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Ratchet is a slang term used to describe someone perceived as classless or trashy. The antonym of ratchet is swag.[1] The term ratchet is often regarded as a great ‘tool’ for sugar coding the phrase “rat sh*t” so people who don’t get it wont hear the words “rat” or “sh*t”. Many people massively overuse the term without realizing the slang is a typo of the word wretched that popularity made become a meme.[2]


The word ratchet has been traced back to Shreveport, Louisiana, specifically the Cedar Grove neighborhood. In 1999, rapper Anthony Mandigo[3] released a song titled “Do the Ratchet,” a track on his album Ratchet Fight in the Ghetto. In 2004 Mandigo’s song was remixed and re-released with rappers Lil Boosie and Untamed Mayne, the video for which sparked a ratchet dance trend which involves shifting your weight from one foot to the other while swinging your arms to twist at the waist. The music video was first uploaded to YouTube on October 10th, 2006, by YouTuber Adetiba ‘Super-Director’.[4]


The earliest Urban Dictionary[8] entry for the term was submitted on April 9th, 2012, by user real things who defined it as:

“A ghetto girl who is loud and obnoxious and constantly causing drama and usually trashy.”

On January 16th, 2012, YouTubers Emmanuel N Phillip Hudson[3] uploaded a video of the pair singing an original song titled “Ratchet Girl Anthem.” As of June 2014, the video has gained over 43.3 million views. On April 26th, 2012, they uploaded a music video for “Ratchet Girl Anthem.” The video features the brothers dressed as women in ill-fitting, cheap looking outfits ironically pointing out why the fashion choices of others make them “ratchet.” In just over two years the video gained over 11.7 million views.

The song inspired many covers, including one uploaded on March 12th, 2012, by YouTuber Kenda Wheeler[6] (below, left) which has gained over 2.1 million views as of June 2014, and one uploaded on April 22nd, 2012, by YouTuber Ruben Gloria[7] (below, right) which has gained over 670,000 views as of June 2014.

After the release of Miley Cyrus’ music video for “We Can’t Stop,” on June 3rd, 2013, several websites published think pieces about Cyrus and her relationship with “ratchet culture,” suggesting she was trying to appropriate a culture dominated by poor African Americans. Examples include Jezebel’s[12] “On Miley Cyrus, Ratchet Culture and Accessorizing With Black People” and Vice’s[13] “Sorry Miley Cyrus, But You’re Not Ratchet.” Cyrus went on to reject the term as an identifier, saying in an interview with Notion[14] magazine:

“People have this misconception of me that I’m just one of these kids on TV and that now I go off and party and I’m just this ratchet white girl, and I’m not.”

Notable Videos

Several popular YouTube video reference and parody the idea of ratchet. On April 29th, 2013, YouTuber YoMuscleBoii[9] uploaded a video titled “What Ratchet Girls Think Before A Fight!” (below, left). In just over a year the video gained over 1.1 million views. On July 29th, 2013, YoMuscleBoii uploaded a video titled “What Ratchet Girls Think Before A First Kiss” (below, right). As of June 2014, the video has gained over 560,000 views.

On November 15th, 2013, YouTuber Kingley[11] uploaded a video titled “A Very Ratchet Thanksgiving.” As of June 2014, the video has gained over 560,000 views. On November 26th, 2013, YouTuber billysorrells[10] uploaded a video (below, right) titled “Lorde Royals Parody ‘Ratchet.’” As of June 2014, the video has gained over 730,00 views.

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