If you are between 18 and 25, chances are you do. If you don’t, then drop to your knees and thank God! You are officially clueless. Like I was until my son told me about his planking prank at college, followed by a little shoulder shrug and sheepish “You know, Mom, Yolo.” Huh?
The newest youth slang for “You Only Live Once” has crept its way into our everyday language and started a cultural discussion of foolhardiness versus temerity. The phrase itself originated from the song “You Only Live Once,” by Suicide Silence from their Black Crown Album, (and further popularize by rapper Drake on “The Motto”).
But the idea of squeezing every little ounce of life out of life isn’t new. Think Nike’s “Just Do It,” campaign or the oldie, but goodie, “Go for the Gusto.” If we want to be high-brow and resurrect dead languages, how about “Carpe Diem?” Let’s go back even further than the Roman Empire: “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die” comes from the book of Ecclesiastes. And isn’t the fact that we only live once the whole basis of the Bucket List idea? Honestly: have we just now figured out that we only live once? Who would have thunk it?
Is Yolo this generation’s rally cry for meaning and purpose? The words from Suicide Silence seem to hint at that: “You only live one life, for a very short time. So make every second divine.” Or is Yolo something vapid or even, gasp, sinister? (muhahahaha!!)
Carpe Diem calls us to seize the day for a higher purpose, a calling on our life. Just Do it urges us to reject apathy and accomplish our dreams and goals. But Yolo? The Urban Dictionary defines it as “an acronym mainly used to defend doing something ranging from mild to extreme stupidity.” And it’s usually used as a dare to encourage one’s friends to do something mildly or extremely stupid. Such as, “Randomly jump off of something, Yolo!” or “Lick your own armpits, Yolo” (from the Yolo Dare website. Not joking!) The whole movement has spawned a Twitter following: @YoloHumor, @Yolo Jokes. My favorites: “I am calling you to tell you I can’t talk right now, Yolo,” and “Running with scissors, Yolo.” There are also Yolo Memes on Facebook (more on that in a minute)
So, now, when my kids or students try to Yolo their way out of something, I am on to them. Two can play at this little game.
“Hey, mom, I didn’t clean my room. I just wasn’t feeling it. Jammed with my buddies instead, Yolo”
“Hey, son, are you hungry? Sorry, I didn’t make dinner. Went to happy hour with the girls from work. Yolo.”
“I am so sorry I didn’t turn in the assignment. I was watching the Idol finale. Yolo.”
“Really, well I will be watching Dancing with the Stars tonight and can’t take any late work. Yolo.”
It’s a great phrase, no question. It is a reminder that life is fleeting, precious. We should not squander it. But I doubt we will soon be hearing comments such as, “I think I will do some community service, Yolo.” Or “I need to cut down on my screen time. Yolo.” And that is too bad. We only live once and nobody gets a redo. (Unless you are Hindu, then Yolo really messes up your theology).
So, at the risk of turning into a Hallmark Channel Special, here are some YOLOisms (did I just create a new word?) I’d like to live out.
“Leaving leave the office at decent hour and making a real meal for the family. Yolo.”
“Reading some great books. Yolo.”
“Finally, starting my blog. Yolo.”
Yeah, despite bagging on Yolo, it is what kick-started me on this new venture. So, thank you Suicide Silence and all you hipsters YOLOing your way through life. I love the Yolo jokes and humor and the FB Memes! But more importantly, I love the truth behind the acronym.
P.S. You gotta feel sorry for Yolo County in Northern California. Here it was, a rural, agricultural county of less than 300,000 people, just going along minding its own business, tomatoes and all, and bam! It’s now on the lips of every young adult about to commit random acts of stupidity. Do they need a good PR person?