Today, The Atlantic published a piece on the popularity and endurance of the word “swag.” You know, swag, that word being shouted from concert stages and oft hash-tagged on Twitter. The article, “Is ‘Swag’ Here to Stay?” intends to trace the word’s pop culture origins and determine its staying power. It begins by citing Diddy’s decision to change his name to “Swag” last week, which was, without a doubt, a pretty fatal blow to swag everywhere.
The article pinpoints the existence of swag in hip-hop to “at least 2008” (thanks to Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On,” following which T.I.’s “Swagga Like Us” exploded in 2009) then jumps back to 2011, where Odd Future and Lil B have made it their mantra of choice.
According to The Atlantic, “swag is having a moment,” much like the words “bling bling” did back in the day (although it’s not even fair to equate those two). A linguist at UC Berkeley concluded that the chances of swag sticking around are slim to none, while Lil B, of course, disagreed—”It’s gonna be lasting, man. Other than curse words, it’s gotta be in the top ten most used slang words.”
The thing is—swag has been around for a while. Before Soulja Boy was old enough to turn his swag on, high school kids (at least in New York City) were definitely shouting the “S” word by “at least 2001.” So, while swag is having a moment, it does have the potential to survive this current wave of oversaturation. For that to happen, however, two things are required. First, the word shouldn’t be broken down like this:
● “It can be an adjective, in the form of “swagged-out” (i.e. “Dean from sales and marketing always wears the most swagged-out penny loafers”). ● “Swag” works as a verb, too, meaning “enhance.” Try this: “I swagged out my Prius with a vanity license plate and racing stripes.”
And, most importantly, Diddy needs to not change his name to swag.