Shakespeare famously asked ‘What’s in a name?’ and fast forward to 2021, I highly doubt he could have ever anticipated that the answer would come from Urban Dictionary. But, here we are, smack bang in the middle of the digital age. And since fast trend cycles reign supreme, we are all at the mercy—no matter how off the grid you claim to go—of the latest one to crop up. You’d have to be hiding underneath an asteroid rock floating in space to not know that people are currently posting definitions of their names written by strangers online both on their Instagram Stories and Twitter. Though social media might be considered ‘has been’ for some brands, it still has a grip on most of us. To be honest, it feels like creepy déjà vu for me, cue the flashbacks of preteen me—donning cut-out 3D glasses and knee-high converse—which I have tried so hard to scrub out of my memory.
Urban Dictionary has been a staple of the internet for decades, archiving all the weird and wonderful words the world has to offer. Held as dear to us internet dwellers as Wikipedia, the crowdsourced digital library has chronicled slang, phrases—with its fair share of not-so-safe-for-work words and not-so-safe-for-anyone terms—and the inescapable jargon of the net, since its inception in 1999. As the home for ubiquitous terms of social media’s past, it also has a large subsection dedicated to people’s own names. Instagram’s latest obsession, aside from mushroom lamps, sees users having their celebrity moment of reposting screenshots of the many meanings behind their names.
Having your superstar moment is made all the more easier now with the trend garnering, as of now, 3 million people’s names on Instagram to a tag created by Yunas Caesar (@bymayuuu) which connects to the app’s new ‘Add Yours’ sticker feature. Add Yours allows users to create a public thread and “content chain” of sorts that follows on from one topic—just like live chain mail. Popular stickers have previously included innocuous topics like users’ “favourite photo from this summer” and the ever-so-viral picture of their pet as a means to help plant trees (which quickly exploded online and forced the company behind the challenge to delete it after 10 minutes).
Over the past week, the simple prompt “show us ur name in Urban Dictionary 🤥⭐️” has probably flooded your feed with dictionary meanings for just about everyone in your following list. In an Instagram Story post, Caesar stated that he “never thought” about the trend going viral because he started it simply out of boredom.
So, why is this even a thing? Well, Urban Dictionary’s name definitions are kind of out there… to put it nicely. The posts are usually dated from several years ago and have since accumulated many likes from users of the iconic platform. Between the oddly specific definitions that seem like they’ve come right out of the anonymous DMs of The Unsent Project and other times vague adjectives, the name results are entertaining to say the least.
Self-aggrandising aside, definitions are often uplifting and positive, giving the people that end up sharing them a little ego boost knowing that years ago, someone, somewhere documented their name with a beautiful interpretation to go with it. Of course, I had to look up my own name (for research purposes), and entries under ‘Francesca’ ranged from a 2013 last-ditch love confession to pull the brakes on a break up, to another from 2017 that defined the name Francesca as meaning “freedom” in Italian. Honestly, being called “closest to perfect,” “funny,” and “the hottest girl you’ll ever meet” isn’t a bad thing in my book—pretty accurate actually, so I’ll take it.
However, none of this is new. It’s actually really reminiscent of our childhood for some of us—though we really wish it wasn’t. Picture this, you’re bored and probably in the middle of your 5th period class, which you should be paying attention to. Anyway, time is ticking away and you decide to dangerously brave the teacher’s no-phone rule and whip out your device—probably a Blackberry 8520, or maybe an iPhone if you’re a late 00s baby—and you search up your name to see if you’re as cool as you know you are. In other words, the use of Urban Dictionary to find more about what your name says about you isn’t new at all, but it now seems to come with the potential backlash of the cringe police’s accusing fingers being pointed at you if you chose to post about it.
As always, wildfires spread, and quickly, the Urban Dictionary name trend found its way to Twitter’s trending page, with some tweets deserving some serious tip jar money for how funny they are. ‘Urban Dictionary’ was trending all day on Monday 22 November as the hit or miss definitions were posted by eager users showing off their UD-tailored definitions.
Some even took to searching up their favourite Kpop idols too.
Other users, however, weren’t digging the craze coming back.
Though it has its bitter retractors, the trend is harmless. It seems to be the equivalent to flipping through the horoscope pages in a magazine to see whether you’ll have a perfect day or not. Currently making waves on TikTok, the search term ‘Your Name On Urban Dictionary’ has racked up over 50,000 views so far. The fad has been met with equal amounts of snarky gen Z commentary too.
So heal your inner child a little—you’re probably sneakily getting ready to snoop out your own name—and find out what weird and wacky definition you’ve been assigned.