Are you woke?: The neologism I hate the most

That new word is “woke,” and the Urban Dictionary defines it with some accuracy (and snark):

In other words, it denotes a state of ideological purity that agrees with the speaker’s views. It’s equivalent to calling yourself a “bright.”

For a more long-winded and arrogant explanation of the word, head over to Raven Cras’s piece at Blavity, “What does it mean to be woke?”  At first I thought it was a joke, but I don’t think so. It starts like this:

The phenomenon of being woke is a cultural push to challenge problematic norms, systemic injustices and the overall status quo through complete awareness. Being woke refers to a person being aware of the theoretical ins and outs of the world they inhabit. Becoming woke, or staying woke, is the acknowledgment that everything we’ve been taught is a lie (kind of/mostly). Woke(ness) provides us with a basic understanding of the why and how come aspect of societies’ social and systemic functions. The phrase itself is an encouragement for people to wake up and question dogmatic social norms.

. . . the piece goes downhill from there.

Feel free to comment on the neologisms you most dislike; that’s always a lively and curmudgeonly discussion!


  1. Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    I’m sleepy. But woke enough to realize the laziness in the term “woke.”

    Woke essentially means you are aware with the things another woke person places value upon and agree with their assessment..

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      I tried to edit my comment I mean “You are aware ‘of’ the things.

  2. Cole
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    I’ve never heard the word used without irony. It bothers me even then.

    • eric
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I’ve never heard the term used in this way at all.

      Which makes me think I have a good set of friends and co-workers.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Same here. If I ever come across the term in the real world I’ll know I’ve stumbled into a part of it where I’m not safe. I’ll stand up slowly and leave as quickly as I can without attracting attention. Then I’ll go find a café and have something inappropriate like Earl Grey tea to recover my equanimity. (The legend of how it got its name is what makes un-woke.)

        • Hempenstein
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

          New to me, too, and happy for that.

          But I’m a big fan of Earl Grey, and so went looking for what’s wrong with that. Not sure I found anything, but the last line of the Wikipedia page is noteworthy:

          In one case study, a patient who consumed four litres of Earl Grey tea per day reported muscle cramps, which were attributed to the function of the bergapten in bergamot oil as a potassium channel blocker. The symptoms subsided upon reducing his consumption of Earl Grey tea to one litre per day.[13][35]

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            I love Earl Grey, but you’re probably asking for trouble drinking 4 litres of any tea per day!

            The story is that the recipe for Earl Grey was given to Charles, first Earl Grey, by a Mandarin after the Earl saved his life. But they don’t grow Bergamot oranges in China (or at least didn’t at the time – don’t know about now), they didn’t drink tea with Bergamot in China then, Charles, Earl Grey never went to China, and he never saved the life of any Mandarin.

            • grasshopper
              Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              If it ain’t woke, don’t nix it.

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink


        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          Same here, never heard it.

          “Woke” is the past tense (transitive) of “wake”. That’s ALL it is.

          The adjective is “awake” or possibly (stretching it) “awoken”. Assuming that’s their intended meaning and not some arbitrary piece of gibberish.

          Bah humbug!


        • Mark Joseph
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

          Me too. Never heard this before.

          My bête noire is not really a neologism, but rather the use of the simple past for the past participle: “I have went,” “I have did,” “I have ran,” ad nauseam.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 15, 2017 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

            That sort of thing annoys me too. Anytime I hear really bad grammar it annoys me. I don’t worry about stuff like who/whom though.

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

              I do! But then, I have a reputation to maintain. Can’t go getting kicked out of the “Grammar Grumps” club, now! Yes, I am also a card-carrying member of the Spelling Scrooges, and the Punctuation Police. 🙂

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

                Me too. I cringe so much at misspelled signs, including misplaced apostrophes, that I can’t buy from places that have them.

            • Filippo
              Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:18 am | Permalink

              Just congenially curious – would you say, e.g., “To that are you talking?” instead of, “To whom are you talking?”

              • Heather Hastie
                Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

                No, definitely not! I meant if someone uses who instead of whom or vice versa I don’t worry about it.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

          something inappropriate like Earl Grey tea to recover my equanimity. (The legend of how it got its name is what makes un-woke.)

          My wife and I sometimes call Earl Grey “hippopotamus tea”.
          Earl Grey is flavoured with Oil of Bergamot.
          “Bergamot” is a trip of the tongue from “bigemot”.
          “Bigemot,” when written correctly in Cyrillic, is Russian for “hippopotamus”.
          Well, it makes us laugh.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

            Made me laugh too. Well, smile a bit. 🙂

    • BJ
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      It’s a word used widely in social justice circles. My used-to-be-favorite pop culture site, the AV Club, has now gone so SJW they called Jordan Peele’s new movie, “Get Out,” a “Woke Horror Film” in the title of their review.

