In 2013, shooting guard and small forward JR Smith had the best season of his career. He received the honor of being named the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year and saw his celebrity soar. But his stats started to suffer after he started partying with pop princess Rihanna, who unapologetically described him as “desert thirsty”. But what exactly does that mean? What is “thirst”?
According to the old chaps in the Oxford English Dictionary, the original and most common definition (dating back to the year 1000) is an “uneasy or painful sensation caused by want of drink”. A couple of hundred years later, a new definition cropped up: “the vehement desire for or after something”. Here in the 21st Century, the two definitions merged to create a new characterization: the desire and appreciation for the opposite sex. While pursuing romantic interests is certainty not a new phenomenon, the new term for it — “thirst”, has become a pop culture phenomenon.
With this being the digital age, of course the first examples of this new form of thirst appeared on the Internet. Extreme pursuits of the opposite sex that seemed too outrageous to be real became excellent material for Urban Dictionary’s working definitions. According to UB, “thirst” is characterized by obsession and desperation. Not long after UB’s definiton, YouTubers began posting commentaries on how undesirable those who fawned over the opposite sex seemed. Twitter personalities made “thirst” the topic of conversation so much that it routinely became a top trend on the website.
In the world of academia, the evolution of a word’s definition and perception is called a semantic change. This type change can have far reaching effects. For the term thirst, it led to a negative shift in connotation. Ultimately, thirst has become so widespread that even polite and innocent flattery has become frowned upon. As a person who often tries to euro-step the hype, I find myself reluctant to to give compliments or share fond feelings with the opposite sex. The last thing I want is to be screenshotted (a topic for another time) and called thirsty.
Words by: @nooksocute