Millennials, we did it. We wrung the English language of all its luddism until it was so [exhausted face emoji] that it finally gave in.
This week, the Oxford English Dictionary added a few hundred formal and slang words to its pages, and YOLO is one of them.
In addition to this millennial victory, there was also a coup for Old Brooklyn: the regional Brooklynism “Fuhgeddaboudit,” which adorns one of the many Brooklyn signs that greet cars leaving the borough, is now in the dictionary.
But what does the legitimacy of YOLO and fuhgeddaboudit mean for all of us? Should we start using this New Yorkism with the same wild abandonment as the millennial acronym? And will Old Brooklyn vernacular fade in its cultural prominence if other cities and cultures begin to adopt the word as commonplace?
Eh, probably not. Here’s the OED’s definition of Fuhgeddaboudit, int.:
In representations of regional speech (associated especially with New York and New Jersey): ‘forget about it’, used to indicate that a suggested scenario is unlikely or undesirable.
At the very least, the dictionary preserves origins, so anyone reading it will always know where it came from. A dictionary induction is basically the landmark status of the English language, and in an age where mafia presence is almost nil and Honeymooners fandom takes a backseat to Broad City mania, OG New Yorkers can find their inner Sopranos in the world’s most definitive tome of Truth.
YOLO, int. and adj, isn’t nearly so endearing in its coarseness. Here’s that def:
‘You only live once’; used to express the view that one should make the most of the present moment without worrying about the future (often as a rationale for impulsive or reckless behaviour).
First of all, what is the point of putting YOLO in the dictionary and making it as legitimate and spellcheck-proof as the smaller words that make it up? It has become something of a cliché to use the full phrase, You Only Live Once, but it’s not like people go around yelling CD! CD! for “Carpe Diem.”
And while “You Only Live Once” can certainly be interpreted as a directive to make impulsive choices, the thought process that motivates”YOLO!” is as condensed as the word itself. YOLO lives at the intersection of the helplessly basic and quintessentially #firstworld consciousness. It speaks to a privileged sliver of the English-speaking population that can afford to forget about their bank accounts and live in the moment for once — over and over again! — regardless of the consequences, and is amplified in big cities like New York (viz. these people) where convenience isn’t even a question.
YOLO is not the grad school degree or the vacation skydive. YOLO is the Friday night Seamless order and the three-digit price tag on a pair of shoes.
And for what it’s worth, if given the choice between the life-affirming attitudes of the YOLO generation and those of the Fuhgeddaboudit generation, I pick the latter. I pick the one that calls bullshit over the one that embraces it.
For more Ye Olde opinions: @ahoysamantha