      This resulted in somewhat of a conflagration in the comments section because some people felt white people using the term “woke” is cultural appropriation from black people, since they believe (I don’t know if they’re right — not that it matters) that the term was originally started a few years ago among black social justice groups.

  3. Gnu Atheist
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    “Father!!! The Sleeper has woke!” – Paul Muad Dib

    Nah… doesn’t quite have the same impact.

    • David Duncan
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      Duke Leto Atreides to Paul: “The sleeper must woke!”

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Bless the Maker and all His Water. Bless the coming and going of Him, May His passing cleanse the world. May He keep the world for his people.

    • Gordon
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

      I’m ‘awoke’ probably works

    • bobkillian
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      Sing along now: Nessun dorma….

  4. $G
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    “Becoming woke, or staying woke, is the acknowledgment that everything we’ve been taught is a lie (kind of/mostly).”

    Every “woke” person I’ve met lives his or her life exactly the same as before, except they just reserve a bit more snark and “skepticism” for certain political institutions.

    They still go to the doctor, buy from the same grocery store, go the same job, buy gas, etc.

    When I see the term “woke” I can’t help but picture a lazy, slacker version of Tyler Durden (Fight Club). All talk, but none of the drive (thankfully). And definitely none of the abs.

    • Sastra
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Most of the people I know who would qualify under the part of the definition you quote are conspiracy theorists who are anti-business and anti-science (except, as you point out, when it suits them.) So they don’t go to the same doctors (alt med), buy from the same grocery store (organic gluten-free anti-GMO) go to the same jobs (nonprofit activists) or do quite the same things as the materialistic materialist hoi polloi. Some of the standards they follow are difficult or limiting (“off the grid.”)

      • $G
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        I suppose I just happen to know the pretend-woke people who only *follow* the actual-woke people. Fortunate me!

  5. Dominic
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    A woke sounds like a small furry relative of a hamster…

    • busterggi
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Kinda like a vole with a long tail?

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      Wasn’t Chewbacca a woke?

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

      Too bad James Thurber isn’t still with us, since I’m sure he could have drawn us a woke.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Related perhaps to the snark?

  6. Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    This is true. I once had an argument with someone (I forget whom) who disagreed about the meaning of ‘curmudgeon’. It chuffin’ wound me up. And I’m even more annoyed that I can’t remember with whom it was.

    Anybody triggered by the ‘who’/’whom’s? Or should that be ‘whoms’?

    • grasshopper
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

      Dermot O’Sullivan, any relation to Gilbert And Sullivan who present a nice example of a curmudgeon in Princess Ida? I thought not.

      If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am:
      I’m a genuine philanthropist — all other kinds are sham
      Each little fault of temper and each social defect
      In my erring fellow creatures, I endeavor to correct
      To all their little weaknesses I open people’s eyes;
      And little plans to snub the self-sufficient I devise;
      I love my fellow creatures — I do all the good I can —
      Yet everybody says I’m such a disagreeable man!
      And I can’t think why!

      All the lyrics are here.

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

        Ha! W. S. Gilbert? He is the very model of an honoured grey perennial. And shouldn’t that be ‘lyric’? Ho-ho.

        • grasshopper
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          Love it!

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I had not heard of this particular neologism before. I hate it already.

    • Posted March 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      I guess that means that you’re woke to this word now. 🙂

  8. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that I’ve not run across any of these “woke” people. Lucky me.

  9. HBB
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    What is the opposite of being “woke,” un-woke? Kinda like being undead? What ever it is, I think I am in that category.

    • eric
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      Well, if you wanted to stick with the grammatical construction, I guess it would be ‘slept’ (I woke/I slept).

      Though ‘slep’ would sound more parallel, and is already in the urban dictionary as an (obnoxious) shortening of ‘slept’

      • HBB
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        I see your point, but this brings up the question – is “woke” a verb (as you suggest) or an adjective as sort of implied in the piece. Or are those choices just artificial constructs meant to perpetuate something bad, etc., etc.

        • eric
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          Even if it’s an adjective, it’s derived from the verb, and we could derive ‘slept’ or ‘slep’ as an adjective from the verb ‘to sleep’ in the exact same way.

