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'Thirst Trap' Enters The Lexicon


The Internet has given rise to lots of new terms and phrases. One of them recently caught the ear of NPR's Neda Ulaby.


CARDI B: Oh, thirst trap.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: That's rapper and reality star Cardi B on YouTube discussing being on Instagram.


CARDI B: I'm going to always be a thirst trap because my boobs are always visual.

ULABY: Thirst traps - surprise, surprise - spring from selfie culture.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: A shirtless bathroom selfies - lots of shirtless selfies.

ULABY: Digital media is filled with talk of thirst traps.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Internet drooled over Trey Songz's thirst trap.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Last year, I purged my entire social media from thirst traps.


DASHAWN FUEGO: (Laughter) You the thirsty one. You thirsting for attention.

ULABY: That's what thirst traps mean, thirsting for attention. That last voice from a video by Dashawn Fuego critiques those thirst trappers pretending they're just innocently posting selfies on the beach or playing video games.


FUEGO: You got to play the video games in your underwear. You couldn't put on no shorts? You couldn't put on no sweats? No, you have to put on some bootylicious underwear - thirst trapping.

PETER SOKOLOWSKI: Hang on. I just have to pop over to the dictionary.

ULABY: I asked an editor at Merriam-Webster about the origins of thirst trap. Peter Sokolowski had just started following it as a phrase of interest.

SOKOLOWSKI: In English, we've always used the word thirsty in some way to reflect desire. It was usually religious - you know, thirsty for salvation, thirsty for knowledge of God.

ULABY: Thirst, lust - it makes sense, says Sokolowski, that thirst traps started showing up on Twitter and Urban Dictionary in 2011, right along with the rise of Instagram, Snapchat and dating apps like Tinder.

SOKOLOWSKI: Thirst is physical. It's elemental. It's among the most basic of human needs, of course.

ULABY: Lexicographers relish the chance to watch a term like thirst trap evolve in real time over social media. Now it's also used to mean a heartthrob. For example, Sokolowski quotes a GQ article about the prime minister of Canada.

SOKOLOWSKI: Justin Trudeau's not just a thoughtful and empathetic leader. He's also an A-plus thirst trap.

ULABY: We're beginning to see thirst trap in places like GQ and The New York Times without definition or gloss, so don't expect one the next time you hear the words thirst trap on NPR. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF EVIL NEEDLE'S "ONEIROI") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.

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