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Culture & Religion

What Gossip Girl Could Learn from the Grateful Dead

Why should anyone care about Gossip Girl? Perhaps because it’s an excellent escape from the depth and complexity of the Messy Rest of the World. Perhaps because the kids are pretty. Or perhaps because it reminds viewers who are no longer (or who are not yet) eighteen what it feels like to be that age: narcissistic, insular, sophisticated–and yet absent any responsibility. In fact, the only thing the kids on Gossip Girldon’t have is a native dialect, a slang unique to them. Should they? They are not Holden Caulfields, after all. Their brand is not intelligence, Yale acceptances aside. Does how they talk matter? Does the creation of a slang mark a culture for longevity? Consider one example.

Teenagers are classically cave-people when it comes to communicating, but a recent blog post making the rounds from El Mundo de Gabriella analyzes the relationship between the slang of St. Paul’s School students and the lyrics and spirit of the Grateful Dead. The directness of the derivations is less impressive than the willful creation of a fairly comprehensive language meant to communicate a highly educated apathy.

For instance:


Bolt: vb. trans. 1. To deal with or take care of. (“Bolt your vids.”) 2. (Derogatory) To flee or forget about. (“Bolt that.”)

Butter: vb. trans. 1. To relax with and do something. 2. To enjoy or like. de~ : To dislike. Sickly ~ : Intensified form of butter. 

Frelk: n. A frelk is similar to, but not the same as a hippy. Both are committed to the natural world, spirituality, and individualism, but hippies have a deep commitment to a way of living, whereas frelks integrate these values into their lives at an elite New England boarding school. 

Frelk out: vb. intrans. Frelking out is a form of dancing best performed to “frelky” music, though it works for almost anything. It involves letting the entire body become loose and slowly flailing the arms while twisting around. (See the picture above. It’s not as ridiculous as it sounds.) 

Frelky: adj. Of or characterizing frelks. Frelky music includes Phish, the Grateful Dead, the Dave Matthews Band, and Pink Floyd. Other things that often qualify as frelky include: frisbees, tie-dye, marijuana, walking in the woods, and environmentalism. A true frelk would be upset at having certain classified as “frelky”: frelks do things because they like them, not to cultivate an image; thus, anything done in accordance with the philosophy of frelkiness is frelky. 

Newb: n. A newb is any member of the school in their first (not necessarily freshman) year. The term is originally a verbal shorthand for “new boy.” “Newg” was used when girls were first admitted but has since dropped out of favor. ~ light: The harsh, interrogation-style lighting provided by the school in dorm rooms, so named because (supposedly) only newbs use them. Most students buy desk and floor lamps to create a more mellow (see mellow) aura. ~liness: actions typical of a newb. Walls bereft of posters, not knowing the way to the Upper and mispronouncing the names of Faculty members are all instances of newbliness. pre~: a student who has been admitted to St. Paul’s but is not yet attending. Prenewbs visit the School for a day and spend time with an actual newb, and it helps them make a decision about where to go to high school. 

Score: vb. trans. 1. Unlike in the rest of the world, to “score” someone at SPS does not necessarily imply sexual relations. To score someone may mean to hold hands in public with, to have sex with, or anything in between those two. Perhaps best summarized by the phrase “more than friends.” 2. When used in the progressive tense, to be in a relationship with. (“I’m scoring a girl in Kehaya.”) Newb ~: a relationship that occurs during freshman year. Often looked back on nostalgically during Sixth Form. Random ~: a one-night hook-up between two people who don’t know each other very well. 

Sesh: vb. trans. To do, but in a non-obligatory way. One can sesh a vid, longboard or frisbee, but under no circumstance can one sesh their homework. 2. (used with vids) To hang out, relax. (“I’m just seshing my vids.”) 

Shank: vb. trans. To slack off with respect to. (“I’m shanking Calculus this term.”) 2. vb. intrans. To be generally lazy. (“My lab partner shanked, so I had to do it all.”) 3. n. A slacker.

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Vid: n. Originally found its roots from the acronym Visually Intensive Display in Art courses here. It has now come to refer to anything to which someone is too lazy or cool to apply a proper name. One can sesh their vids, butter their vids, or bolt their vids. Vid being the free-flowing word it is, it can also be used as a verb or an adjective, as in “Vid me the vidding vid.” This sentence is devoid of almost all meaning, but it sounds great.


Are these examples funny?  Instructive?  If nothing else, they have endured.  

If the words we choose say something about who we are–and perhaps something about what we’ve read (or listened to), aren’t all stories richer for the presence of slang? So it goes.


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