High school student Josue Jimenez recounted a story of the aftermath of a date he recently went on. It went like this:
She texted Jimenez and told him it was a nice time, but she wasn’t feeling him and apologized. “Bet,” Jimenez replied, because she kind of pissed him off with that comment. When on the date Jimenez felt like they were vibing. They weren’t from the same area, so she didn’t know that word. She then immediately starts asking Jimenez what that word meant, yelling at him, calling him names and trying to make him feel bad.
For what? A word you don’t know? Get on Twitter, girl.
Over the past few months, the slang term “bet” has come into prominence with young people via primarily Twitter. In the same vein as “bae,” “yolo” and “yas,” the term has exploded into the mainstream after its origin in urban cultures. Though some people, like the woman from Jimenez’s date, have not yet come to terms with the new slang.
This simple variation of “you bet” or “I agree” is used widely with young people and urban neighborhoods with its origin in New York City. It can be used in many situations — a few examples being making plans like, “let’s meet up at 8 p.m.” or “aight, bet” or something a bit more sinister, like being turned down, “let’s go on a date tonight.”
On “No, I’d rather not — thanks though” versus “oh, bet,” the former is straight-forward in its message, but the latter implies the person being rejected is upset with the answer.
“The word is used to mostly throw shade or be a little sassy to someone,” said Nicole Murphy, a Logan Square resident and employee at a hub for urban slang, Zumiez.
Yet this word comes as another example of pop culture adopting terms from urban neighborhoods by appropriation. Words like “woke,” “lit,” “fam,” “yas” and “snatched” are unavoidable. The problem is that these words originated in urban areas of metropolitan cities, and the use of them by those not a part of that culture can be problematic and exploitative.
Some think the term’s growth is nothing to be afraid of, as it is truthfully the phrase “you bet” but with less verbal commitment. Others agree that the use of the term is exploitative to the cultures that created it.
“It’s just a part of language,” Jimenez said. “I don’t think a lot of words are about race or social problems, especially one like this.”
He goes on to talk about the social concern for the appropriation of slang by white young adults. He expressed his concern for the attribution for slang words, citing an incident with Oakland-based rapper Kreayshawn, who became popular with her viral hit song “Gucci Gucci” in 2012. She was falsely attributed with starting “basic girl culture.”
“We know it’s a strange thing, and it’s everywhere,” Jimenez said, regarding the co-optation of urban slang.
“Like, they literally gave Kreayshawn, a white rapper, credit for ‘creating basic girl culture,’ when I’ve heard that word for years in the hood.”
It is interesting to note that the advent of this slang term has also been attributed to author Sylvia Plath and supermodel Kate Moss. The author’s “The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath” used the term “basic” to describe another person’s character in 1950, and Kate Moss famously called a airline pilot a “basic b*tch” in 2015. According to Jimenez, the term began to be used often in hip-hop back in 2009.
Yet Jimenez is not upset about the new use of “bet,” as it has not been attributed to anyone. Other terms have been attributed to those who are not a part of an urban culture while “bet” is harder to attribute to a singular person or culture as it has been used in urban communities for decades. The term is most used as a shorter version of “you bet” rather than an entirely new term like “yolo” or “basic.”
Some do not think the same way as Jimenez. One person thinks the term is based more on a combination of race and age. Most of its use comes from teenagers and young adults through Twitter and in conversation with others their age.
“It’s way more about the kids than the neighborhood,” said Diego Tena, a social media influencer and self-proclaimed hypebeast.
“Everybody says it, and it is weird to me just because it’s the kids wearing boat shoes and Vineyard Vines polos saying it now,” Tena said.
“Like, I’ve never seen or heard that in my entire life until now.”
“Bet” finds itself somewhere in the middle of these perspectives. Though it is mostly used by young people, pop culture has a problem with adopting urban culture without giving credit where it is due. Will “bet” hold up in the sea of new and old slang terms? “Yolo,” “swag,” “bae,” and “bye Felicia” have come and gone, but with the new term’s accessibility, as it simply shortens an already used phrase, it’s hard to tell how long the word will be trending.
“Just let the slang catch on, and maybe it’ll be in the dictionary,” Jimenez said. “I think that’d be so funny.”
Maybe then the woman who turned him down would better understand his stance.