Corncob? Donut? Binch? A Guide to Weird Leftist Internet Slang
The explainer you've all been waiting for.
Twitter, the preferred social network of journalists, pundits, political junkies, and pretty much no one else, has become increasingly relevant in the Trump era. With the president himself using Twitter as a platform for his deranged rantings and questionably accidental retweets, voracious users of the social network have found their voices elevated to issues of minor national importance in these confusing times. During the election, for example, Donald Trump appeared to reference a joke from the beautifully trollish @randygdub as evidence of voter fraud while delivering a speech at a rally in Colorado.
Raandy is part of "Weird Twitter," a hard-to-define niche of weirdos and jokesters, once described as the part of the social network "where the language of Twitter gets created, where its funniest jokes come from, and where its worst tendencies are isolated, rebroadcast, and sometimes destroyed."
Since the election—which, naturally, was predicted by one of their own in 2011—the tone of Weird Twitter has become increasingly political. Considering how many of its members happen to also be outspoken leftists, this isn't surprising, but it's been a strange thing to watch the online left and the descendants of the Something Awful boards merge into a unified movement.
Twitter gets a lot of (well-deserved) flack, but the essential beauty of social network is how it fosters conversation between journalists, the DC elite, other marginally influential people and total randos. Whether we like it or not, petty political spats of increasing importance are playing out on Twitter every day. Unfortunately, a lot of these arguments rely so much on slang, memes, and in-jokes that they're incomprehensible to outsiders.
So if you don't understand what the rose emoji signifies or why people with those things hate people with donut emojis—which is a real thing—don't worry, I got your back. Here's a primer for all the n00bz and to my Twitter friends, I'm sorry for ruining all of your jokes:
"Brocialist": a derogatory term for a male socialist who doesn't respect women. Also known as a Bernie bro or simply, a "dudebro," "brocialist" is frequently used by pro-Hillary Clinton centrists on Twitter to disparage their Bernie Sanders–loving leftist adversaries.
"The dirtbag left": A term coined by Amber A'Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House, a popular politics podcast that was once described by the Guardian as "leftwing Breitbart," "the dirtbag left" describes a political movement that champions socialist ideology with an aggressive disinterest in pandering to prominent liberals (any Hillary Clinton advocate, for example). Dirtbag leftists disdain the average liberal's commitment to pomp and circumstance, to upholding civilized discourse. Moreover, the dirtbag left believes vulgarity can be a powerful political tool. (In an essay on the necessity of political vulgarity for Current Affairs, Frost writes that in the Trump era, "If we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.")
"Rose emoji": People who have a rose emoji in their Twitter usernames or bios are members of the Democratic Socialists of America (or, occasionally, a right-winger posing as a DSA member). Sometimes, the rose emojis get a little aggressive in the mentions of prominent liberals, especially when those liberals tweet something negative about Bernie Sanders, single-payer healthcare, et al.
"Binch": A playful synonym for "bitch," which became widespread after Twitter began hiding replies from (non-verified) accounts that use swear words and other vulgar language.
"Corncob": Recently, Democratic operative Al Giordano accused Bernie fans in his mentions of being homophobic for telling him he got "corncobbed." Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden, never afraid to dive headfirst into Twitter drama, also got involved.
Presumably, Giordano assumed that the corncob enthusiasts tweeting at him were using the word in the sense of this Urban Dictionary definition:
But that's not what "corncob" means in the crazy, messed-up world of weird politics Twitter. To get "corncobbed" means to get owned, i.e. lose an argument, online, while insisting that you're victorious. It's a reference to a tweet from @dril, the reigning king of Weird Twitter.
"Donut": In the middle of everyone yelling about the word "corncob," BuzzFeed published an article about the conflict between Nina Turner, who runs a Bernie Sanders–founded political activist group called Our Revolution, and the DNC. Turner described a moment where she went to the DNC headquarters to deliver a petition supporting the "People's Platform," but was angry at what she saw as a frosty reception. From BuzzFeed:
A spread of donuts and water had also been set up for the Our Revolution party. Turner took particular issue with the donuts and water, which she called "hand-out trinkets."
