‘Yeet’ is a word that is often used among the 8-18 year old demographic, yet nobody really knows what it means. It is commonly used as an exclamation when excited, a verb along the lines of ‘to throw’, or sometimes even to describe a state of mind. So when this word is brought up in casual conversation, it is difficult for adults and older members of society to precisely pin down what ‘yeet’ means, and they have trouble understanding their younger counterparts due to this lack of definition. ‘Yeet’ should in fact be used simply to describe an elongated, smooth dance move, as it did in its origin.
First, we have to look at the problem of ‘yeet’ not having a definitive meaning. The misunderstanding that stems from the word’s use can cause dismay and alienation in uninformed groups.
Professor Nick Enfield, employed by the linguistics department at the University of Sydney, in Australia, says “When it comes to a word that is completely new, like ’yeet’… if you hear someone say it for the first time, you can probably get a sense of what they mean by it, but if you see someone confidently using it, and their mates kind of agreeing or not questioning it, then you as a listener become aware that you’re not part of that group”
This group exclusion doesn’t just happen based on age. People not informed on internet trends, such as Amish teenagers, Tibetan monks, and lower class kids without access to a computer or phone, can not keep up with the quickly moving world of internet verbiage. If ‘yeet’ kept its definition in relation to the dance moves it originated from, it would be easier for people to learn the definition and keep that definition straight in their head. Once a word is clearly defined, it will retain that definition for much longer than ‘yeet’ has at this point. ‘Yeet’ is always changing and has so many different definitions you can’t even guess what it means from context clues.
‘Yeet’ originated in a youtube video of a shirtless man dancing, and every time he swung his arms down low, the cameraman, presumably a friend or close acquaintance, would yell out “yeet!” This video didn’t quite go viral, garnering just under 200,000 views since its creation in in February of 2014. However, when Lil Meatball posted a video of himself ‘yeeting’ with all of his friends joining in on the chant, the word took off in a rocket fueled by chimichangas and Mt. Dew.
In a matter of weeks and months, people were ‘yeeting’ like there was no tomorrow, and as evidence by us being here today, there was a tomorrow and the unintended consequences of ‘yeet’ have come to fruition. People are commonly alienated because they don’t know what ‘yeet’ means anymore and who would, with how fast it evolved?
Imagine a world in which the word ‘drive’ had multiple, completely separate definitions. It would be chaos trying to figure out what people are talking about. You would be able to determine someone’s group affiliation or cultural background simply from how they used the word. Yet, ‘drive’ has maintained a steady definition from Old English, when it meant to move something in a certain direction and evolved with the invention of the carriage, and later the automobile.
‘Yeet’ has not followed a similar style of evolution. It did not evolve with practical inventions and a natural movement in society.
In the Sydney Morning Herald, Mary Ward writes, “I, too, have begun to question if yeet even has a meaning. Is this new phrase – seemingly appropriated from African-American culture like “yaaas” and “woke” before it – just a blank tile on the Scrabble board of youth banter?” This word is amorphous and is really just used when it ‘feels’ right.
For a language as straightforward and rule following as American English, shouldn’t a word have a certain instance in which it can be properly used? Words need to be kept in check. ‘Yeet’ has become its own entity, and sticking to the original definition of the word would help keep that entity in check.
‘Yeet’ should be clearly defined as: an exclamation used to describe a dance move in which the dancer swings his/her arms in a long, smooth motion from one side to another. This would help any people outside of the cliques who are privy to the knowledge of ‘yeet’ learn what the word means and not feel excluded because they haven’t kept up with internet trends. It would give ‘yeet’ the staying power that words have when they are defined and make their way into a dictionary.
Let’s face it, this is a word that deserves to stay around for a long time. Once ‘yeet’ is commonly understood, people will be less averse to it. Older generations will accept that it is just another dance move. They’ve lived through ‘the wop,’ ‘the cabbage patch,’ and ‘the hammer,’ so they are experienced in accepting that weird dance moves have weird names and will accept ‘yeet’ as a part of day to day lexicon. Those of the younger generation who simply don’t keep up with internet trends, whether by choice or situation, will be able to learn what ‘yeet’ means and use it properly without the definition moving on without them. They will be able to converse with their peers at school and in the neighborhood without being made fun of for incorrectly using ‘yeet.’
Obviously, ‘yeet’ is more than just a word. It is a symbol of a cultural shift.
Words don’t need to be defined exactly before they become part of our daily vocabulary. While that is fine for certain groups, once a word reaches every part of society, it needs to be controlled. Giving ‘yeet’ an official definition relating to the dance move it describes will make sure the problem of the word itself is eliminated and people everywhere will be able to yeet to the heart’s content without fear of discrimination or prejudice.