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink


    • nicky
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if it is opposite, but just a stadium further, beyond ‘woke’ is ‘waken’, that’s what I am, just a step further, knowing that we’re over Huffpo and read WEIT 😆

  10. Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I’m in the middle of a quixotic, sisyphean, but velleitous quest to reintroduce words of more than a thousand years old back into English. I think the language would be more fun with:

    Plicgan: (pron. plidgan) to scrape, to scratch.
    Lytig: crafty, cunning, prudent.
    Haranspecel: (pron. haranspreckle) Viper’s Bugloss.
    Gyr: (pron. yur, ‘u’ as in French tu) 1. filth, mud, marsh 2. fir tree.
    Đeaht: (pron. thaacht) counsel, advice, design.
    Stig: narrow path way, footpath, track, road, course, line.
    Lufsum: lovable, loving, pleasant. (My favourite – DO’S)
    Bǣrdisc: tray.
    Bises: 29th February.
    Ficung: fraud, trickery.

    • eric
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      What a load of gyr. You’re just trying to ficung us with this post, aren’t you?

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      What wonderful words! I’d love to see these and a few more from Old and Middle English back.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      We kind of still have Đeaht, don’t we, in “thought”?
      As in Let me have your thoughts on this.

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        I suppose so, but I like the sound of the Old English ‘ht‘ ending: like the ‘ch’ in the Scottish ‘loch’ with a ‘t’ on the end. I don’t think we have it in modern standard English and it’s just a nice sound. Very Gaeltacht (!) west-coast Celtic swirliness.

        • Grania Spingies
          Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

          Speaking of, have you seen the @ireland account this week which is promoting Pop Up Gaeltacht & “Gaeilgeoir”. Lots of swirlyness abounds.

          • Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            “@ireland”, Grania? Are you trying to drag me 1,000 years back to the present? Is this a Twitter account (genuine question)?

            I like Celtic swirliness but you can have too much of it when it starts getting all de Valera.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:32 am | Permalink

          In some parts of Scotland, that is how “thought” is pronounced: Thocht.

        • Posted March 16, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

          Have you tried German? There is plenty of “ht” (spelled “cht”) there.

          • Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

            No, Maya, at school the choice was German or Latin. I picked the latter. Of course, Old English is very Germanic: imagine pronunciation through a hacking cough and you’re probably right.

            I like the OE for ‘you are’ – Þu bist (pron: thoo).

    • grasshopper
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      Dermott, are you inspired in your quest from having read “The Meaning Of Liff”, wherein Douglas Adams and John LLoyd, match place names with concepts that don’t yet have words of their own?
      Here are some examples.

      Ozark (n.): One who offers to help after all the work has been done.

      Plymouth (vb.): To relate an amusing story to someone without remembering that it was they who told it to you in the first place.

      Scronkey (n.): Something that hits the window as a result of a violent sneeze.

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

        I must admit no, grasshopper. Occasionally, I just peruse my Anglo-Saxon dictionary and find some lovely words: the pronunciation is lufsum as well.

        Sorry, but Douglas Adams just leaves me cold: I’ve never laughed once at anything he’s ever written. I just don’t think sci-fi humour works. A very close friend had a futuristic book about football published: I forced a rictus smile when telling him white lies about its success. I felt really bad about that.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:21 am | Permalink

          I’d have to disagree with you there, in that sci-fi humour does indeed work, IMO. I found DNA’s Hitch-hiker novels hilarious. Also Red Dwarf. Also Monty Python’s Life of Brian. (‘But that wasn’t sci-fi’ you say. Just wait, all will become clear). Also Terry Pratchett’s ‘discworld’.

          The reason is, that the sci-fi situations (or the Holy Land in the case of Brian) are only the framework for the humour. The actual humour is generated by the interpersonal reactions of the characters and sometimes by the reflections it throws on our society. And only a little bit by spoofing sci-fi memes.

          (Amendment – can indeed work (not automatically ‘does’). It can also, like all humour, tank and lie there on the floor slowly and embarrassingly festering until the curtain mercifully drops.)


          • Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

            De gustibus non etc…. Yet, Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide… raises no laughs in me at all. I just think he’s not a very funny writer. And I like laughing.

            See my curmudgeonly response to Grasshopper (was it?) with his three definitions by Adams and Lloyd. I bet the idea was Lloyd’s because it sounds like him (very Hitchens-Rushdie parlour game) and that the only funny one (imo) is ‘Plymouth’, partially and in a mood of arbitrary caprice, because they are my fourth top football team (great nickname – The Pilgrims – excellent half-time Cornish pasties and a peculiar house in the stands at the corner of the stadium). And I bet Lloyd wrote that one.

            I suppose in a spirit of ecumenical inclusiveness I might be willing to concede that Adams might once have written a funny line but I’ve yet to see evidence of it.

