TikTok’s Favorite Pet Name, “Pookie,” Is Rooted in Rich Cultural History

Campbell and Jett Puckett We’re a viral couple on social media. They’re rich, white, and display typical couple content: dinners out, lavish trips, and proof of their love for each other everywhere. Tic Tac. But one term of endearment sets this Georgia couple apart from the rest: Pookie.

In a video which has now been viewed over 9.1 million times and spoofed by Zach Bryan, Meghan Trainor and ESPN Sports, the two show off their “Friday night party” outfits. In his monotone Southern accent, Jett narrates, “Took Pookie to a new place tonight with three other couples and Pookie looks absolutely amazing.” His use of the term and clear affection for his wife took off online like wildfire.

It’s not just Jett calling Campbell a Pookie, now the couple’s fans are also flooding comments calling her Pookie. Pookie’s history is vast; it extends Garfield comic pagesSouthern grandmothers, and now your average hot guy’s comments section on TikTok.

“When we see this atomized content on TikTok, we’re not inhabiting the social world that these characters or these people are living in. We don’t know anything about Campbell and her husband, we don’t know anything about their relationship,” she told Mashable Nicole Holliday, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Sciences at Pomona College.

Terms of endearment like Pookie act as a shorthand to explain the nature of someone’s relationship, and viewers love feeling close to the creators they watch.

“When we use terms of endearment (like Pookie), they indicate social closeness. He might say, ‘Campbell’s outfit looks great.’ Or “my wife’s outfit looks great”. But when he says “Pookie’s outfit”, the viewer feels like they have a close relationship and he really likes her because he calls her that in public,” Holliday added.

As is the case with anyone cursed with virality, viewers were quick to dig into their past. A TikToks uploaded a screen recording of Jett’s LinkedIn profile to TikTok, emphasizing his Ivy League education and “incredible brain.” THE New York Times reported that on Reddit, someone resurfaced a photo of Campbell, who attended Ole Miss, posing with a Confederate flag and another of her in an old-fashioned ball gown in what users believe was a costume for an event on the theme of plantations.

Campbell apologized on her Instagram Story, writing, “Some of my old photos have recently resurfaced. At the time…I was 20 years old. I didn’t fully understand the impact of my actions as I do do now.” She apologized “for the harm this may have caused to some and takes full responsibility”.

Despite their quick fall from grace, Campbell and Jett’s impact on the Internet lexicon is undeniable: They brought Pookie into the mainstream.

According to Know your memePookie began appearing on TikTok in the early 2020s. The Meme Dictionary noted that fans of @JayRScotty — the creator behind the viral “I’ve Never Seen Two Pretty Best Friends” video — often calls her Pookie in his comments section.

Another TikToker, @444Pray, defended the mandate last year. You may know him as the creator of the sounds “It’s the Way You Act” and “Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.” His bio reads: “Big Pookie of Pookie Nation.” In a video with over 30.2 million views and 4 million likes, he asks, “Am I your Roman Empire, Pookie?” while making his signature hand gestures.

Black creators and other communities of color have long used the phrase “It’s Alright, Pookie” in jest. However, when two white Southerners like Jett and Campbell use the term, it is no longer seen as a joke or a meme but as an endearing reflection of love.

“Pookie” is far from a new phenomenon. According to Holliday, members of the South’s black and non-black communities have used the term since at least the 1930s.

As a word or phrase like Pookie gains popularity online, it is often rebranded as Gen Z or Internet slang. But the culture’s insistence that these terms are Gen Z innovations obscures their true origins, which are almost always rooted in African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and simply discovered by white audiences online . The incorporation of this language into universal vocabularies is seen by many as a form of digital appropriation.

Pookie is unique in that he has always existed across racial and ethnic boundaries. It’s common for the AAVE and Southern White varieties to overlap in the geographic area where the term originated, Holliday explained.

“If it had been a rural Southern term during the Great Migration, African Americans would have taken it with them,” said Paul Reed, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Texas. ‘Alabama, specializing in grammatical variations of South American and Appalachian Englishes. English, Mashable said. Reed posits that Pookie has always existed in rural Southern communities, such as traditional white rural Southern communities as well as urban African American communities – two groups that do not always receive the media coverage that leads to wide exposure – continued to the diasporic spread of black Americans. from the rural South to urban areas in the 1900s.

“TikTok spreads particular lexical items or words that are not known geographically or socially and that people find to be useful, interesting or cute terms,” said Holliday, who thinks Jett’s use of the term is “authentic “. because he is from the South.

However, there are some specifically racial uses of the term. In the 1980s during the crack epidemic, Pookie referred to both a crack pipe and a crack user. “It had a whole different meaning in the crack-ravaged urban centers,” Holliday said. She pointed to Chris Rock’s portrayal of a character called Pookie who becomes addicted to crack cocaine in the 1991 film. Jack’s New Town For example.

There are also caricatures of Pookie and Ray Ray used by black comedians in the United States. According to Houston Chronicle, Pookie is a folk character who ranges from rebellious cousin to youngster. During former President Barack Obama’s two presidential campaigns, he invoked Pookie and Ray Ray to appeal to black voters. In a speech before the 2008 South Carolina primaries, in front of a mostly black audience, he declared: “I need you to catch Cousin Pookie to vote.” I need you to catch Ray Ray to vote.

Beyond racial and gender distinctions, Pookie is a nickname within a close-knit community. Reed compares the term to Bubba, a term of endearment for men because both can have this effect. “(Pookie) is a (term) that can become the way people refer to you. I know people in my hometown that if you knew them, you would call them Pookie because that’s what everyone people were calling them,” Reed told Mashable, referring to the Northeast. Tennessee, where the state meets Kentucky and Virginia. Pookie is used similarly throughout the broader rural, white, and traditional South.

But Bubba is also shorthand for a caricature or character type and can be derogatory, while Reed considers Pookie “neutral to endearing.”

Holliday explained that in internet spaces, names like GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) are used similarly in place of someone’s government name. She says it’s especially common in online forums, such as the use of “DH” (Dearest Husband) in wedding planning spaces.

As Pookie discovers it, its use changes. In fandom spaces, it’s not uncommon for someone to say their favorite “is Pookie”, which may seem perfectly normal to those unfamiliar with it, but that’s not the way it was intended to be used. Pookie is a vocative case, that’s what you call someone. So saying someone “is Pookie” is the same as saying someone “is Honey” or “is Sweetie.” Pookie is now used as a third-person reference when it was originally used in the second person, changing its meaning to accommodate an ever-changing Internet lexicon.

“There are all these people who didn’t know Pookie before and are imitating (Jett), so now the word is being used in other contexts. It’s a way the language is changing,” Holliday said.

As “Pookie” continues to morph and spread on TikTok, it serves as a prime example of the platform’s knack for appropriating and popularizing regional expressions, distilling their complex meanings into something more palatable for consumption in line. It’s only a matter of time before he finds his next linguistic target.

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