It’s all AAVE

Slang comes from a history of Black culture and struggle

AAVE stands for African American Vernacular English.

Internet lingo rises to prominence and falls into obscurity rapidly. Anyone who has had any exposure to spaces like Twitter, TikTok, or the once-popular Vine, might have noticed this.

For many, the appearance of slang words may seem almost miraculous; you open your phone and, suddenly, people are integrating a brand-new word into their lexicon. Then you go out in public and hear it employed in the real world.

Just like that, our generation has adopted a new slang term to be discarded quickly.

Oftentimes, it’s words made up by an anonymous internet collective, that are labelled as Gen-Z speak, or as TikTok slang. But the truth is, it’s almost always from AAVE.

AAVE is an acronym for African American Vernacular English, once known as Ebonics. It describes the unique form of English that much of the Black community in the United States—and, to some extent, Canada—has created.

AAVE’s roots run deep and wide. You can see African influences in language as enslaved Africans created their own dialects of English after coming to America. There are different dialects depending on the region and, in AAVE, you can see references from all over. Immigrants and long-time residents continue to contribute to the changing landscape of AAVE.

However, the Internet’s use of AAVE is not as graceful as the language’s growth over the decades. The internet takes a new word, chews it up, and spits it out until it’s no longer fashionable.

Like all things sourced from Black culture, once it reaches mainstream attention, the clock is ticking on how long it’s considered fashionable. Because Black culture is perceived as fashionable, people feel free to wear it and drop it as they please.

On top of this, AAVE reaching the mainstream means non-Black people have better access to the vocabulary needed to mimic that stereotypical Black accent—the Blaccent, if you will.

In using words they don’t know the original meaning of and talking in an accent that’s seen as ‘unprofessional’ when you have the wrong skin tone, people continue the cycle of uneducated and disrespectful appropriation.

I’ve seen too many white people suddenly slip into a simulacrum of AAVE when trying to make themselves appear more aggressive, more abrasive, or as a punchline.

The message is clear: to you, these terms are just funny words from TikTok, and you believe a Blaccent can only come from someone who is either aggressive or funny.

Of course, language evolves and to ask people to stop picking up new vernacular would be impossible and hypocritical. However, the rebranding of AAVE to Gen-Z slang is another reminder of the erasure faced by many aspects of Black culture.

If you’re saying something like ‘slaps,’ calling someone a ‘simp,’ or saying ‘deadass’ or ‘period,’ just know these words didn’t come out of nowhere; they come from a long history of Black culture struggle, and it’s all AAVE.

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