Every now and again, the youth of the internet launches a verbal precision missile at an older generation, striking its intended target directly in the frontal cortex and completely scrambling the collective sense of self. Two years ago, the phrase “ok Boomer” shook the self-proclaimed greatest generation, echoing in the streets and all the way up to the halls of congress. Now, Gen-Z has launched a phrase that is shaking millennials to their core: cheugy.
What does “cheugy” even mean?
The phrase has been trending on social media this week, inspiring countless think pieces landscape and causing panic among millennials facing down decreased coolness in middle age. It’s a word that essentially calls out somebody who is extremely into out-of-date lifestyle trends ranging from fashion choices to personal slang and more. (This comes from the Wikipedia… a good sign that the phrase itself is more widespread than it appears.)
It’s often deployed as a takedown of people who seem perpetually stuck in the early ‘10s, embracing things like “girl boss'' culture and outdated memes (Minions seem to be a recurring culprit). So called chuegs are prone to posting “feeling 22” before going out without realizing that an 8-year-old pop reference ages significantly. Cargo shorts, AXE body spray and the firm embrace of “live laugh love” decor are also signs of cheuginess, which exists in a gray area somewhere between basic, conformist and milquetoast.
(Whether reading a story aggregating definitions of “cheugy” to understand whether you qualify as a “cheug” may or may not point to a certain level of cheuginess in and of itself.)
Last week, New York Times reporter Taylor Lorenz dove deep into the origins of the word, tracing it back to a Beverly Hills High School back in 2013. According to Lorenz’s article, the phrase took off in the mainstream in March, when LA copywriter and actual 24-year-old Hallie Cain dropped the term on her TikTok, which in turn went viral.
The spread of the term online inspired a slew of think pieces from countless media outlets, among them undeniably cheugy publications as Rolling Stone and Parade, leading Refinery 29 to declare the word “cheugy” to be, well, cheugy.
Millennials are absolutely puzzled
Ever image-conscious millennials new to the term were suddenly taken aback by the TikTok-fed spread of the word. Presumably after failing to understand how to engage with TikTok, they took to their natural habitat of Twitter to vent their frustrations and look for answers.
Most responded the only way they know how — with antiquated memes:
And retaliated with even-older memes:
Some looked inward and found acceptance:
Others sought to educate via elaborate charts:
Others still tried to predict the end of this existential nightmare:
Meanwhile, NYT reporter Lorenz announced that the woman who coined the term itself has continued her efforts to explode minds by releasing “cheugy” as a non fungible token, or NFT, creating another layer of google trend for those scrambling through the google results for “am I cheugy?” (this writer included) to decipher.