A recurring focal point of my writing is me trying to figure out why the 13 to 20-year-old crowd keeps redefining words. Whether it's children calling brain-damaging tasks "challenges", or youth culture thinking they can cancel people in real life - I find a lot of these re-definitions to be both fascinating and stupid at the same time.
Recently I have seen another word being bastardized by youth culture, but this one is a little different. Normally I point out these re-definitions because I think there is a harmful or insidious force behind the new definition, but the word I'm writing about today is harmless yet equally mind-boggling.
The word I'm talking about is "aesthetic."
The term "aesthetic" is used to denote the core tenets of a certain discernable artform or genre. Salvador Dalí has a surrealist aesthetic in his paintings, Gwen Stefani used a Harajuku aesthetic to help form her album "Love. Angel. Music. Baby." Bram Stoker appealed to a gothic aesthetic with the book "Dracula".
There are countless ways in which the word "aesthetic" can come into play, but children have taken even this broad definition and used it in ways that have no link back to the origin of the word.
The first example comes from vaporwave culture (and this is one where I will give a little bit of leeway to the use of "aesthetic"). Vaporwave, for people who aren't deep into internet music, is a music/(maybe art?) genre that arose less than a decade ago. Vaporwave is identified by its "elevator music" sound, and normally integrates early internet symbolism and slowed-down 80's music.
Vaporwave is an aesthetic form. It has discernible features that are present throughout Vaporwave. But if you go on any YouTube video that has a vaporwave song, you'll see a mass of comments that say "this is aesthetic", or just "aesthetic" (normally spelled spaced apart: "A E S T H E T I C").
Again, I acknowledge that vaporwave has its own aesthetic, but for some reason, the rise of vaporwave culture has made children claim the word "aesthetic" and make it a synonym for vaporwave. There is no further clarification given, and this is why the re-definition is confusing to me. These kids are turning the noun form of "aesthetic" into an adjective (even though "aesthetic" is already an adjective that just means beautiful). Saying the word "aesthetic" in a comment is really pointless unless there is actually something you're referencing. There is no such thing as "aesthetic" aesthetic. It just makes no sense.
The vaporwave usage of "aesthetic" has been around for a while, but I've noticed that it has mutated to apply for anything now. The other day I watched a video where a dog saves a hummingbird from dying. That's literally the whole video. Yet, I saw a comment on the video that said: "this is my aesthetic." Like, what is this person's aesthetic? Are they saying their aesthetic is a dog saving a hummingbird? Is their aesthetic being a video? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?
This usage is everywhere. Look on any comment section on meme apps or videos. Someone, somewhere, is going to say that something is "aesthetic."
I know this article might sound confusing, but this is mainly because I am confused as well. I don't want to sound mean, but are kids just really getting stupid? Is it common for people now to just pick up a word from the internet, without any understanding how it's actually used, and just spread it all over the place (especially in places where it doesn't apply)? I don't have any clever sign-off or commentary on what this means on a deeper level. All I want to ask is: A) Why are people doing this? B) Can you please stop?