            The future as a frame for the humour stretches your inclusion of Life of Brian a bit, what?

            Cf. Groening’s The Simpsons and Futurama. Which is funnier? No contest.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted March 16, 2017 at 7:09 am | Permalink

              “The future as a frame for the humour stretches your inclusion of Life of Brian a bit, what?”

              Nope, because much sci-fi uses the future as a way to reflect on present-day society, as does Terry Pratchett’s fantasy discworld, as does Life of Brian. It wasn’t really about social conditions in ancient Judaea, much of it was about current society. For example, the various Palestinian Liberation groups (‘splitter!’) was about the British Left wing. You could have written exactly the same sketch about a group of dissidents on some moon colony trying to rebel against the Administration. And so on…

              (In fact, now I come to think of it, Red Dwarf did a parody of a left-wing protest group chaired by Rimmer that was not all that different from the Palestinian Liberation Front chaired by Reg)


              • Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

                I’ll leave it at this, cr.

                The framing of humour depends on recognition. It’s simpler to recognise funny in the past because we know what it was like: to set it in the future, which by definition contains unfamiliar elements, makes it more of an imaginative stretch, and to laugh at something which does not exist and conceivably never could seems to me an exercise in pointlessness or at least the creation of a context which moderates the satire.

                Apart from which, as I said, Adams just passes me by. Red Dwarf, I admit, was better acted and better written: funnier, especially after collapsing back home after the pub.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:41 am | Permalink

        My copy of “The Meaning Of Liff” lives by the toilet, where it provides a useful distraction to dip into while awaiting relief. Some of the words in it have moved into everyday use in our family. For example “Scraptoft”, for a comb-over hairstyle.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:28 am | Permalink

      Gyr is used in the modern name of the large boreal falcon Falco rusticolus, known as the Gyr or gyrfalcon. However, the etymology of its name – according to Wikipedia – is linked not to mud or marshes but to the germanic ‘gir’ and may reflect its large size relative to other falcon species (the modern German word derived from this is ‘geier’ meaning a vulture).

      • Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:45 am | Permalink

        Oh yes, I forgot about ‘gyrfalcon’. Thanks for the info, Jonathan.

  11. David Duncan
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    The PuffHo gets far more attention than it deserves.

  12. Sastra
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    In other words, it denotes a state of ideological purity that agrees with the speaker’s views. It’s equivalent to calling yourself a “bright.”

    Oh, I’m going to defend the poor Brights, who came up with the term to avoid common misunderstandings of ‘atheism’ and saw it misinterpreted almost immediately. I was at the AAI convention where it was introduced, back in the early 2000’s, and the presenters made a big far hairy deal out of it not indicating “smart,” but “happy” — as in naturalism is a happy, positive, satisfying world view. The analogy, of course, was to “gay,” and the way it presumably had helped mainstream the acceptance of homosexuality.

    Richard Dawkins, who was sitting near me, signed the “I’m a BRIGHT!” rah-rah sheet being passed around, remarking that it would be an interesting experiment in spreading a meme and he was curious to see where it would go. I didn’t sign it, because I had a sneaking suspicion that the general public would assume atheists were being arrogant and saying they were smarter than the dummies who didn’t believe in God. They don’t get a prior explanation that Bright = Naturalist, and the idea that people would hear the term and then naturally ask what it meant was probably an overly-hopeful assumption coming from a couple of teachers.

    As far as I know, the organized Brights are still around. Ironically, they tend towards accomodationism, arguing that atheists ought to stop arguing over God and work hand in hand for a better world with the religious. Faith is fine when it leads to good thing. Which is, of course, not what people usually imagine when they hear that some atheists are calling themselves “Bright.”

    In other words, I dislike the term, too. But it wasn’t supposed to establish an Us = Good and Them = Bad dichotomy like “woke (Dennett tried explaining in an op-ed/article that it could be Brights vs. “Supers,” for belief in the supernatural, but that didn’t catch either.) So it’s not quite equivalent.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      I always associates Bright with the Enlightenment.

      [So I fished around for a reason to call myself Enlightened (since Bright is now occluded). I quickly noted that part of nationalism is claimed to be a reaction to the Enlightenment [ ]. Since globalism (free markets, human rights) works reasonably well compared to the alternatives – so I support it – I can use that label for kicks.]

      • bobkillian
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:58 am | Permalink

        I call the election of D T-rump a victory for the Endarkenment.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      That was my instinctive reaction too, when I read the term in something of Dawkins’. The immediate connotation is the wrong one.

