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The Linguistic Legacy of 'Jersey Shore'

Well folks, it’s the end of an era. Tonight, MTV will air the final episode of Jersey Shore, the reality TV show that brought “eight of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos” into our living rooms. Or close enough. Whatever you think about the show, you have to admit that the characters were pretty fascinating — not least because they always seemed to be speaking their very own language. And lo, some of that language has trickled down (up?) into the mainstream, ensuring that in some small way, Jersey Shore will be with us forever. After the jump, we take a look at a few phrases and terms popularized by the show that we think might just stick around, whether draped in irony or no. Let us know your favorite entry from the Jersey Shore phrasebook in the comments.

Creep (v.)

To hit on. Alternately: to be on the prowl.

Mainstream culture has been familiar with this term since TLC’s 1994 album CrazySexyCool, in which it was used largely to mean “cheat.” The connotation has changed somewhat with its usage in Jersey Shore, where it has been used to mean, in the wide sense, going out with the intention to find someone to accompany you home, or, in the more specific sense, aggressive flirting, which may include following someone around with the intention to convince them to accompany you home. See also: “The Creep.”

Grenade (n.)

Probably the most ubiquitous term popularized by Jersey Shore, a grenade is a “bigger, ugly chick” who is friends with a cute girl the speaker would like to “creep” on. Compare: “landmine,” a skinny version of a grenade, and “bomb,” a girl that is not interested in your advances and is not afraid to tell you so. Usually, one man in a group will be required to “fall on the grenade” so that his friends will have the chance to talk to her friends. The implications of casting women as various kinds of explosives are as yet unknown for our culture at large, but they’re probably not very good.

Gorilla (n.)

A flattering description for a very muscular man. Compare: “juice head,” used to describe a gorilla so jacked that it looks as if he uses steroids. Whether or not he actually uses steroids seems not to be at issue. These are the kinds of men who are not foiled by the explosive women in the clubs they frequent, possibly on account of their girth.

Acronyms

Jersey Shore popularized the use of many particular phrases and terms, but it also helped usher in the age of the acronym. Here are a few notables:

DTF (adj.)

“Down to Fuck.” Though this phrase did not originate in Jersey Shore (both the phrase and the acronym were used in 2007′s Superbad) it has certainly entered the mainstream with full force because of it.

DTS (adj.)

“Down to Snuggle.” Probably a Jersey Shore original, reflecting the undercurrent of silly sweetness in the show’s characters.

FTD (adj.)

“Fresh to Death.” Meaning very stylish and trendy, particularly in the guido sense.

GTL (v.)

“Gym, Tan, Laundry.” The three pillars of The Situation’s daily life.

Poof (n.) (sometimes spelled “pouf”)

A hairstyle in which hair at the crown of the head is raised up in a mound shape.

Snooki’s poof was a veritable cultural sensation all by itself, inspiring parodies and how-to videos in equal number. Ellen DeGeneres even dressed up as the hairball for Halloween. After Season 1, however, Snooki seemed over her own cultural trend, commenting, “I’ve been wearing it since I was 16, and now everyone expects me to wear the poof… I just don’t want to be predictable with my hair and the poof. I want to be different. That’s why I’ve started to do the tease, do the curl and pretty much just a different look.”

Guidos and Guidettes (n.)

“Guido” has long been a slang word for a working-class Italian-American, though in recent years it has come to mean a particular kind of macho Italian-American. Though considered by many to be an ethnic slur, several of the characters on Jersey Shore self-identified with the word, and their rampant usage has established it as a reference to style as well as heritage and behavior — deep tans, slicked back or blown out hair, gold chains, and tight clothing. “Guidettes” stereotypically have long nails and — you guessed it — poofs.

Smush (v.)

To have sex with.

This type of fornication has a sweet connotation — that is, the kind of sex that two people that actually like each other might have. Not that we need more euphemisms for sex, but this is kind of a nice, if somewhat icky-sounding one. Compare: “getting it in,” a much less romantic and much more transactional way of saying the same thing.

Twinning (v.)

Sleeping with or otherwise succeeding romantically with twins.

Derived from the phrase “winning with twins,” a reference to the common term meaning “succeeding” or “besting the competition,” but more specifically as redefined in March 2011 by Charlie Sheen, which indicates veins filled with tiger blood or status as a high priest Vatican assassin warlock. It’s unclear how often actual people will have the opportunity to use this term, but it’s good to know it exists.