The Year in Vibes

At some point during the course of 2021, the word “vibe” became utterly ubiquitous. I tried to count but would lose track of how often it was deployed in conversations with friends. I couldn’t stop myself from using it, either, the way you can’t stop yourself from yawning after someone else does. It caught on like the Strasbourg dancing plague of 1518, spreading long past the point of semantic satiation. What did it mean? What didn’t it mean? “Vibe” was a placeholder for an unplaceable feeling or impression, an atmosphere that you couldn’t or didn’t want to put into words. You didn’t like a bar because the vibe was off. The new Netflix show has kind of a “Sopranos” vibe. The two of them didn’t vibe as a couple. It’s a linguistic shortcut for the ineffable.


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