Urban Dictionary: Tell Me Your Name And I'll Tell You Who You Are

On the Internet, many people are currently sharing what is their first name in the "Urban Dictionary". Probably also because it is so wonderfully absurd.

Sometimes you could almost forget them between the trolls on Twitter, the conspiracy tellers on Telegram, the haters on Facebook: these little niches of enjoyable nonsense on the Internet. In the past few days, one of them has come to the fore again: the Urban Dictionary.

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The Urban Dictionary is one of those veterans of the Internet that ends up high up in almost every Google search for a word, but where very few people would be able to spontaneously say what is actually behind it. The digital dictionary aims to explain mostly English slang words or abbreviations.

For example, SMG stands for "social media spirit", a person who does not use Facebook, Twitter and other networks. The texts are written by users, the posts with the most "thumbs up" appear at the top and thus reflect the commonly accepted definition: for each word there are sometimes dozen different explanations. 

"Mohammad is a very attractive person"

Which brings us to the current trend. No typical slang definitions are currently making the rounds in social networks. But the definitions of first names. In the Urban Dictionary you can also find wonderfully individual, completely arbitrary descriptions of names, which in turn can be shared as screenshots on social networks such as Instagram and TikTok. 

The Hebrew, Greek, Arabic or other meanings of one's own name are probably familiar to many - the Urban Dictionary offers an entertaining, often completely meaningless alternative. Some texts just read cliché, for example a lot is about the appearance. Some phrases occur under several first names, such as the sentence that he or she is a "keeper", that is, someone who should be kept and tied to oneself. And the contributions are almost always insanely superficial; many people are apparently just "lovely" or "amazing". 

Which is definitely the case. But if you read through a few of the definitions, you will quickly find out why so many people share the articles on the Internet: They are often laid out like horoscopes - you will find yourself in some part of the description. 

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The fact that the definitions of the Urban Dictionary are so widespread that people feel inspired to speak of "boosts of self-confidence" thanks to the descriptions of their names can come as a surprise. Because the platform is usually not known as the cozy corner of the internet. As on many digital platforms, on which in principle all Internet users can write, you will also find unspeakable and derogatory comments there, there is racism, homophobia, sexism.

This is also reflected in some descriptions of first names; Especially with male names one finds many references to male genitals, sometimes also explicit mentions of the N-word. Over time, the Urban Dictionary has turned into a "haven for hate speech",Wired 2019 aptly worded.

Ultimately, the Urban Dictionary shares a fundamental problem of social networks: In the early days of these platforms, little thought was given about what kind of nonsense and what kind of hate some people like to spread. Aaron Peckham started the platform in 1999 as a joke, in response to official dictionary platforms that often interpret language in a rather rigid manner. Nothing has to be proven, in principle you can just write what you think about a term. But if everyone can express themselves freely, then a lot of crap ends up on the platform. 

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And so the Urban Dictionary cannot avoid rules of conduct and content moderation . "Don't be an asshole," says the Code of Conduct: It is okay to explain an offensive term or a term that describes violence - but it is not okay for definitions to be used to harass, discriminate and / or incite violence to others. In March 2021, Peckham also published a blog post in which he announced that content would be controlled more closely in the future: New definitions are now being reviewed and published by a dedicated team of moderators. This also looks at what kind of content is being reported and removes it if necessary.

Oh, that's what it means!

Even if you can discover similar problems with hatred, insults, agitation on every platform on which people can express themselves, the current first name trend around the Urban Dictionary also shows that the network enables its own cultures, which according to its own rules and with a own language work. In the midst of its chaos, the website provides an often undisguised view of subcultures and their language, which one might otherwise not understand, could not understand. The Urban Dictionary thus serves both as a dictionary for certain groups and as a kind of translation aid for outsiders.

Or to write it like a calendar saying, as some of the first name definitions are formulated: Just as you can find a good page on every person, you can also discover one on every platform.

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