Wednesday, 14th May 2014

by Joshua Gaskell

The Urban Dictionary’s Word of the Year 2013 voting page was taken down months ago, with no explanation and without the prize having been awarded. So, as the Oxford Urban dictionarist, I have taken it upon myself to lexicographise the word which, last time it was possible to check, was way out ahead in the voting. And the winner is…

Ratchet, n. and adj.

Pronunciation: /ˈratʃɪt/
Etymology: Cognate with brach, from Old High German bracco, a hound hunting by scent (see quots. 1563, 1893), app. first revived in the Cedar Grove neighbourhood of Shreveport, Louisiana.

1. n. colloq. (freq. derogatory, rare before 21st cent.) A slovenly, often overweight, down-at-heel woman, interested variously in gold-digging, hip-hop music, mobile-phones, clubbing, violence, and aspiring to a ghetto fabulous lifestyle. Also reappropriated positively (see quot. 2013 ii.).
2. adj. Of or pertaining to such a woman (see quots. 2004, 2013 i.).

[1563 T. Becon Acts Christ & Antichrist Antichrist hunteth the wilde dere with houndes and ratchettes ronning.
1893 J. H. Turner History of Brighouse No wonder that hobgoblins gabble-ratches and headless-horses scoured the country.]

1999 A. Mandigo Ratchet Fight in the Ghetto (album title).
2006 P. Dawg United We Stand, Divided We Fall (definition of ratchet in liner notes) To be ghetto, real, gutter, nasty.
2012 N. Minaj et al. Right By My Side All them bitches is ratchet.
2012 L. L. C. James Ratchet Can I have some cash? | It’s time to get rid of your ratchet ass.
2013 P. Houston (quoted in The Cut) Ratchet is basically a lack of home training — being out in public and acting like you don’t have any sense. Putting a weave in the microwave just to curl it, that’s ratchet.
2013 E. Williams (alias P. Dawg, quoted in The Cut) It’s not necessarily negative. You could say ‘I’m ratchet’ to say ‘I’m real. I’m ghetto. I am what I am.’ It can be light, too.