Spaz slang term and slur definition and meaning.


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Updated Jun 07, 2023 at 04:14PM EDT by Zach.

Added Aug 02, 2022 at 05:27PM EDT by Brandon.

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Spaz or Spazz is a slang word typically meaning "spastic," but is used differently in both American and British English contexts, similar to the word "fanny." The word has historically attracted negative attention from Brits when used by Americans, as "spaz" roughly translates to the slur "retarded" in the U.K. In mid-2022, it began garnering considerable unfavorable press and controversy from people online for its inclusion in the lyrics of Lizzo's song "GRRRLS" and Beyonce's song "HEATED," both of whom ultimately removed the term from their music. The backlash aimed at Lizzo and Beyonce also kicked off a viral debate over the term's use and African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) definition, meaning "go stupid" or "go crazy," particularly on Twitter that summer.


The word "spaz," used as a short-form of the word "spastic," has historical use online as far back as 2003 with an Urban Dictionary definition being created on April 30th, 2003, by the user Pork King,[1] in which the character Tweek from South Park is name-dropped as the main example of the term for his jittery movements and arm and leg spasms (shown below).

spaz An irrationally nervous or jumpy. person. Dude, that Tweek from South Park is such a spaz. by Pork King April 30, 2003 1780 1680 y f FLAG

However, according to the Collins Dictionary,[2] the word spaz has a different meaning in British English. Instead of denoting someone with a lot of uncontrollable energy, it instead means someone that is incompetent, making it an insult and slur that is against someone's mental capacity (shown below).

spaz in British English (spæz ) offensive, slang NOUN 1. an incompetent person VERB Word forms: spazzes, spazzing or spazzed Word Frequency DO


Early Viral Controversies

The word spaz had its first major controversy online at the hands of professional golfer Tiger Woods when he had a poor performance in the 2006 Masters tournament, saying that he "was a spaz" as soon as he got on the putting green during an interview (shown below). Following the event and airing of his quote including the term, many located in the U.K. reacted negatively and criticized Woods for using the word.

June 2022 Lizzo "GRRRLS" Controversy

On June 10th, 2022, pop artist Lizzo released a song called "GRRRLS" in which the word "spaz" was used at the end of one of her lines roughly 12 seconds into the song (seen below), with her playing off the African-American Vernacular English common use of the word meaning someone acting erratically and without control or to describe "going stupid/crazy."[5][6]

Hold my bag, Bitch, Hold my bag
Do you see this shit? I'ma spazz

In the following days, a widespread controversy on social media emerged surrounding her use of the term, with many on platforms such as Twitter expressing anger or disappointment for the lyrical decision.[7][8] Alongside those upset over Lizzo's use of spaz, many users also defended her saying it wasn't intentionally used in the context of the British slur,[9] while some also mocked those who attempted to cancel her.[10]

Lizzo's Apology and Lyric Change

Once news of the controversy reached Lizzo, she tweeted out an apology and her intent[4] to change the word on June 13th, 2022, gaining over 280,000 likes and 15,000 retweets for the Twitter post in two months (shown below).

It's been brought to my attention that there is a harmful word in my new song "GRRRLS". Let me make one thing clear: I never want to promote derogatory language. As a fat black woman in America, I've had many hurtful words used against me so I overstand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally). I'm proud to say there's a new version of GRRRLS with a lyric change. This is the result of me listening and taking action. As an influential artist I'm dedicated to being part of the change I've been waiting to see in the world. Xoxo, Lizzo.

Despite this, however, Lizzo continued to receive some backlash for her use of the word, resulting in further viral debates with people both defending and criticizing her into July 2022. On July 17th, 2022, Trevor Noah notably addressed the singer's controversy on his nightly news program The Daily Show, summing up both sides of the issue, as well as explaining the African American Vernacular English definition of the word (shown below).

July 2022 Beyoncé Renaissance / "HEATED" Controversy

On July 29th, 2022, pop star Beyonce released her album titled Renaissance, which featured the song titled "HEATED" that included the words "spazzing" and "spaz" in it (excerpt seen below, 25-second mark).

Yada, yada, bom-bom, kah-kah
Spazzing on that ass, spaz on that ass
Fan me quick, girl, I need my glass

While Beyonce similarly received criticism for using the term in her song like Lizzo did a month prior, this controversy largely had a more vocal defense of Beyoncé on social media from users and fans following the song's release in late July 2022.[11]

Beyonce's Apology and Lyric Change

Just as Lizzo received news of the controversy for her own song, Beyoncé also responded to the criticism and backlash over the lyrics in an August 1st, 2022, article where Beyonce's representative told Insider,[12] "The word, not used intentionally in a harmful way, will be replaced." Coverage of her response was uploaded to YouTube by Inside Edition[3] on August 1st, 2022 (shown below).

As a response to people applauding the change in song lyrics, Twitter user _RyanFrost[13] uploaded an excerpt from an expert in AAVE linguistics as a defense of the use of "spaz" on August 1st, claiming that the only people who are having their voices heard in the debate are disabled people and not language specialists (shown below).

Ryan Frost @RyanFrost Replying to @EntInsider So you could source quotes from several Disability Advocates but not one quote from a Black Linguistics specialist with a focus on AAVE? Y'all know nothing about Black culture but LOVE to police it. Fans and activists criticized the use of the word "spaz" in the song "Heated." The word has been used to refer in a derogatory way to people with disabilities, especially people with cerebral palsy. In African American Vernacular English, a dialect of English created and used in Black communities, the word means to "go crazy" or "fight." In a statement to Insider, a 1:28 PM - Aug 1, 2022. Twitter for iPhone ***

Search Interest

External References

[1] Urban Dictionary – Spaz

[2] CollinsDictionary – Spaz

[3] YouTube – Inside Edition

[4] Twitter – Lizzo Apology

[5] Medium – Spaz AAVE Meaning

[6] Twitter – KioshiWarrior

[7] Twitter – girl__connor

[8] Twitter – Mantia

[9] Twitter – frankenfemme_

[10] Twitter – JasmineNoelle

[11] Twitter – JuJuBreauxD

[12] Insider – Beyoncé confirms she will remove lyric

[13] Twitter – _RyanFrost

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