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Abbie Johnson

Abbie Johnson

Published on 28 Mar 2018 ・ Updated on 12 Nov 2018 ・ 2 min read

How ‘Netflix and chill’ became an urban term

The days when the term ‘Netflix and Chill’ consisted of lonesome, solitary innocence are well and truly behind us, for some they aren’t even memorable. So, just how did the innuendo-free phrase become the sexually-fuelled euphemism it’s known for today?

Netflix Chill Girl

Let’s start at the very beginning. Shockingly, Netflix have been around since 1997 when they were originally a Video and DVD rental company, competing with the likes of – flashback moment – Blockbuster before they went on to introduce a digital streaming service in 2007. Setting the scene of 2009, when Netflix had just been made available to stream from the main electronic devices i.e. Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 we see the first documented use of the phrase ‘Netflix and Chill’ used in a tweet by a user ‘NoFaceNina’ that stated: “I’m about to log onto Netflix and chill for the rest of the night.” It’s a tweet that emulates a throwback-style social media post one that ensures the world is informed of your every movement, but also one that highlights a virtuous, wholesome society, free of innuendo where the teenage generation really did look forward to kicking back alone and watching TV.

The year 2015 was a main turning point for the phrase; in the April it was added to the notorious Urban Dictionary, the site where users can make their own additions in the formation of the modern day teen lexicon, defined as: “code for two people going to each other’s houses and having sexual intercourse or doing other sexual related acts.” Slowly but surely the phrase began to become subversive, picking up hints of sexual connotations until it had taken a complete social media-fuelled semantic drift, one which the company themselves weren’t afraid to be a part of. In the July 2015, Netflix embraced the meme culture that had given its company sexual undertones, by posting a GIF on their Tumblr from a comedic ‘seduction’ scene in Clueless, captioned ‘Netflix and chill? No, really.’

Although ‘Netflix and Chill’ is a newly coined phrase the concept of inviting someone over to ‘hook up’ in such a metaphorical way, is not, as English language has relied on the use of innuendo to elude to sexual intercourse for centuries, in attempts to be – debatably – polite. There were many predecessors of such an ironic invitation that have been lost to the digital age, the most infamous being “Would you like to come up and see my etchings?” which dates back as early as the 1890’s. There is no doubt that in the fast paced digital world of social media and technology that we will carry on forming new ways to be cleverly suggestive.

In less than ten years the phrase ‘Netflix and Chill’ went from being an introvert’s catchphrase, explicit in meaning and solo in activity to becoming one of the most used and understood Millennial euphemisms, outlaying the modern day opinion of casual sex and the overwhelming power digital media can have on language. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have took the phrase on its own etymological journey before the eyes of millions of online followers, allowing them to participate and to form the phrases’ meaning themselves.

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