To a Millennial, the phrase “elite” may conjure the picture of a velvet rope barring the doorway of a swanky nightclub, or a fitness center that has fancy shampoo within the showers. “Elite is excellence,” Charli, 34, tells Bustle. “It’s the 1% of 1% — the best there is, factually, not hyperbolically.”
But on TikTookay, “elite” is utilized in contexts as various as “flavorful” or “funny.” For instance, one video tutorial with 10 thousand likes is captioned “How to Make An ELITE SANDWICH,” and it suggests customers make each their very own mustard and mayonnaise from scratch; one other TikTookay singles out .25 seconds of a dance as elite.
For Gen Z, elite doesn’t imply elite within the basic, Gossip Girl sense — as an alternative, it’s a siding scale of subjective worth, which additionally generally makes it the other of elite. Head spinning? Same.
What Does Elite Mean When Gen Z Says It?
Charli, a self-described elder millennial, thinks Gen Z “overstates” the usage of elite, “changing its meaning entirely.” (For the document, the Cambridge Dictionary defines elite as “the richest, most powerful, best-educated, or best-trained group in a society” or as an adjective, belonging to that group. You know, as in Gossip Girl saying, “Manhattan’s elite.”)
But Gen Z isn’t too involved with literal dictionary definitions. To Priya, 18, “elite” is a common time period used to sign your personal approval of one thing, moderately than an goal understanding that it’s good. Its use at this time is likely to be nearer to “hits the spot” and has extra of a common admission vibe. “I use ‘elite’ to describe something which has no other superior options,” Priya tells Bustle. While she doesn’t use it a lot whereas speaking offline, she says, “I would use it as an adjective to describe what I like, like a dish or cuisine” through social media or textual content. But generally, she says she’d use it to to acknowledge the best way somebody was behaving. “If someone is being polite and humble towards other people, I would say they’re being elite.”
To Evan, 22, “elite” means cultural relevance, a phrase used to explain one thing that’s self conscious. For instance, Evan says, you may use elite to confer with “people or companies that are making attempts to get ahead of the curve,” pointing to how corporations flex on social media to speak their eliteness. “The Wendy’s and Burger King Twitter accounts are elite because they have social media teams that are up to date on the culture of the current media — they interact with one another and start beef therefore grabbing everyone’s attention.” This is peak elite, Evan says.
The Origins Of “Elite,” In The TikTookay Sense
Even Gen Zers aren’t precisely positive the place the brand new elite got here from. “I’ve heard people use it on social media, but I don’t really know where it originated, all I know is all of my friends use it the way I do,” Rebecca, 23, tells Bustle.
The phrase itself rose to prominence on TikTookay in 2020, with the rise of Elite TikTok. This For You web page area of interest, generally known as AltTookay, featured irreverent and obscure movies granting “elite” standing to issues that undoubtedly didn’t conjure a conventional sense of exclusivity. Some of the most well-liked movies on Elite TikTookay had been impersonations of brand name accounts, like Burlington Coat Factory, and Pantene, and would function a nonetheless picture of the shop or product with low-fi emoji face overlay that will lip sync to standard audio tracks. It was humorous, it made no sense, it was vastly standard, it was probably essentially the most Gen Z factor ever.
According to Kelly Elizabeth Wright, an experimental sociolinguist and Ph.D. candidate on the University of Michigan, Gen Z’s takeover of “elite” and different phrases like “immaculate” (which is now used to explain one thing “awesome” moderately than “free from sin” or “perfect”) is a very widespread, generational adaptation. “What we see happening with immaculate and elite is a process known as semantic intensity. We use semantic intensity to elevate our descriptions of things because of how we feel about them, like saying Cher is ageless or pizza is sacred,” Wright tells Bustle.
If you’re seeing “elite” all over the place, it’s probably as a result of Gen Z is just excited to have a phrase that they collectively really feel is fulfilling to make use of. “The younger generations are perhaps reaching a semantic ceiling here with these intensified words because they seek to mark the things ‘that get them’, to add their critical gaze to the conversation,” Write provides. So whereas their use of those phrases may snag your consideration as being a barely awkward phrasing, it’s extra intentional than it sounds.
What’s extra, Wright says the adjustments in the best way these phrases are used may really be fairly everlasting. “Words change as the surrounding society changes, so it makes sense that we see these new senses of old words being applied in contexts that interest young people.” One may interpret Gen Z’s takeover of elite as an extension of the era’s spirit of inclusivity; the place earlier generations used the phrase to exclude, Gen Z makes use of it to confer standing.
“We keep creating words and using them according to the way we need to express different feelings,” Priya says. “It doesn’t really matter from where [it] originated.”
Kelly Elizabeth Wright, an experimental sociolinguist and Ph.D. candidate on the University of Michigan