GQ’s dictionary of modern slang is a monument to lame white men
It thinks you need to be told what ‘bae’ and ‘squad’ mean
Did you celebrate International Men’s Day yesterday? Do you think the feminists need to shut up about Dapper Laughs and Don Draper is the ultimate gentleman? Do you wish women would shut up and let you pay on the first date? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’ll absolutely love GQ’s helpful guide to contemporary slang.
Worrying omens of its crushing uselessness are there from the very beginning. It opens in the smug, violently incoherent register of a precocious year nine at a provincial grammar school who reads the Wikipedia synopses for classic works of fiction rather than the books themselves: “In terms of a digitised age of microblogging, fast-paced trends and the terrifying ubiquity of bizarre slang words, Charlie Brooker’s Nathan Barley has matured from absurdist parody to terrifying parable.”
The subtext couldn’t be clearer. Of course you don’t know what bae, squad, thug life, or turnt mean. You subscribe to GQ. You’re a gentleman. You write letters and take people out for dinner, you court ladies, you own a really expensive watch. Once, you bought a newspaper – and definitely read it, all of it, not just the headlines and the pictures, all of it, every last page, even the stocks and shares, yeah especially the stocks and shares, and the business pages. Everyone in your Whatsapp group speaks in full sentences and never uses emojis.
“Keep it futile, gentlemen,” GQ helpfully remind us, loath to abandon their rich tradition of hammy sentences which don’t make any sense, “And remember, all of these are completely unacceptable to say out loud”.
Here’s the prom limousine delusion which dare not speak its name: that there is a magical world, somewhere either in the Home Counties or 1950s LA, where boys who aspire to own massive snooker tables and Jaguars can avoid real life, where people abbreviate things. They can still be the best people ever – even at the things they pretend to hate.
The truth in this case is that the perfect gentleman just wants to be cooler than rappers. This list of slang is simply a roll call of words white people have picked up from hip-hop culture over the past decade. It’s Richard Madeley dressed as Ali G. It’s Blazin’ Squad. It’s the Cheltenham Ladies’ College hockey team rapping along to Gangsta’s Paradise.
Of course GQ and its dwindling band of readers know what a Reddit AMA is. They imagine themselves spooning a mute Instagram fitness blogger as they fall asleep, murmuring bae into their pillow. They buy cigars for the squad but never finish them. They read the guide to contemporary slang on their iPhone 6.
Now this lame tombstone to social media in the 2010s exists, it might be time for the rest of us to start thinking up some new words.