Words have a power all their own (Photo credit: waɪ.tiː)
I keep seeing people use this word on the internet, as well as hearing it spoken on the streets and on the radio.
Through context clues
[Tsidenote: man, I really love the concept of "context clues," it's probably the most useful thing I ever learned in school. I think about it and use it every day, plus it's fun to say as you wiggle your fingers in the air]
I was able to ascertain that the word means something insulting sometimes, and something good in other instances, but I wanted to dig deeper.
So I went to an online slang dictionary to find out the definition...
It is an adjective that can be used to refer to a person who is nasty, cheap, or trifling; can be used in place of the words "cool," "crunk," or "awesome"; can refer to something which is below the normal social standards of morality or sexuality; and can refer to something which seems out of place.
Here are some example sentences I created exploring the multiple meanings of the word. Use your context clues!
"That guy just tried to make out with three different girls. That's so ratchet."
"Check out my brand new haircut! Isn't it ratchet?!"
"Ugh, I can't believe she expected me to pay for her movie ticket, so ratchet."
"I feel ratchet being the only person at this party not playing croquet."
But where does it come from? I have a few ideas.
Idea number one: the word "ratchet" was inspired by a fictional film character, Nurse Ratched of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. Nurse Ratched was not a very nice person, so it makes sense for her character to be the namesake of an insult.
[Tsidenote: Nurse RATCHET is my nickname. Love it.]
Idea number two: it sounds like the word "wretched," a word whose definitions include "depolorably bad or distressing," "poor in quality," and "mean, miserable, and contemptible." Not too far off from the slang definitions.
Idea number three: someone was writing a rap about chopping their enemies into little bits with a hatchet and needed a rhyming word. Thus, ratchet.
The truth is, I have no idea where some slang words come from. Slang is brought into the general lexicon through repeated use. It's a process that just happens naturally.
But stop trying to make fetch happen, it's not going to happen.
Do you love slang, and do you love thinking about language? What is your favorite slang word?
PS-- I'm collecting Philly slang terms for an upcoming blog post, so if you have any favorites send them to me!