Is 'woke' hip?

"What is hip?"  For anyone older than, say, around 60, that phrase conjures up the memory of that great 1970s R&B group Tower of Power and their signature song of the same title.  Unlike many passing trends and clichés, TOP's music remains quite popular to this day — at least with the older set — and that song is probably single-handedly responsible for keeping the word "hip" in the popular lexicon.

Many other phrases and words that once defined the cutting edge of popular culture and social apperception have long since fallen into the verbal wasteland of yesteryear — quaint, entertaining artifacts of a time gone by, no longer the linguistic benchmarks that identify the nature of our communications.  But at the time, they were the code words and catchphrases that set the pace for contemporary communications.

Today, the pre-eminent socially defining word is woke and all its associated forms, like wokism, wokistwokeness, etc.  The current meaning of "woke" has even made it into as a slang adjective, so the word has finally acquired some degree of official recognition:

adjective, Slang. (often used in the phrase stay woke)

Having or marked by an active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights:

In light of incidents of police brutality, it's important to stay woke.

He took one African American history class and now he thinks he's woke.

We're trying to make woke choices in life.

Probably the longest-lasting word implying a positive social awareness is the word cool.  First becoming widely used in the 1960s as a term connoting an innate, effortless familiarity and comfort with the most current interpersonal communications styles and latest fashion trends, cool has stood the test of time and remains a well understood and widely accepted way of expressing something that's notable, modern, and good.

Unfortunately, not every colloquial word and phrase from the past several decades meaning "socially up to date" has aged as well as cool has.  Unless one is intentionally trying to be sarcastic or nostalgically humorous, it's highly unlikely today that anyone would hear someone other than Austin Powers say, "That's groovy, baby!"

Nor would these words from the 1950s–1990s be likely to make an appearance in modern-day conversations: rad, far out, boss, solid, phresh, tight, mod, da bomb, neat, kickin', killer, copasetic, phat, or fab.

There are undoubtedly dozens more that could make it onto this list.  The point is, these words and expressions come and go very quickly.  Liberal news outlets and progressive social movements, in particular, are quick to pick up on the latest buzzwords, and, laughably, they're the very first ones to look hopelessly dated and irrelevant when these terms and labels fall out of favor, as they inevitably do.

There must be something in the liberal/progressive mindset that feels the need to use the latest, most trendy terms of communication.  Maybe it's a subliminal need to convince their audience — or perhaps themselves! — of the timeliness, relevance, and applicability of their messaging.  Or it could simply be a subconscious, shallow, emotional reflex to express themselves in the opposite style of the traditional, grammatically correct manner in which many conservatives speak.

One thing is for certain: throughout modern, post-World War II American history, virtually none of these slang social words and phrases have been created and introduced into popular culture and politics by conservatives.  The invention and use of informal slang language as it applies to society and politics have always been — and remains to this day — strictly the purview of progressive liberals.

All of which brings us to "woke."  When this word first made its political appearance a few years ago, it was amusingly vague and undefined.  Ask ten different people what "woke" meant, and six people would give you some variance of "an awareness of social/racial injustice," two others would say, "Just having arisen from sleep," and the last two would simply look at you in a befuddled, quizzical manner.  Today, uncounted throngs of committed progressives, whether elected officials, members of the liberal media, or simply rank-and-file followers, wear the terms woke and wokeness like badges of honor.

Getting back to the music group Tower of Power and their famous song, "What Is Hip," there is a lyric passage towards the end of the song that delivers a caution to those individuals trying too hard to be on top of the very latest social, fashion, cultural developments.  The lyrics warn:

While you're striving to find the right road
There's one thing you should know
What's hip today might become passé

Therefore, progressives should be forewarned: the term woke and all its derivatives are likely to be conscribed to the linguistic junk heap of history in short order, its mention in a few years hence recalling an embarrassing aberration in American communications practices, the purveyors of the term to be regarded in retrospect with a combination of derision and unseriousness.  Sadly for them, today's woke will no longer be cool.

Image by Andrea Widburg.

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