TikTok Talk DeCoded & Translated

Photo credit: TikTok

What’s new in social media? Sorry (not sorry), Mark Zuckerberg, but “Threads” sounds like it’s a fashion app, not a “Twitter Killer.” The real news is that I recently fell down the rabbit hole of TikTok — no, I’m not “producing content” as a “creator” (doesn’t that sound God-like?). I’ve become addicted to watching said (often ridiculous) content, I’m embarrassed to say. In case you weren’t aware, TikTok isn’t your kid’s dance videos anymore.

At the moment, I follow a few fashion and beauty accounts of women ranging from age 20 to age 55, each with their own “shtick,” so to speak. Unlike watching the tiresome YouTube videos in which a mascara review can stretch on for what seems like an eternity, it’s a quick hit. No one needs to hear five minutes about the product packaging or the feel of the tube in your hand – they want to see the results and not with false lash inserts! (Which a very famous influencer was recently accused of doing).

I’ve learned that if the Chinese really are using this app to spy on American citizens, they will have to get with the “slanguage” used predominately by some of the Gen Z’ers.

Laurel Marcus

I will attempt to break it down for the TikTok newbie or never be:

Of course, some crossover in lingo between Instagram and TikTok is expected as many influencers post the same content to both. You may be well aware of the GRWM or “Get Ready With Me,” which features precisely that – a video glimpse of an outfit/jewelry/accessories/makeup selection often accompanied by the thought process behind said choice. I always love these as I go through a similar approach when getting dressed – the exception being that I have an audience of one – myself.

Likewise, I’m sure anyone who has ever watched any makeup tutorial is familiar with the word “dupe,” as in a duplicate product generally at a lesser cost than the better-known or more “viral” one. It could be a “hot take” (an unpopular or controversial opinion) that the less expensive product is often the better one.

Denouncing a popular trend such as “blueberry milk” nail polish could also land you in trouble – by labeling it a hot take, you aim to deflect some of the criticism possibly coming your way.

Did you know that there is something called “deinfluencing”? This is when someone advises their viewers not to purchase an item because of cost, ineffectiveness, or because they just didn’t think the product lived up to its hype. This is a touchy subject since many social media influencers are being paid to promote a brand, so you should always see a banner reading “Paid Partnership” or something along those lines.

Quite a few influencers have run afoul of this rule and been called out by other influencers or viewers for their misleading content. Once an influencer is deemed untrustworthy or inauthentic, they may lose status in the community, and viewers may tune them out. However, the “haters” will stick around just to post nasty comments. Many will accuse this person of “getting the bag” or “chasing the bag,” meaning running after the money.

Keeping a product, a place, or even an idea the influencer likes a lot to themselves is known as “gatekeeping.” Sometimes they will flash it on the screen momentarily or refer to it and then jokingly say that this product is so good they will “gatekeep” it. Other times they will say that a product is underrated and “a lot of people are sleeping on it.”

Their advice – “Do not sleep on it!” Should you run across the word “ate,” it often doesn’t mean ingesting something by mouth – instead, it’s a commendation for a good job, as in “you ate that.” I think of it as similar to “You aced that.” On the other hand, if you hear something or someone referred to as being “mid,” to my mind, it’s similar to being called “basic” or just middling/not very exciting.

Again swinging to the other extreme, you may hear of an experience referred to as a “canon event” – used to describe a life-changing event (good or bad). However, it can also be used sarcastically or perhaps just overly dramatized. The drama (and humor) is at least half the reason to engage with TikTok in the first place, or at least it is to me.

#Storytime is another hashtag you’ll see on the app, and it’s when a creator is not selling anything. Often they are just garnering sympathy or trying to appear sympathetic. The phrase “low-key” is used as in “I low-key want it” for something that wouldn’t normally be in someone’s sights — perhaps a power tool or a lawnmower for someone who generally focuses primarily on fashion and beauty products.

Among the younger crowd, the word “situationship” has taken hold. WTH does it even mean? A situationship is not quite a real relationship, but it is something that they will cry over no matter how short-lived or futile the experience is once it inevitably ends.

Likewise, a phrase like “hit and dip” – when a frat boy says he wants to have sex with a girl and disappear never to be heard from again. “Dip” is also a verb, meaning to leave quickly. Not to be confused with “The Drip” (no, it’s not an STD) – it means that your look is exceptionally fashionable or sexy.

Also, in the fashion realm of TikTok, you may see an influencer explaining how to style a “hero piece.” No, they’re not (necessarily) referring to a cape (as in something worn by a superhero, although a cape certainly could be one), but rather a piece that is the star of the entire outfit.

Usually, they advise to let that piece shine and not detract from it with anything else too showy. “Let it complement, not compete,” in the words of Carla Rockmore, who owns the two-story closet of your dreams and provides interesting styling tips such as don’t be afraid to wear a printed top backward if you like the colors on the back against your skin tone better.

Now, that I’ve defined the “hero piece” as the power transformational piece I’m also seeing it referred to as more of an elevated basic piece — such as a perfect white shirt — which you reach for often. Ok, am I confusing a “show pony” and a “work horse?” Thoughts?!? Even on Instagram I see conflicting info on this topic…

If you use this translator and venture onto the app (which you don’t need an account to view), just be warned – whatever you do, try not to become a victim of the well-known hashtag — #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt..

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Laurel Marcus

OG journo major who thought Strunk & White's "The Elements of Style" was a fashion guide. Desktop comedienne -- the world of fashion gives me no shortage of material.

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