The Penn Student Dictionary (Updated Edition)

For the first edition, click here.

Hello there, and welcome to another calendar year at the University of Pennsylvania. By now, you should now be familiar with Penn culture and how to speak with your fellow peers. If you still don’t (or are looking for a refresher), you have come the correct place! This handy guide was constructed by reading Penn publications, eavesdropping on elevator conversations, and spending hours online reading your tweets and Facebook statuses, including yours. Yes, yours. Now let us begin with


Actually is a waste term that doesn’t add or subtract from whatever you’re saying. Don’t believe me? Here are some example sentences:

―I am actually in love with Jennifer Lawrence.

―I actually don’t care for your celebrity crushes. Wait, I actually don’t care for any of your opinions, ever.

―There is actually no hot water running this morning.

―Water is a liquid and has no feet; it is not actually capable of running.

―Fuck you.

This is the only correct response to dad jokes.
This is actually the only correct response to dad jokes.

But actually

But actually is different from “actually” in that “but actually” is used for emphasis when no emphasis is required, usually to highlight self-importance and/or pretend you are contributing to a conversation.

―If I buckled down and studied instead of marathoning every episode of Duck Dynasty, Game of Thrones, and Cutthroat Kitchen in a single day, I’d have better grades.
But actually.

―There are many injustices in the world and there are many groups on campus doing something about them. I should get off my ass and stop that damn Kaiser from nuking Gettysburg by buying war bonds… after “The Red Wedding,” though.
But actually.

―Are you capable of saying anything else?


I can’t/I just can’t

This phrase is used to make an underwhelming situation seem overwhelming. There is an inverse relationship: the more mundane the situation, the more outrageous the outburst.

[The editors have foregone example sentences for cute animal pics and gifs. Let the overwhelmed squeals begin.]

We warned you.
We warned you.
It's a pug in a blanket. We're at an "I can't" level of 8/10 right now.
It’s a pug in a blanket. We’re at an “I can’t” level of 8/10 right now.
It's a sea otter slam dunking! CUTENESS OVERLOAD. We so fucking CAN'T right now.
It’s a sea otter slam dunking! CUTENESS OVERLOAD. We so fucking CAN’T right now.


You know what this means. This word is not to be used sparingly. People will drop everything to look at you strangely and judge you if you do not use this word in literally everything you say and write.

―There are literally dozens of dying frogs in my bathtub after my “beach bayou” party literally went to Hell. And I have no idea where the rental alligator wandered off to…


―I literally can’t believe I just failed that midterm after literally staying awake for three days, literally living at Van Pelt, and stopping to literally party at every frat house in my path.


―My Eric Furda/Provost Vincent Price/Vincent Price the actor slash-fiction is literally the hottest thing anyone’s ever written. My body is sending cake batter to my buttery parts just thinking about it.

Vincent Price is relevant again.


Artist interpretation
Artist’s interpretation

Ratchet is a derogatory term used to describe anything that does not conform to a societal standard. (This social standard is yet undefined.)

Eww, you have a jailbroken iPhone 4 that hasn’t been updated? That’s the most ratchet thing I’ll see all year.

Wait, you mean Morgan went to the party, got really drunk, made out with some hot guy, and generally had a fun time? That’s ratchet as fuck.

―I torrented all my textbooks. I would have been broke otherwise. I needed to do that to survive, okay. #ratchet

The shade/throwing shade

Subtly insulting or disrespecting someone or something. See: talking shit, talking smack, trash talking, quarreling.

The shadiest column ever written does more justice than an example sentence. “BETCH BETCH Sororities” can provide shade in the Sahara.

Sorry not sorry/sorrynotsorry/#sorrynotsorry

“Sorry not sorry” is a phrase that is usually preceded by unpopular opinions or edgy statements.

I don’t care that you were conceived at a Bruce Springsteen concert. I don’t care that “Piano Man” is your favorite song of all time. And I especially don’t care that Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance caused men across the country to spontaneously grow uteruses that gave birth to breakdancing aliens. I have never cared for these artists and no matter how much you insist that they are amazing, I will never care for them. #sorrynotsorry


―Okay, here are my opinions on immigration reform, Israel and Palestine, healthcare, and race relations in the United States: [CENSORED BY THE EDITORS] Sorry not sorry — the Editors


Is used to point out the mildest inconveniences. May or may not lead to riding the legendary “struggle bus.”

Ugh, major struggles today: Starbucks ran out of skinny vanilla lattés, and I was struggling to focus in class thinking of all the extra calories I chugged. I knew I was on the struggle bus when I came home and started rubbing chocolate sauce all over myself in front of the mirror. Explaining myself to my roommate was an even bigger struggle than the time I was caught ‘batin to Vincent Price/Vincent Price/Eric Furda slash-fiction.


Is that a thing?

A phrase used to question anything mildly out of the ordinary.

I really don’t like the taste of Diet Coke. I think I’d rather drink some water.

―Oemfuckingee. I have never met someone who turns down Diet Coke. Are you a thing?


―We’re gonna draw a little bit of everybody’s blood… ’cause we’re gonna find out who’s The Thing. – Kurt Russell, The Thing (1982)

You're going to regret over-using this phrase when the real Thing attacks.
You’re going to regret over-using this phrase when the real Thing attacks.

The Thirst/Thirsty

This refers to the state of lacking the liquids necessary to sustain life. Good luck with the clean-up.

Honorable Mention: The [x] is Real

Insert a variant of “thirst,” “struggle,” or other slang term into x. This phrase is mainly used for exaggerated emphasis.

I’m a second semester senior and I’m taking Math-104. You better believe the struggle is real.

This is Important

Winner: Most up-and-coming phrase. “This is important” is an often-used online term. It is usually posted on Facebook alongside a social justice link (looking at you, Upworthy), with the hope that sharing a link is somehow changing the world.

Prize:  The Penn Community Involvement page. ಠ_ಠ

Turn Up/Turnt Up/Turn Down for What?

All of the above is synonymous with partying, drinking, getting high, hooking up, and not stopping.


―Calm down, freshman, it’s not even Fling yet.

―Aaaaaalllll the waaaaay tuuuuurnt uuuup

―Are you drunkenly quoting an old Soulja Boy song?


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