Ghetto: A word often used as an adjective to describe a cheap and/or home-spun solution to a problem or situation normally remedied with more expensive purchased goods. Perfectly good alternatives include DIY, cheap, frugal, and home brewed. Whenever I hear middle-class white kids slangily using “ghetto,” it’s usually a futile effort to smear a layer of gritty texture over their banal lives. It’s their attempt at low-browing themselves—associating their generally privileged activities with a life experience they perceive as “more real.” I mean, yeah, dude. I totally get it. Your ghetto screen printing setup in your apartment is EXACTLY LIKE WHAT PEOPLE IN SLUMS USE WHEN THEY MAKE IRONIC LIMITED-RUN T-SHIRTS, TOO.
Using the word “ghetto” in this way is an insult to people who live in actual ghettos. It’s a terrible misuse of a word that signified something pretty damned serious in WWII. Its use is both condescending (“I’m actually better than this! WINK!!!”) and aspirational (“I’m street, just like the lower class!”). So, my hip cool friend: The next time you’re telling your pals about your ghetto beer brewing setup or your ghetto feng shui floor plan, please stop to consider exactly how douchetastic you sound. NEXT WEEK’S WORDPUNCHER: Douchetastic: Is It A Word?