      I think the spreading of memes is unpredictable and probably almost uncontrollable – they catch on or they don’t.


      • Xuuths
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Dennett suggested people who are not Brights should call themselves “Supers” because they believe in something supernatural, and it won’t hurt their widdow fee-fees.

  13. Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I just found one use in the wild, and from a climate blog…

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

      With respect, I think that’s incorrect.

      “who let me know that climate crocks videos were part of the process when he woke up.”

      That’s using the word as a verb (past tense). A very common figure of speech, by the way, and nothing wrong with it.

      What we curmudgeonly pedants (well, some of us, anyway) are objecting to is using it as an adjective.


      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Never fear, it will transition from use as an adjective to use as a noun…

        He is a bright. He is a dude. He is a woke.

        … thus further obliterating “awoke” as a verb.

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Point taken. But I’m going to insist because, unless he’s a Zen Buddhist, most persons use “realized,” “became aware,” “opened my eyes,” even though you are correct that it’s not curmugeonly pure. 😉

  14. Jonathan Dore
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    First time I’ve heard of this. Since it’s an adjective, there’s already the perfectly good word “woken”, or if you prefer, “woken up”. “Woke” is a verb. Is there really any good reason not to let it stay that way?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      Most emphatically agreed!


    • Posted March 16, 2017 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      Plus, we poor non-native speakers have enough trouble with English irregular verbs as they are.

  15. Taz
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    through complete awareness

    So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      That jumped out at me, too.

      So all these “woke” folks are omniscient? Infallible all-encompassing divine insight bequeathed unto each and every one of ’em?

      Then how is it they were all gobsmacked when Drumpf won the Residency, eh?

      Right up there with “fortune-teller wins lottery for tenth consecutive week,” methinks.


  16. Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    It is not a neologism, but I am getting sick of people always addressing others by “Dude!”

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      It’s a perfectly cromulent word.

      • grasshopper
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        That’s unpossible.

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Dude, harshing the buzz. Minus 10 points.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      It’s actually a word than has wildly morphed in meaning from one era to the next.

      • Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes. That dude ranch I visited wasn’t as cool as I thought it was going to be.

  17. Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Alex, the character played by Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange, didn’t become ‘woke’ when his eyes were pried open in order for him to watch films depicting horrors. As if a psychopath could be punished or learn anything from that except to manipulate even better the medical professionals.

    Social Justice Warriors are just as clueless as they think they can manipulate people to become the way they think is necessary in order to eradicate all injustice. It takes hard-earned knowledge and tuned implementation to effect social change. Social Justice Warriors, don’t give up your day jobs (though your long-suffering colleagues probably wish you would, :-))

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      Alex isny just shown films, he is subjected to chemical conditioning which makes him associate violence – and music – with nausea. Until the medication cuts in he actually enjoys the films.

  18. Dean Reimer
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I have seen “woke” used primarily in the so-called “Black Tw****r” to refer to white advocates of the BLM movement (i.e. whites that acknowledge that structural racism exists). The grammar of its use rubs me the wrong way, but I don’t really have a fundamental problem with the meaning the word seeks to convey.

    But just like a lot of black cultural creations it has been co-opted by white people, and specifically regressive left white people. That has morphed the original meaning into the Urban Dictionary one.

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Hm, that suggests (if correct) that it might be a use from another sociolect of English than Jerry’s. (And mine, too.)

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      Not to refer to white advocates but to refer to Black people who are ignorant of the socio-financial-political mechanizations going on in the world that are not working in the favor and are not inclined to want to know about it either..

      The admonition is to wake up taken from the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” where the Laurence Fishbourne admonishes the students who are embroiled in petty infighting to “Wake Up” as horrible things are happening in their community.

      I get it.. but it is also a lazy way to approach this phenom.. Assaulting people with snarky derogatory terms won’t inspire anyone to do anything..

  19. organism
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Lit. Let’s get lit. Stay lit.

    I can’t say “lit” in the context that the youngsters of today use it.

  20. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    This is one of thoset things that’s perfect for driving.

  21. Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    For me “privilege” is a similar word. The problem with it is not that it does not exist, but that it’s often used by people as a blanket word covering large groups of people under all circumstances. Privilege is very real but it’s also very context specific: for instance a white person may not always be privileged relative to a person of color in every situation. The other problem is when people used it to end the conversation and position themselves on some high moral ground.

  22. J. Quinton
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Every SJW concept has its analog in the alt-right.

    I believe the alt-right equivalent is “red pill”.

  23. rom
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I was never keen on the term Bright and never use it the upper case B sense.

