“Shut-up! No way?! I can’t believe it!”

February 8, 2011 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Bits and Tips, Marketing Communications 

By Alisa Crider, PR Associate, Managing Communications

Wow! How could a word that used to mean “to stop talking” now mean “Please – tell more!” It’s easy  to blame the obvious – the media. Those who have seen the popular American teen comedy film, Mean Girls, are familiar with “the plastics,” the A-list girl clique who are the queen bees of their high school. You might recall Regina (Rachel McAdams) asking Cady (Lindsay Lohan) who had just moved from Africa, “So you’ve actually never been to a real school before? Shut up! Shut up!” Cady responds back in confusion, “I didn’t say anything.” Although this may be a comical exaggeration, this scene is not too far off from today’s high school setting.

 Stacy London the fashion expert on What Not to Wear says “Shut-up” all the time in a similar manner. Her use of the word seems to define shock or serve as a substitute to the phrase “Oh my gosh!” My favorite reference however, is in the 2011 Golden Globe winner for Best Comedy, “The Kids are Alright.” Paul (VB native, Mark Ruffalo) plays the birth father and has a tendency to sub “Shut the front door” for a more inappropriate phrase.

 On a different note, “Shut Up” is also a song by the American hip hop band The Black Eyed Peas. The 2003 single is on their album Elephunk. It’s basically the battle of the sexes put into song with the chorus consisting of the lines “shut up, just shut up shut up”. In this case, the word is used repeatedly to get a point across. Funny how a word that used to be frowned upon, is now being sung by 12-year-olds on a daily basis.

So when did the connotation of this word shift and become so casual and “fetch”? It’s hard to point fingers at an individual who coined this term; however, I think it is easy to say it was born out of the millennial generation – people born between 1982 and 2000, ages 10 to 28.

 There are several characteristics of millennials that contribute to this assumption. First of all, they are the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media. It’s hard to find a person in this age group who doesn’t own an Ipod or have a Facebook account. In fact, many prefer chatting online to talking on the phone. IM-ing (Instant Message) is the preferred communication tool and is where people show off their knowledge of acronyms, like “DEGT”: “don’t even go there,” or “IDTS”: “I don’t think so.” Millennials are technology savvy because they have no real memory of life without computers, cell phones, or digital music.

 Typical Millennial tends to be extremely competitive, confident and optimistic. This contradicts the fact that Millennials also appear to be the most stressed-out generation in history. They seem to require constant encouragement to thrive and are not too humble to make this known. Most are social bumble bees and crave attention and recognition. This explains why most teens strive for the A-list and don’t typically fall short. They devour the popular lingo that echoes through the high school halls because everyone knows “Shut-up!” is much sassier than “No way!”

There is a time and a place for everything, and the workplace is not somewhere the word “shut-up” should be used under any context. Some people may feel it depends on the work environment of the business where they are employed. I personally would not use that language with my boss, but I see other people do. Even if the word is not used in its original context, and is instead used by its millennial definition, I still find it unnecessary and inappropriate. It is slang and has no effective use in the workplace.

  “Shut-up” is now a word with multiple meanings, and it may take a while for all the generations to understand its new meaning.

 Can you believe an entire blog was devoted to such a trivial subject?…Shut-up!