enough people, at which point the word becomes kept alive by older and obviously less cool speakers while new words have been coined by those interested in being on the cutting edge of ephemeral linguistics.

Why is this so? There are some communities for whom the coining of language tends to be enduring in nature. For example, the religious tradition I am a part of has certain words and senses of words that were coined generations ago and are still in regular use. And while this language separates people on the inside from those on the outside, it is not as if new religious language is being coined or previous language is being viewed as obsolete or treated in a negative fashion. Indeed, there is a positive hostility to the coining of new religious language as that is viewed as evidence of either evidence of undue personal speculation on the one hand or the reading and study of too much external material on the other hand, a matter that I have had to deal with from time to time [1]. Indeed, the conservatism of such inside speak is a means of preserving a community connection with people who by and large are not inclined to read or learn a lot of new technical language. In fact, one of the more striking successes in recent years has been the popularization of the term remez, coming from the Hebrew, as a way of referring to hints and allusive references to scripture [2], which is one of the few additions to the lexicon of my own religious community to have received widespread success in recent years.

This is not how things work in the regular world, though. Most aspects of the world in which we live do not seek to preserve existing language with a strong negative bias against new language, unless that new language serves a vital purpose of describing something of interest for which no generally accepted word or sense of an existing word previously existed. On the contrary, there is frequently a bias towards the coining of new words and phrases for which numerous other examples already exist, as a way of distinguishing those who are hip and up with the times from those who only understand what was previously thought. Nearly a couple of decades ago, for example, it was popular to ask who moved the cheese as a way to signal that one was hip to the change management culture that was then spreading through corporate America. In other communities it became popular to talk of e-manager myths, for example. But when enough people knew about that language or if it was no longer new enough to be considered hip, such books and such expressions were cast aside to the rubbish bin while new ones that said the same basic thing but were more fresh became au currant in a community where it was not what was true that was most valuable and treasured, but what was new. The truth takes time to discover and to apply, while what is new is enjoyed precisely because its flaws and shortcomings and nuances are not well-known yet, and because it provides a great deal of respect to those who strive for continual learning rather than gradual and consistent application.

Yeet, therefore, exists for a reason, and that is that people want to distinguish themselves as being on the cutting edge of the coining and use of words from those who lag behind the curve. The fact that I am no longer young and have no longer been cool means that this word is likely well on the downswing to being left behind for the historians of failed attempts at understanding the shifts of slang in contemporary English and no longer being the sort of things that people say when they want to be thought of as cool because the cool kids have moved on to something else. Indeed, the desire of people to distinguish themselves by being in advance of mass culture makes any efforts by lexicographers to clue the rest of us into what is going on is self-defeating, because the spread of such lingo to mass culture defeats the purpose of it being used as a distinguishing marker in the first place. The act of seeking to understand what the cool kids are saying drives them to say something else because they do not want others to copy them, but rather they want to be different. Yet by virtue of their being cool others wish to understand and emulate them, thus making coolness a task of continual futility for all of the arrogance that cool people show to those they deem as being lame and beneath their notice. It is only a monumental fool, though, who willingly and intentionally chooses for oneself a Sisyphean task. If they had wanted to stay distinguished from others in terms of the language they used, they should have deliberately sought to avoid being viewed of as cool, then no one would care to learn their argot in the first place and they would be able to distinguish themselves from outsiders without having to try so hard.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Church of God, Musings, On Creativity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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