    For those of us who don’t believe in free will we might be careful how we use such words. Should we be Bright or woke is just sheer chance … we did not pull ourselves up by the bootstraps.

    Luck swallows everything.

  24. Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink


    “Her attempt to get him as a boyfriend became a major fail.”

    Stop turning verbs into nouns!

    P.S. I also hate “maths.”

    • BJ
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      Maths is just what the British English speakers say, as opposed to Americans who use “math.”

      • J. Quinton
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

        But “math” is short for mathematics not mathsematics.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:14 am | Permalink

          It seems to me that if you shorten a plural, the “s” stays with the contraction. for example, hippos, for hippopotamuses, crocs for crocodiles.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted March 16, 2017 at 7:16 am | Permalink

            ‘zackly what I was going to say, but something distracted me before I could think of examples.


          • Ned
            Posted March 16, 2017 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

            But does anyone, in England or anywhere, say, e.g. “Mathematics are beautiful” or “Mathematics are trivial” ?

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted March 17, 2017 at 5:06 am | Permalink

              I think we’re simply going to have to agree to differ on the question of “math” vs “maths”. Here is a quotation from

              Neither abbreviation is correct or incorrect. You may hear arguments for one being superior to the other, and there are logical cases for both sides. One could argue maths is better because mathematics ends in s, and one could argue math is better because mathematics is just a mass noun that happens to end in s. In any case, English usage is rarely guided by logic, and these usage idiosyncrasies are often arbitrary. If you were raised in a part of the world where people say maths, then maths is correct for you, and the same is of course true of math. Don’t listen to anyone who says otherwise.

              Two countries divided by a common language 🙂 (to misquote GBS)

        • jeremy pereira
          Posted March 17, 2017 at 7:57 am | Permalink

          No, “math” is short for “mathematic”

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      And stop turning nouns into verbs! I hardly ever see the verb “to lend” any more, replaced by the noun “loan”

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

        Or, maybe even worse, the converse process “Can I have a lend of your lawnmower?”


        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted March 16, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          Whilst I agree with you, I have to point out that such a phrase would be common in working class circles in parts of Scotland,, but with “lend” shortened to “len'” as in “Gies us a len’ o’ yir ‘more”. More of a dialect phrase, really. 🙂

          • Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            Dear Haggis,

            It is not, of course, a neologism, but it might amuse you to know that the word “whilst” drives me right up the wall. I am quite aware it is proper across the pond, and you are probably annoyed by “while.”

            I would never ask you to stop it. But may I ask…do UK speakers know about the effect it has on US listeners, and does it do you a chuckle to deploy it?

            John Donohue
            Sonoran Desert, California, USA

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted March 17, 2017 at 4:51 am | Permalink

              I had no idea it was annoying to USians, but then again, I find “math” slightly irritating. FWIW, I only use “whilst” at the beginning of a sentence, as in the example above, meaning “although”. When indicating concurrent time, eg “I listened to the radio while driving to work”, I will always use “while”. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know – it’s just the way I learned it.

              Knowing that it drives you up the wall is clearly a bonus. 🙂

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted March 17, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

                Thinking it over, I think ‘whilst’ has traces of ‘despite’ or ‘notwithstanding’.

                Which in fact was the sense in which you used it. Oh, I just noticed that you said as much.

                None of the dictionaries seem to agree with me though, they all seem to define it as synonymous with ‘while’.


              • Posted March 17, 2017 at 9:57 am | Permalink

                While I admire your candor in admitting you are a “maths” person to my further consternation, it’s not as awful as knowing that you deploy “Whilst” with subtlety. Good job! 🙂

              • HaggisForBrains
                Posted March 17, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

                I have to admire your careful use of “while” at the beginning of your sentence. Touché 🙂

  25. Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink


    Maybe the psychology of neologism has to do with ‘fear of agency.’

    “Bright” turns an adjective into a noun, and “Woke” turns a verb into a noun, and “Fail” turns an action into a noun, all used to characterize a human without declaring agency or examining the chain of causation.

    She is a woke. She is a bright. It avoids claiming agency, responsibility, accountability. She might have been born with it, or had it magically imparted, or you are merely dreaming she is a woke bright.

    P.S. Merriam-Webster cites an amusing secondary definition of neologism:
    2) psychology : a new word that is coined especially by a person affected with schizophrenia.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      For some reason I can accept (grammatically) ‘bright’ (though I dislike it for other reasons). There is plenty of precedent for turning adjectives into nouns – are you a Red (communist), or a queer (ok, a gay 😉 or a Republican?

