2020 has been, in large part, the year of the Karen.
Viral videos of predominantly white, middle-aged women redefining the terms “entitlement” and “selfishness” have been one of the few constants this year. It seems they’ve made a real impact. So much of an impact, in fact, that a TikToker recently discovered that “Karen” can now be classified as a language.
Mike Aker, who goes by @akenbake9 on TikTok, made the discovery on Dec. 22. While waiting in line to receive a COVID-19 test, Aker was given a questionnaire to fill out. For the most part, it’s your typical banal information sheet, requesting your name, birth date, race, and billing preference.
It also had a section where one can select their primary language. This is where things get interesting, as following the expected English, Spanish, and Arabic options was a very unexpected selection: Karen.
Ah yes, the language of Karens. We’re all familiar with it, though very few are completely fluent.
The lexicon is rife with “excuse me” and demands to see a manager. If you hope to ever become fluent in Karen, you’ll also need to learn the right emphasis for certain phrases, to ensure you are always viewed as the victim. It’s not an easy language to master, but it is one of the more prominent languages in 2020.
The reality behind Aker’s amusing discovery was quickly shared by commenters on the viral TikTok. People quickly pointed out that Karen is a group of languages native to the people of Myanmar and Taiwan. Karen languages are typically divided into three groups, according to Britannica: northern, central, and southern.
The reality behind the amusing find didn’t leech any of the joy from viewers, who swarmed Aker’s comment section with Karen jokes and requests to see the manager. People familiar with the actual language noted that Aker pronounced it slightly wrong in his video. The real language—not that spoken by huffy middle-aged women—is pronounced with a soft “a,” according to people familiar with the dialect.
Whether you speak Karen with a hard “it’s not a law” or a soft “a,” you’ve almost certainly learned something new about Karens this year.