The Beyoncé dictionary: From 'Becky' to 'Boy Bye'
Beyoncé has had a mammoth impact on pop culture—and on the Oxford dictionary. Here are some of the phrases she's helped bring to the mainstream
Beyoncé is a true artist: From the release of her iconic album, Lemonade, to the musician’s colossal impact on pop culture her influence truly knows no limits. To show just how much Queen B has affected our lingo, the experts at language learning app Babbel have pulled together the words and phrases that Beyoncé has helped make mainstream.
“Hot sauce” isn’t a term Beyoncé invented, but she certainly rebranded its significance with the launch of Lemonade. In the song Formation, Beyoncé sang the lyrics, “I got hot sauce in my bag”. The phrase shot to popularity when Beyoncé released Formation as a single, and had the entire internet talking about hot sauce—including Hillary Clinton.
What the world didn’t realise until Lemonade was released, however, was that “hot sauce” was actually a reference to a baseball bat—one that was emblazoned with the phrase in the video for Hold Up.
Beyonce performing in London during the Formation World Tour in 2016 (Credit: Creative Commons)
“FUPA”, an acronym for “fat upper pubic area”, is a word used to describe a woman’s torso, often after a C-section or childbirth. Whilst the word itself existed before Beyoncé started using it, it shot to popularity and wide-spread use on Twitter after the singer used the term in a 2018 Vogue interview.
Since then, a FUPA has been reframed as something to embrace and celebrate—and Beyoncé is one of the many reasons for that change.
“Becky with the good hair”, a line from the track Sorry, was one that took over the internet when Lemonade was released, largely as it alluded to Jay Z’s reported affair. Since then, the term “Becky” has become a derogatory way to refer to someone who is “basic”, “shallow”, or “unfavourable”, and is now widely used - particularly across the internet.
“Becky” is often used to specifically describe white women in their 20s and 30s, who lack self-awareness, or an understanding of their own privilege. Interestingly, the term has a long history. Whilst Beyoncé’s use of the word can be traced back to Sir Mix A Lot’s song Baby Got Back, it’s thought that the name has been used in a derogatory way as early as 1847, due to its association with the satirical novel, Vanity Fair.
“Bootylicious”, a combination of the words “booty” and “delicious”, is a term that comes from the eponymous Destiny’s Child song released in 2001. Many people mistakenly credit Beyoncé with coining the term; however, its true inventor is thought to be Snoop Dogg, who first used the term in 1992.
That said, we can certainly thank Beyoncé for its widespread use, as Bootylicious was formally put on the pop-culture map by the pop singer. The phrase itself is supposed to mean “sexually irresistible”, and has become so famous since Beyoncé first used it, that it’s even made its way into the Oxford Dictionary.
The beautiful braids which Beyoncé wore for many parts of Lemonade were traditionally known as “side braids”, a hairstyle which predated the singer’s visual album by quite some time. Since 2016, however, the style has been known as “lemonade braids”—a term used by many women to describe Beyoncé’s look when trying to mimic the style.
Traditionally, the word slay has been a violent one. Its original meaning is “to kill in a violent way”, although it's thought that it was used as a casual way of implying you had greatly impressed someone as early as the 16th century. The word’s history can also be traced back to drag ballroom culture in the 1980s, where it was used to imply that someone was “dressed to kill”.
Beyoncé took charge of the word’s use in Lemonade, calling for women everywhere to step up and ‘slay’ in the track Formation. Since then, the word has seen a resurgence in usage, and became associated with success and accomplishment.
This word has been emblazoned on clothing and other Beyoncé-themed paraphernalia, since the release of the singer’s 2013 Drunk In Love track, which sent the internet into a tailspin of debate about the term. “Surfbort” or “surfboard” is a reference to a sexual position first popularised by Cosmopolitan and became a hotly discussed topic after Beyoncé dropped her 2013 track. Since then, the sexual position (which was once known as “bathtub boogie”) has been re-named to honour the singer, both across popular culture and by Urban Dictionary.
“Boy, bye” has more than one meaning. It’s a simple way of saying “leave me alone and get out of my face”, and can also be used as an alternative way of saying “shut up”. “Boy, bye” is actually a reworked version of the phrase, “Bye Felicia”, which was popularised by the 1995 movie Friday and re-emerged as a popular meme in 2014.
Since Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the saying shot to popularity due to its appearance in the track Sorry, and has now become synonymous with shutting down ignorant people or dismissing those people we want to get rid of. In fact, it became so popular in the wake of Lemonade that it was even used as part of an anti-Trump campaign in 2019 (although it should be noted that the political hijacking of the term wasn’t well received).
I woke up like this
This phrase took over the internet, and was responsible for a selfie trend where people posted pictures to social media claiming to have “woken up” in a glamorous state.
The term itself originates from Beyoncé’s 2013 song Flawless, in which she frequently sings the phrase, and is meant to refer to the effortless beauty and poise of a person who can wake up in a flawless (or at the very least, attractive) state.
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