      But not ‘woke’, whether as an adjective or a noun. There’s already a perfectly good adjective, ‘awake’. ‘Woke’ just grates on me for some reason I can’t fully analyse, in a way that ‘fail’ does not. Maybe just because it’s more pretentious, which throws the grammatical error into sharper relief.


  26. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Other sources claim “woke” arose in connection with Black Lives Matter rather than the Huffington Post.

    The opposite “unwoke” is already in the lexicon. It’s even a hashtag on Twitter.

    On other neologisms:
    I think “metrosexual” should be rethought, since the original meaning of “metro” is….mother (metropolis being the mother city).

    Two neologisms coined by myself that I would like to promote:

    a) “multilexic” for names that can be spelled more than one way, such as Rachel/Rachael or Jon/John

    b) “nom de clavier” for an online user-name, literally “name from a keyboard” just as pseudonyms in earlier centuries were called “nom de plume” meaning “name from a feather”.

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      They’re good, John Lynne! Er, Jon Lynn.

      • Jonathan Wallace
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

        Jonne Lyn 🙂

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Black Lives Matter is, for me, the first place in which I became aware of the term “woke”. I think I personally first encountered the term from Deray McKesson (@deray) on Twitter.

      I always assumed (and have used the term myself) the word basically means “to be aware of and awake to issues, especially social justice issues, that may be outside of your own personal experience, realize that they are actual problems for the people they affect, and don’t hide behind your own personal ignorance of such issues in order to dismiss them”.

      I don’t use the word often, but whenever I have, that has always been way I’ve used it. I had no idea that there was supposed to be some culture of superiority and/or clique-ishness associated with it. 😦

      • Denise
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

        The sense of moral superiority is inherent in your definition. You really can’t see it?

        • Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:03 am | Permalink

          Perhaps it really is a morally superior state of mind. It seems like a good mindset to cultivate, though it can’t be easy. I have some leanings in that direction myself, though I’m the worst neophyte and I know it. Old thought patterns are comfortable.

          I suspect those who have truly achieved, at least to some extent, wokeness (?) by Alex Samaras’ definition would be the last people on the planet to describe themselves as such. Because if you really have that awareness, you probably aren’t spending much time comparing the amount of your wokeness to that of others.

          I’m neutral on this new use of an old word. Programmers have a concept, “overloading”, whereby a code unit can have different definitions based on context. English is a constantly changing language, and if enough people want to overload the traditional definition of “woke” with this new one, it will be so. I can’t see wasting any effort objecting to it.

          Always remember that dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive, and are out of date by the time they reach their second draft.

          • HaggisForBrains
            Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:21 am | Permalink

            “wokeness (?)” Wokeosity (h/t Woody Allen).

  27. barn owl
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    I wear Chuck Taylor’s in gross anatomy lab, because they’re comfortable, cheap, easy to wash, and I just like them. Had no idea that wearing something else might be a microaggression. I’ve received more positive comments on them from students than for any other item of clothing or footwear that I can recall though, so there must be something about the Chuck’s. I’m not woke enough to know what it is however.

    Also, what is the problem with shea butter?

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      “gross anatomy” always sounds so descriptive to me.

  28. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Comment #2:

    This thread made me wonder if there was such a thing as a “paleologism” (for really old phrases not used much) and it turns there is such a thing.

    Had I been the first to think of it, then “paleologism” would be a “neologism”.

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 5:46 am | Permalink


  29. Brian Salkas
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I thought “woke” was something the 9/11 truthers used to express their higher level of awareness. I really think my least favorite neologisms are the 71 new gender “neutral” pronouns. It’s the most regressive thing the regressive left has done. In 2017, we should care less about gender, I think that “they” is fine because it is truly gender-neutral. These extra (made up) pronouns are proof that many of these people do not indeed want to live in a post-gender world, they want gender identity to become the most important feature in ones life.

  30. Posted March 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Idle curiosity…

    Which is more disliked: the neological or the theological?


    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Before I go further, I really really liked your remarks about Hitler-usage a week or so ago.

      The following theological terms are of recent coinage, and thus may be termed “neotheological”:
      “missional” and “Prosopological”.

      I suppose a new word for God would be more
      “theoneological” of which there are many proliferating today from folks like Deepak Chopra, and Marrianne Williamson.

      And finally, there really IS such a thing as a “theologism” which refers to the excessive or unwarranted extension of theological authority to other disciplines. The word goes at least as far back as Michael Bakunin’s speech “Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism”.

  31. Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    Is this a ‘thing’?

    • Damien
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 7:07 am | Permalink

      That one seems eminently absurd to me.

