A Note about Language

Katie Gruber

As Gudykunst & Kim (2003) said, “We communicate the way we do because we are raised in a particular culture and learn its language, rules, and norms” (p. 430). The English language, like any language, can be ambiguous without context.

We have all agreed that “toast” for example, means bread that has been put into a toaster oven and baked for additional time, making it crunchy and oh-so-perfect for some smooth peanut butter!  We have also established that “brunch” is a combination of “breakfast” and “lunch”.  Some newer words have been created recently, such as “glamping” or “frenemy.”  But consider the word “bootylicious” from the hit song of the same name:

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly
I don’t think you’re ready for this
‘Cause my body too bootylicious for ya, babe

(Fusari, Knowles, Moore, & Nicks, 2001)


Do you remember that song?  While Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious skyrocketed up the Billboard charts in 2001, the term “bootylicious” was actually first used by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, rapped on “F–k Wit Dre Day,” the second single from Dr. Dre’s debut solo 1993 album, The Chronic.

Your bark was loud, but your bite wasn’t vicious
And them rhymes you were kickin’ were quite bootylicious

(Young, 1993)


While Dr. Dre’s version of bootylicious refers to “bad” or “weak” rap lyrics, bootylicious can also mean “sexually attractive, sexy, shapely,” especially in reference to a woman, oftentimes referring to the buttocks.  Bootylicious was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004 and demonstrates the ever-changing landscape of language!

In fact, a family in Boston is trying to honor their dad by getting the word “orbisculate” added to the dictionary.  Their dad made up this word for a class at Cornell – when a “citrus fruit squirts in your eye.” He used the word so frequently while his kids were growing up that they thought it was a “real word” and also used it. They were shocked to find out that it wasn’t in the dictionary!  Their family thinks that since bootylicious is in the dictionary, orbisculate should be, too. You can even visit their website www.orbisculate.com to petition to have the word added to the dictionary!

Think about the slang you use with your friends. Bet. No cap. Outta pocket. ‘fit. Thirsty. Drip. Cringe. In the words of Justin Bieber [and others], On God! Man, that song slaps! What about the words of previous generations? Bodacious, rad, crunk, junk in the trunk, tubular, shawty. How have these terms evolved and/or become obsolete over the years?  How will the language you use now change in 10 or 20 years?


It’s important to consider the language you use and avoid slang and/or jargon that will create a disconnect between you and your audience. As should be obvious by now, the audience is the most important consideration you make as you research and write your speech.  If you use language they don’t understand, how can you relate to them?




  1. Gudykunst, W. & Kim, Y. (2003) Communicating with strangers: An approach to intercultural communication. (4th ed.) Boston: McGraw-Hill.
  2. Fusari, R., Knowles, B., Moore, F., & Nicks, S. (2001) Bootylicious. [song] Columbia Records.
  3. “Bootylicious, adj.” (September 2004). Bootylicious. Oxford English Dictionary Online. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/262892
  4. Young, A. (1993). Fuck Wit Dre Day (And Everybody’s Celebratin’). [song] Ruthless Records.
  5. Figueroa, M. [goodnews_movement] (date unknown). [In honor of their jokester dad who always reminded them to make the best out of dark times…] Photograph. https://www.instagram.com/goodnews_movement/
  6. Kreiger, J. & Kreiger, H. (2021). Orbisculate. Orbisculate. https://www.orbisculate.com/




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