10 Times Instagram Changed the English Language

As Cara Delevingne exemplifies, the meaning of words and phrases is changing faster than ever. A generation that learned how to text before learning the “correct” definitions of words has no respect for “official” definitions. And why should they? In 1873, Nietzsche famously philosophized that official definitions distort the nature of things and force people to frame their reality in pre-defined terms. “What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms…metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power; coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.”

In the early 1900s, Ambrose Bierce, the fiercely independent essayist and satirist, so deeply understood the manipulative power of words and their definitions that he set out to write his own dictionary — The Devil’s Dictionary. His definitions enlightened his contemporaries about the true social, political and economic power of words and their meanings.

Because we believe that the Bierce-ian vibe is alive and well in the digital age, we have set out to compile a Devil’s Digital Dictionary. Here, a definition via the bottom-up approach of researching how words are actually being defined on social media (yup, by spending millions of hours on Instagram and Twitter.)

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Love. /ləv/. noun. feeling of affirmation or affection for a being or thing, ranging in intensity from soul-sizzling ferocity to casually consumptive curiosity. (“OMG I love that bracelet, where did you get it?”)

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Cute. /kyo͞ot/. adjective. having an appearance or nature that inspires wonder and aww. That’s “aww,” not “awe,” as in, “aww — it’s a baby otter cuddling with an iPhone 6 + in an Otterbox.” “Cute” means “aww inspiring.”

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Bored. /bôrd/. adjective. feeling weary because you are overwhelmed by the repetitive predictability of life. Boredom is the tiring sense that a really good computer algorithm could predict exactly what you want and what you will do next. The awareness of a boredom, therefore, becomes the basis for rebelliousness.

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Blessed. /blest/. adjective. state of having benefited from major dose of good fortune or a tiny drop of good luck. The tumor’s benign. #Blessed. Got to Soul Cycle on time. #Blessed.

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Nostalgia. /näˈstaljə/. noun. playful remembering of a prior period from personal or cultural history, which is unburdened by a desire to return to that period and filled with lighthearted joy. No longer is nostalgia the Don Draper kind, which longs to Kodak Carousel itself back to some time when everything was better. Nostalgia has become the celebration of the long and winding road of personal and shared history.

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Feminism. /ˈfeməˌnizəm/. noun. personally customizable belief in gender and sexual equality. Lena Dunham is one type of feminist, Hillary Clinton is another type of feminist. Kim Kardashian is another type of feminist. John Legend is another type of feminists. And, yes, ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Gosling is his own kind of feminist. Being a feminist is the cultural equivalent of owning a jailbroken iPhone – it’s completely customizable; that said, having a jailbroken iPhone one means that you acknowledge that iPhones (representing women in this analogy) are, at the very least, equal to Androids (representing men in this analogy, which is not as random as it sounds because the word “Android” derives from the Greek root “andr,” meaning men” and you wonder while ladies don’t like them).

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Disruptive. /disˈrəptiv/. adjective. useful in a way that makes something else seem useless. Uber is disruptive because it makes cabs seem useless. AirBnB is disruptive because it makes hotels seem useless.

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Mom. /mäm/. noun. one with whom one shares a sense of felt consanguinity (who need not necessarily be one’s biological mother). This new definition came to the public’s attention when Lorde retweeted Kim Kardashian’s booty bearing Jean Paul Goude picture with the hashtag #Mom. When some questioned whether Lorde was judging Kim for appearing naked on the cover in light of the fact that she is a mother, Lorde responded by clarifying that she was indeed using the word’s new definition “among the youthz [mom] is a compliment; it basically jokingly means ‘adopt me/be my second mom/i think of you as a mother figure you are so epic.”

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LOL. /ell-lō-ell/. verb. to experience humorous stimulation to a degree ranging from the awareness that someone has expressed something in response to to which you are intended to experience humorous stimulation, to the actual state of audible laughter.

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Crazy. /ˈkrāzē/ adjective. notably out of the ordinary, from unseasonably cold weather to a degree of demented deliriosity that qualifies as actual mental derangement.

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