  32. Cate Plys
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    I’ve wondered whether the current use of “woke” was directly from Spike Lee as noted above, and only Spike Lee, or supposed to be from the Buddhist use of the term “awake.” Either way, when I hear it, I can only think of Walter White in the first season of Breaking Bad when Jesse first asks him why he wants to cook meth, and says something like “what’s up with you,” and Walt says, “I am awake.” This was definitely a Buddhist reference, and hilarious.

  33. Barb Knox
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Bunch of wokers.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Did you misspell “wankers”? 😉

  34. Ken Pidcock
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Don’t miss Catie Hogan’s great McSweeney’s piece, I Googled ‘Intersecionality,’ So Now I’m Totally Woke.

    Coming to terms with my own “white savior” complex has led me on a Jesus-like path to redemption.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, ‘Intersectional’, what the hell is that? Something that takes place at road junctions?

      I just read the link. Okay, now I am woke (!) to what ‘intersectionality’ means. A sort of pretentious persecution complex. Right.


  35. Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve always viewed the SJW left as a cult, and this notion of “woke” indeed seems like their version the evangelical Christian concept of being “born again.”

  36. Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    I dislike it when people use “evolved” to mean something like “woke.”

    • W.Benson
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      I’m hip to that.

  37. Posted March 15, 2017 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    I despise the neologism “bae”. I find the slang meaning of “baby” creepy enough, but “bae” just takes it to a whole new level of obnoxiousness.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 15, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      “bae” pops in my head randomly. Why this happens I wish I could understand.

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Isn’t “bae” an acronym (albeit using lowercase) for “beyond all else” rather than an obnoxious shortening of “baby”?

      Or is the “beyond all else” explanation just an after-the-fact justification for an obnoxious term? I really don’t know which came first.

      • Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:21 am | Permalink

        Ahhh, you may be right. I hadn’t heard of that etymology; I had just assumed it was a shortening of “baby” from the context.

        I’m not sure which origin would be more obnoxious, actually!

  38. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    I love woke. It sounds cute and it’s a word it’s a word crying out to be used ironically – indeed I rather suspect that half of its actual uses are ironic; sometimes, deliciously, without the people who are being implicitly made fun of realising it; sometimes, even more deliciously, without the person using the word knowing whether they’re using it ironically or not.

  39. Matt
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Why do users of neologisms assume we know what they mean? Arrogance? Laziness? Trying to look cool or clever?

    • Nobody Special
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Are they the same bastards that drop random acronyms all over the place? I don’t mean acronyms that most of us will know – IDK, WTF, IANAL, etc., but the ones that appear to be made up on the spot and mean nothing to anyone but the author.
      Just last night on another blog a comment began ‘IOKIYAR’, which everybody is supposed to know means ‘It’s OK if you are Republican’.
      One has to wonder whether the random acronym is a sign of a lazy writer, or a deliberate device allowing the user to display their pretentions toward intellectual superiority when asked to explain it. “I thought it was perfectly obvious that it means ‘there are multiple ways of approaching the problem at hand’, but it appears that I am guilty of over-estimating the intelligence of you lesser mortals. Lesson over; now you may thank me for educating you”

  40. Nobody Special
    Posted March 16, 2017 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    ‘Social Justice Warrior’ makes me cringe, and not only because these ‘warriors’ are anti-name-calling, let alone anti-war. Activist would be perfectly acceptable, as would advocate, but warrior? Too many years watching Xena or immersed in RPG’s, methinks.
    Anybody who cannot hear opposing views or ‘wrong’ pronouns without claiming physical harm and PTSD is not a warrior.

    • Posted March 16, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

      The ‘W’ in SJW may of course stand for something else. ‘Worker’, for instance. I can’t imagine any other bisyllabic word using w, k, e and r.

      • Nobody Special
        Posted March 17, 2017 at 12:22 pm | Permalink


    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 16, 2017 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think Xena would qualify as a SJW. She was more a direct-action kind of gal, IIRC.

      Umm, ‘Xena, Social Justice Warrior Princess’ – no, doesn’t work. 😦


  41. JP415
    Posted March 20, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Grammatically, this use of “woke” is really bizarre—it’s like something a child or a non-native speaker of English would come up with. “Woke” is a past participle verb being used as an adjective, as far as I can tell.

    I think it would be interesting if we used this particular grammatical construction to coin new slang phrases. For example:

    * I just ate a great breakfast: “That meal is so ate!”
    * After running a grueling marathon, I say: “I am so ran!”
    * My friend leaps over a fence: “That is so jumped!”

    The possibilities are endless.

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