An entry in the Urban Dictionary is rarely a purely functional word. Instead, it is often an ad hoc neologism, a term suggested by contributors to describe language groups and communities that share common experiences. Many entries are derived from these communities. In addition, some entries are shorthand for common experiences or expressions. Some are offensive. But there is more to the Urban Dictionary than meets the eye. Here are five interesting facts about the site.
Aaron Peckham founded the Urban Dictionary 12 years ago with the intention of mocking the lingo of the youth. Since then, the site has grown into one of the largest online resources for crowdsourced information, serving between 25 and 30 million visitors each month. The startup will soon introduce video to its offerings. Peckham is a computer science major from California Polytechnic State University. In his spare time, he founded Ask Jeeves, a mock search engine that served the same purpose, and later closed it down after getting a legal letter from a competitor. But the idea remained: the website needed a fun way to compare different urban slang.
The website is crowd-sourced, with entries uploaded by the public and approved by a committee of visitors and volunteers. In this way, the Urban Dictionary has a wide diversity of content. The site allows for multiple definitions of any given word, and visitors can vote on the best ones. As such, the definitions provided by users often reflect current cultural perceptions. It’s worth noting that the website is R-rated, which is not uncommon for this kind of website.
Aaron Peckham founded the Urban Dictionary as a freshman at California Polytechnic State University. While he was an undergrad, he wanted to make a search engine that compared different types of urban slang. He later turned to a parody version of Ask Jeeves, which he closed after receiving a lawsuit for infringement. Peckham wanted to create a humorous site, as he felt that actual dictionaries were too serious.
The Urban Dictionary has been around for over 10 years, and anyone can submit a new word or definition. The site has an R-rated lexicon, so users can feel free to submit whatever they want. The site also allows volunteers to add words, and the editors review them before they appear in the public. The site has become so popular that major advertisers have partnered with Peckham to promote it. The site is largely male, with a skewed audience of 15 to 24-year-olds. It is a testament to the rapid pace of the Internet and to Peckham’s ability to market the product.
The site’s voting system
The Urban dictionary’s voting system is designed to capture words that are not commonly used in the mainstream. These words tend to have low scores in the voting system because they are considered offensive. Also, words with more definitions tend to get lower scores due to the fact that crowdworkers were more familiar with them. Despite the high-volume of votes, there’s little evidence to suggest that this has any influence on the system’s quality.
To increase the number of entries in a certain category, a person must get five votes from five other members of the site. Entries in this category are usually offensive or vulgar, and often have little to do with the meaning of the word. In the case of selfie, the dictionary has 76 entries as of July 2016, and 353 for fleek. The graph below illustrates the growth of these words and the distribution of votes by category. The term selfie first became popular in 2009 and has had over 353 entries.
The site’s offensive content
Despite the sexy and irreverent nature of the site’s content, the Urban Dictionary’s editors maintain that there are a number of guidelines to the website’s posting policy. Submissions are reviewed by volunteer editors, who check the dictionary’s usage and other factors. Editors stress the importance of keeping entries accurate and free of fictitious or long-winded racist screeds. And although removing one entry will do little to change the prevailing opinion, it is unlikely to change the current practice of keeping offensive definitions on the website.
Another controversial aspect of the website’s content is its adolescent gross-out humor. In addition to sexual terms and phrases, the website often features gross humor and adolescent sex practices. Although the site has been accused of promoting bigotry, there have been a number of instances where the language in the site has led to discrimination and racial tensions. Several definitions of the word “woman” and the word “man” are offensive to both sexes here.