"They tried to seduce us with donuts and water," she said. "They're pompous and arrogant enough to say to the people, 'You're not good enough to be on our property — and, oh by the way, we're just gonna hand you donuts and water over the barricade.' That is insulting. Absolutely insulting."
After liberals began criticizing Turner on Twitter for her rejection of the DNC's donuts (and for engaging in what they saw as a publicity stunt), a new meme was born.
Jen Kirkman, a comedian who frequently finds herself battling with Twitter leftists over her unique disdain for Bernie Sanders—she recently made waves when she wrote in a now-deleted tweet, "Bernie is a KNOWING chaos agent paid by Russia in 2016 election"—got in on the donut fun as well.
"The ratio": Conventional Twitter wisdom is that you can tell how good a tweet is by the ratio of comments to retweets and/or likes. If the tweet gets an alarming number of replies and significantly less likes and retweets, you done fucked up.
Let's take the bad tweet below, for example, from Republican Corey Stewart, who is currently running for Senate in Virginia: A little more than 1,000 retweets, almost 3,000 likes, and more than 22,000 replies:
Derived from "the ratio," "the coward's ratio" denotes when a risqué tweets gets a ton of likes but not many retweets.
"Milkshake duck": Coined by Ben Ward, who tweets under the pseudonym Pixelated Boat, "milkshake duck" describes a familiar online phenomenon: A random person gets their 15 minutes of viral fame, everyone loves them, and then their secret problematic past is uncovered.
Perhaps the best example of milkshake duck is the tale of Ken Bone, the jolly man in the red sweater who asked a question about climate change at the 2016 presidential debate. After he became a viral star, he met his demise when he did a Reddit Ask Me Anything from his personal account, where he had previously posted about how the murder of Trayvon Martin was "justified" and his penchant for pregnancy porn.
"Large adult sons": The New Yorker's Jia Tolentino explains the meme perfectly here. The phrase mainly conjures up images of beefy young men blundering about the world. Many problems are caused by large adult sons. If you don't understand or if this offends you, perhaps you are a large adult son yourself.
"Tankie": When you see this one, you know you've reached the left-wing fringe—it's mostly a pejorative that's used by leftists to describe leftists that have strange, often pro-dictator positions. Leftist writer Carl Beijer explained the term's origins and present-day use in a Twitter DM:
Originally, a tankie was someone who approves of Stalin's sending tanks into Hungary to crush resistance to Soviet communism. More generally, a tankie is someone who tends to support militant opposition to capitalism... Online, I often see people use tankie in a different way, to mean something like "a self-proclaimed communist who indulges in conspiracy theories and whose rhetoric is largely performative"... In both its original use and its peculiar online use, tankie is almost always used pejoratively. Unfortunately, I think these two uses of the word end up suggesting that all hardline communists are conspiratorial and performative, which just isn't the case.
Garland's rantings on that fateful December night consisted mostly of indecipherable gibberish: "OMG, that worked so well that the pièce de résistance was next: SNOWDEN!!! BOOYAH! THE BIG GAME! NSA! PRISM! SPASM!" read one tweet. "Bill Clinton spent most of his years pounding the living snot out of Hussein. Dude built anything funny lookin', in came the rockets," read another.
Nevertheless, Garland's tirade caught the attention of many prominent liberals like Mother Jones editor-in-chief Clara Jeffery, CNN's Brian Stelter, and Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold, who applauded his manic rantings.
Garland's thread lives on in the many, many jokes spawned, and as a cautionary tale: If you think he's making some good points, it's time to log off.
Did you make it until the end? You're now a leftist Twitter expert! Congrats, and I'm very sorry.
Follow Eve Peyser on Twitter to view more of these fun and interesting political memes.