The internet is a messy melting pot.
This knowledge has slowly led to it becoming a digital form of globalization, much to the chagrin of Black people. Through the advent of the world wide web, we’ve watched the spread of ideas, sounds, techniques, and language, but with that has come confusion about the proper origins of widely used terms. For an uncomfortable amount of time, we’ve watched words and phrases like “chile” and “periodt” enter the mass lexicon, while stan communities take the credit for either their creation or use. But this linguistic form of cultural appropriation is problematic, because it robs Black people of their role as innovators.
Over the weekend, the internet bubbled with an exhausting, but apparently necessary, conversation about the origin of the AAVE term “chile.” Black folks of all ages swore that it’s a southern pronunciation of the word “child,” while certain internet circles believed that it was invented in late 2019 and that its popularization was due to stan Twitter. The latter encourages mystery and anger, since Black people have had to tolerate insults about our relationship with the English language, only to have our slang taken and accredited to others.
The idea of “stanning” is inspired by Eminem’s 2000 song about a crazed super fan who’s willing to do anything to gain proximity to his idol. I’m sure it wasn’t meant to become a verb, much less a welcomed community name, but two decades later, here we are. Today, stans tend to huddle up to discuss, ruthlessly defend and promote the work of the celebrity of their choosing. At their most intense, they almost appear to occupy a separate universe completely dedicated to the object of their affection. They are thought to have their own way of speaking, but the conversations are largely built on the backs of Black people, and often more specifically, Black members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The exact origins of Black people using “chile” to describe children, or to simply refer to one another, are muddled. As one Twitter user pointed out, “chile” was used in the 1978 film “The Wiz,” but the beginnings of the phrase extend beyond then as well. My Generation X-born aunt (b. 1974) aging grandmother (b. 1953) and deceased great-grandmother (b. 1916) all were born in Louisiana, and use[d] “chile” as a term of endearment. Since stan twitter is a relatively new concept (though it has roots in early online forums,) there is no way that it’s use of “chile” predates Black, southern, in-person use.
“Melting pot” is used to describe the exchange of culture within America, completely ignoring the abuse and purposely misplaced credit that allows this pot to exist. The same idea applies to internet stans who are so tethered to believing their style of communication is unique, that they can’t believe they are not the beginning or end of speech that is ultimately Black.