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Friday, July 12, 2024

Are words losing their meaning?: On our obsession with buzzwords

3 min readIt's undeniably amusing to see how Gen Zs treat these buzzwords as a different breed of language understood only by them. But an unspoken question hangs over the air, is it still humorous when words already lose meaning?
Profile picture of Denise Julianne Pangan

Published over 1 year ago on February 27, 2023

by Denise Julianne Pangan


Main image of the post

Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb


Thanks to social media, our generation has come to a point where being told to keep slaying is a compliment and is never about going on a killing spree --- even if that's what it literally means. And as if it isn't enough, we also exaggerate how we pronounce slay, acting as if it's written in cursive with more letters y and a built-in fire emoji at the side. Talk about turning a violent word into a yassified buzzword.

As defined by Cambridge dictionary, buzzwords are words or expressions frequently used on television and in different media platforms such as social media. They are everywhere, crossing the border between phone screens and real life as we embed them in our vocabularies.

It's undeniably amusing to see how Gen Zs, intellectuals, tech-savvies, and more treat these buzzwords as a different breed of language understood only by them. But an unspoken question hangs over the air, is it still humorous when words already lose meaning?

Creating not from scratch but scraps

Screengrabs from @champagnebecca and @darcymcquenyyy/TikTok @patmaliwat/Twitter

Screengrabs from @champagnebecca and @darcymcquenyyy/TikTok @patmaliwat/Twitter

Before words turn into buzzwords that we are so fond of incorporating into our vocabularies, they first had a different meaning.

Take gatekeeping, for example. When this buzzword appears as a caption or a hashtag in a TikTok video, it only means one thing: something isn't dropped or revealed. You liked the plaid top she was wearing? Too bad she didn't drop the link. Did someone discover a good sushi place? Too bad they didn't reveal the restaurant. Or maybe, a TikTok user was done gatekeeping his favorite Indie pop band and finally decided to let the world know about their existence. The gatekeeping possibilities are endless. But if there's one thing people should not gatekeep, it would be its in-depth definitions.

In mass communication, gatekeeping is filtering information before it's published, transmitted, posted online, or used in another form of communication. While in sociology, gatekeeping happens when a person or a group controls access to information, goods, services, and people in positions of power.

Although the process of restricting access is still evident in the buzzword definition of gatekeeping, it seems shallower. Almost as if its in-depth definitions were torn apart, using its bits and pieces to create a buzzword appropriate for simply hiding shopping links for clothes, skincare products, new restaurants to try, and bands with their fantastic discographies --- not that it's necessary at all.

Similarly, another word that has altered its definition is none other than tweeters' favorite: red flag. At this point, everything is worthy of raising a warning flag. Liking pineapples on pizza is a red flag. Being a Gemini is a red flag. Having a name starting with the letter J is a major red flag. These trivial things become red flags because of the almost universal heartbreak experiences involving people with these characteristics, becoming quips understood only by those who find them relatable.

From being a banner that either indicates danger or bears the symbol of revolution, a red flag is now immensely entwined with the dos and don'ts in dating and entering relationships. Undeniably, it is a must, particularly for inexcusable behaviors. But as the buzzword continues to flood social media platforms, even our shortcomings get splashed with red paint --- as if our flaws are just unforgivable signs of impending doom and not what humanizes us.

Now Trending: Confusion

Screengrabs from TikTok (@jusdani, @awkwardmarina)

Screengrabs from TikTok (@jusdani, @awkwardmarina)

Since the appropriation of buzzwords alters their definition, words lose meaning. And more often than not, it leads to confusion, just like what happens in TikTok trends.

Trauma dumping is widely used over the internet, even becoming a story time video content on TikTok. Using the hashtag #traumadumping, TikTok users post videos recounting their personal, friendship, familial, and parental hurts --- except these aren't acts of trauma dumping.

Contrary to its buzzword definition, trauma dumping is a one-way nonconsensual oversharing of multiple sensitive and difficult-to-process information with other people. It can harm those on the receiving end once overwhelmed by the constant and several dumping and denied the chance to respond or at least internally process things.

While it's possible to encounter a triggering video while peacefully scrolling on TikTok, the comment section --- where netizens willingly express their sympathies, share the same sentiments and experiences, and open discussions about a particular topic --- draws the stark line between simply venting emotions and dumping trauma.

In our lives beyond the screens, we must always acknowledge the fine line between the two, especially when someone confides in us. Because throwing around such a buzzword insensitively might just make a person who only wants to be heard not utter a single word ever again.

Jumping on the buzzword bandwagon

When buzzwords get the spotlight, they quickly buzz out of our mouths, almost like an automated response. And if I'm being honest, it's not entirely wrong if you want to use them. It's even fascinating how words evolve creatively, appropriating them with mundane activities with existing terminologies.

But when words drastically lose meaning, it leads to confusion and misusage. The old and new definitions overlap, creating a communication barrier between tech-savvies and non-tech-savvies.

The truth is, no one's stopping you from jumping on the buzzword bandwagon. Everyone has joined the parade. But one thing's for sure: you have to be wary. Because you don't want to lose your way with words, do you?

Social Media



Red Flags

Trauma Dumping

Profile picture of Denise Julianne Pangan

Denise Julianne Pangan

Blogs Writer

Denise Julianne Pangan was a Blogs Writer at TomasinoWeb. Denise is a journalism major exploring the many faces of popular culture and its intertwinings with society. Though she has yet to discover her beat as a newbie blog writer, she writes easy-to-read listicles and social commentaries. When she's not drinking too much coffee, she watches anime and EN-O'CLOCK vlogs, reads fiction novels and Twitter seryes, and romanticizes cleaning her bookshelf.


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