by Kelcy Williams
“Netflix and chill” is a short expression with a surprisingly long history. The phrase came into being when Netflix allowed users to binge-watch several episodes of a show or even an entire series in one sitting instead of waiting two weeks for that episode of Golden Girls you ordered in the mail. (Yes, movies used to come in the mail.)
In 2007, The words “Netflix” and “chilling” were used to describe what someone might do during that evening instead of homework; over the years, however, this meaning became skewed. Around 2013, this saying began to develop a slight sexual connotation. For example, if you were to say “Do you want to come over to watch Netflix and just chill? ;),” this might mean you are going to watch a movie and relax; however, if you are talking to a potential date these words, along with the winking emoticon, could mean something quite different.
By 2014, the phrase had become a code word for hooking up. A college student might receive a text reading, “This guy started talking to me but I know he only wants to Netflix and chill.”
This indicates how the phrase evolved into a euphemism for sex. The use of “Netflix and chill” as another name for sex was reinforced by the appearance in late 2014 of “Netflix and chill starter pack” the meme which includes a pair of socks, sweatpants, a shirt and a condom.
At first, this phrase was mostly used by teens and college-aged students, but as it became more popular, social media platforms such as Instagram, Vine, and Facebook began to spread the idiom, and even celebrities began to post using the sexual charged meaning of the expression. The phrase has now spread so much that there is even a song by the music artist B.o.B called “Netflix and Chill,” that was released last August.
This publicity evidently hasn’t hurt sales/viewership of Netflix, which now has more than 80 million subscribers. The phrase has earned a moment of fame in the teen lexicon.
There are many different reactions to the new meaning of Netflix and chill. Some, like Tsering Dolma, a college sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, Massachusetts, are strongly opposed to this usage of the phrase and feel shocked and disappointed. “This is upsetting,” Dolma said. “I want to use that phrase when I am hanging out with my friends, but I don’t want them to get the wrong idea.” She also thinks that using the phrase could be embarrassing if one wasn’t aware of the new meaning, which could make life a little more difficult for people whose second language is English.
Others like Keith Verdini, also a sophomore at WPI, have a more neutral opinion. He thinks that people should be more specific to avoid misunderstandings. Verdini believes, “If you say anything about Netflix now, it automatically seems like it is ‘Netflix and chill’. So say watch a movie if you’re asking someone.”
Verdini said that word choice is important. “When you say Netflix, ‘and chill’ is automatically added in your mind. If you say chill, then it’s fine, but it’s the word ‘Netflix’ that brings it up.” Lastly, there are some people like Devlin O’Conner, another sophomore at WPI, who agrees that use of the phrase can occasionally cause communication problems. It doesn’t help that ‘Netflix and chill’ can be used “more playfully” as opposed to the more serious slang phrases “hang out” and “hook up.”
Kelcy Williams of Maryland studies Mechanical Engineering and Professional Writing at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts, to be a Mechanical Engineering major, soon to have a Journalism minor. She loves books and Korean barbecue.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons / By Cs104group15 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45557304