00:22 | 07/05/2021 Print
You've probably seen the word "cheugy" making rounds on TikTok lately. After all, TikTokers are using the term to describe a whole slew of things related to millennials, ranging from clothes to Instagram captions. If you've seen the term popping up in popular videos, you've probably been wondering what exactly cheugy means. The definition of this viral term is steeped in millennial culture, and here's why it's all over TikTok. The so-called Millennial girlboss aesthetic finally has a name: cheugy.
Cheugy is just the latest in a long line of niche identifiers that have gained traction on the internet, where people relentlessly categorize highly specific archetypes in starter pack memes and videos. It’s no coincidence that cheugy gained traction on TikTok, a platform that has functioned as an escape from Instagram’s once dominant aesthetic, which is the pinnacle of cheugy.
According to Urban Dictionary, it is the “opposite of trendy” — cheugy describes a style that was “popular in middle school or high school,” but is no longer cool.
A TikTok user who goes by the name Hal took it a step further. She said things that give off “I got married at 20 vibes” or are teased for having “Millennial or girlboss energy” are cheugy.
Some examples she gave include T-shirts with phrases such as “yes way rosé” on them, Herbal Essences shampoo and wooden signs you might find at Hobby Lobby. Think “girlboss” mugs and Rae Dunn pottery.
According to Know Your Meme, cheugy is all about describing something that's "the intersection of millennial, girlboss, and out-of-style cringe." To give you an idea of what that looks like, you'll want to check out the March 30 video by TikToker Hallie Cain (@webkinzwhore143) explaining the term. In the viral video, Cain explains that things that show off the "millennial or girlboss energy" of cheugy include out-of-date graphic T-shirts, phrases on clothes, Herbal Essences shampoo, and quoting Taylor Swift in Instagram captions like, "I'm feelin' 22," on your 22nd birthday. Basically, anything millennials thought was hip throughout the 2000s is cheugy.
It sounds like chew-ghee. In noun form (a cheug), it sounds like choog.
Kelly Wright, an experimental sociolinguist and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan who studies language, said that with the rise of social media, “we see words emerging to define very niche categories of people, identities and behaviors. In their core, they’re marking shared events or a shared understanding of the world. These words that emerge from smaller communities have the potential to be picked up by wider audiences because of social media and that connectedness.”
At the end of March, TikTok user Hallie Cain posted a video explaining that her friends had a word they used for things that were no longer trendy. According to The New York Times, the word was created by one of Cain's friends, Gaby Rassan, who coined it in 2013 when she was in high school and trying to figure out a term for people who were just a bit off-trend.
According to Money Control, Gaby Rasson, who's also from L.A., states that she used the phrase in 2013 while at Beverly Hills High School to put a label on people who were intentionally off-trend but in a trendy way. "Looking good for yourself and not caring what other people think, that confidence exudes non-cheugyness."
However, doing so because you care very much what other people think of you is extremely "cheugy."
|Photo The Guardian|
"It was a category that didn’t exist. There was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and ‘cheugy’ came to me. How it sounded fit the meaning," Rasson said.
Abby Siegel said that she picked up the word during a summer camp that Rasson was also present at, "Everyone in our sorority knows the word cheugy."
She stated, however, that while there's something about the word that can be perceived as negative, embracing your "cheugy-ness" is fine.
"Everyone can be cheugy. Everyone has something cheugy in their closet. We didn’t intend for it to be a mean thing. Some people have claimed that it is. It’s just a fun word we used as a group of friends that somehow resonated with a bunch of people."
So don't feel bad about your cheugy-ness folks. I have an affinity for Arizona iced-tea themed apparel that's marketed on Instagram, and I love it.
"There was a missing word that was on the edge of my tongue and nothing to describe it and 'cheugy' came to me. How it sounded fit the meaning," Rassan told The New York Times.
|Ultimately words like cheugy are as much about establishing who you aren’t as who you are. “A word like cheugy is a way of labeling an in group and an out group,” said Gretchen McCulloch, a linguist and the author of “Because Internet,” a book about how the internet has shaped language.|
When it comes to social media networks that are popular with the youngsters, it doesn't get much more prevalent or relevant (these days at least) than TikTok, which is still experiencing tremendous growth and is well on its way to matching Tinder in terms of revenue capacity.
And in this wonderful e-wonderland of mirthless dance videos, social commentary, legitimately funny comedy skits, and legitimately awful comedy skits, sometimes new words are created.
Though cheugy has slight negative connotations, people who use the term said they often identify as cheugy themselves. “Everyone can be cheugy,” said Ms. Siegel. “Everyone has something cheugy in their closet. We didn’t intend for it to be a mean thing. Some people have claimed that it is. It’s just a fun word we used as a group of friends that somehow resonated with a bunch of people.”
|Michael Cotos, 24, an actor in Los Angeles, discovered the word on TikTok and it immediately resonated as a niche descriptor. “I was like OMG, this is the perfect word,” he said. “It is a certain sub group of people that just don’t quite get it.” |
Alex Lugger, 32, a boat marketer in Springfield, Mo., said that she self identifies as a bit cheugy. (She also learned about the word through TikTok.) “We were basic in our 20s and now we’re cheugy in our 30s,” she said.
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