Changing Language with a Side of Waffle Fries

A manager at American fast-food chain Chick-Fil-A has tried to clean up his restaurant’s act via very traditional means: the use of proper grammar.

Eric the manager, after an observational study of his employees’ millennial lexicon, compiled a list of banned words that are forbidden from the moment Fil-A-ers walk in the door until they punch out at the end of their shifts. Surely, Eric simply sought to eliminate phrasing he felt was less than professional; but his naughty list serves as a snapshot of the way media and language are evolving.

chickfila

Interestingly, the phrases aren’t so much words as references; and while there are a few standalone terms, like the enduring chill and cuz (Eric notes that the latter shall not be used for either because or cousin), most were born of pop culture.

While 10 or 20 years ago, employees in their teens or 20s might have quoted films or TV shows, a percentage of the catchphrases on Eric’s list were coined by regular folk getting ready to go out or, say, preparing to face the jury: many of the manager’s banes were the fruit of viral videos.

This clip, in which a woman instantly crafts her defence after being questioned by police regarding a robbery, provided the cashiers with both “I’m legally blind” and “POP Hold it dine.” Meanwhile, on fleek means you look gooood, in this case with particularly artful eyebrows.

The sources of the list’s subjects are actually a telling look at where people seek news and entertainment nowadays. The traditional sources are represented – “Bye, Felicia!” is from the 1995 movie Friday, 0–100 is a song by Drake, and Ebola speaks for itself – but others are online-only. The earlier examples popped up on YouTube and Vine, a social-media network that even the First Lady of the United States has used to promote healthy eating through wordplay on pop culture. Funnily enough, her clip features a term that appears on Eric’s list. (The list itself gained notoriety when one of the offending employees uploaded it to Reddit.)

For anyone interested in upgrading their vocab, some definitions –

For finance types: 3hunnid three hundred

For romantics: bae before anyone else; the most significant of one’s significant others

For clean freaks: rachet trashy; disgusting; foul

To be fair, it’s no wonder improper word use was getting to Eric: he works for a company that not only spells its name phonetically, and has built its entire advertising campaign around the somewhat insulting idea that cows who could write would struggle with spelling:

chickcows

So really, everyone is to be applauded here: Eric, for his defence of traditional grammar rules; his employee for being media-savvy and digital-minded, snapping a photo and uploading it to Reddit; and the brave soul who tried to rescue bae – the term he apparently places before anything else.

Marisa Campbell

12 November 2014