Final Word

What the fleek is fleek if not on point?


Don’t feel alone if you if happen to be in the company of students who constantly refer to things or people being ‘fleek’ without knowing what the ‘fleek’ they mean by the word.

And if you start searching for an answer in established dictionaries, you are almost sure to be disappointed, if not frustrated.

However, it you then do a Google search on this word (which does not even enjoy any official recognition as a word) you will discover that it has become one of the most robust so-called trend words, especially among the younger generation.

Asked about the origin of the word by a 20-year-old student friend of my daughter, this was the route I took.

After no luck with the dictionaries on my bookshelf, I turned to Google search. The responses to choose from were “About 95 900 results” (0,37 seconds).

I was also again strongly made aware of both the power of the internet and of the influence of social media platforms in the brave new world of cyber space.

The word ‘fleek’ made its first recorded appearance in early 2003 on the Urban Dictionary website as ‘on fleek’ meaning ‘smooth, nice, sweet’.

On 19 October 2006 there was a post for ‘fleeked’, as meaning: ‘To fix, alter, or create something by non-conventional means’, as in “I fleeked my old printer. Not only does it print, it now gives you the weather as well”.  

On 3 August 2007 there was a post for ‘fleeky’, defined as meaning ‘awesomeness’, another followed on 7 December 2010, claiming ‘fleek’ is “to sing the song of one’s people in a traditional manner, usually while dressed in ancient garments”, followed by another one four days later, claiming it is a “marionette that is frightening and haunts you in your dreams”.

Another post on 11 January 2011 gave the meaning of ‘fleeko’ as being “another word for ‘I want you to f… me’”.

Really taking off

None of these seemingly related words and their claimed meanings originally really took off or rose to the prominence of what can be described as a ‘trend’.

All this, however, changed dramatically on 21 June 2014, courtesy of the Vine short-form video sharing service, belonging to the microblogging website Twitter. It allows users to share six-seconds-long looping video clips on social platforms.

On that day a 17-year-old Chicago teen, Kayla Newman, who goes by the name Peaches Monroee online, posted a Vine. She’d just had her eyebrows done for the first time, and posted her six-second selfie video, while traveling in a car, repeatedly saying: “We in this bitch, finna get crunk. Eyebrows on fleek, da fuq.”

The video quickly, within months, gained over 37 million plays, 492,000 likes and 411,000 ‘revines’.

Then, on 17 August 2014, Viner Ariana Slays uploaded a video clip of a musical rendition dubbed over the original audio of Peaches Monroee’s video by English singer (from London nogal – just to get some South African slang into the mix) Cara Jocelyn Delevingne, professionally known as Ariana Grande. Within a month the video gathered more than 83 000 likes and 49 000 revines.

Subsequently even celebrities like Kim Kardashian started to hashtag #onfleek. A search of the #onfleek hashtag on Instagram reveals that more than 86 800 posts included the hashtag, with photos ranging from selfies to shots of makeup and a bacon sandwich.

With ‘on fleek’ being applied to whatever people wanted, a true ‘trend’ was triggered and ‘fleek’ firmly established in the vocabulary of a whole generation, also among the youth of South Africa, even though some experts still claim it is “not even a word”. 

It has, especially for the younger generation, just about completely displaced the older expression with very much the same meaning and versatility in various contexts, to be ‘on point …’.

Final word on fleek

Some etymologists speculate that ‘fleek’, in its present-day use might have originated from the word ‘flick’ as in ‘he/she flicked their eyebrows’.

Considering that the final push of the word to trend popularity came from an English girl from London, dubbing her song over the words of an African-American girl from Chicago, home of a distinctive accent, this might just be a case of “lost in translation”.

by Piet Coetzer

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