More than other textspeak, totes brings on the cringe face. Totes, short for “totally,” is def not about a gym bag. I could say WTF aloud like I’m trying to win a spelling bee and not get the same response. For the moment, #totes is more popular than sexting on Twitter.
With Gchat and Twitter, immediacy and brevity have surpassed the need for accuracy. Words have to be short online and in text messages, giving rise to emoticons and the subject of this essay: totes. It’s being used as emphasis where “totally” or “obviously” could go and just to clarify for those unitiated into totes, it’s not “Totes McGotes.” My mom and your mom might say Totes McGotes, but that tongue twister doesn’t have its source in the intensely capitalized or 140-word world of thought.
Textspeak IRL makes you sound like an idiot, creating widespread resistance to using totes; it’s like “like” to valley girls but it makes you sound smarter if for no other reason than you know how to use Twitter. I’ve cornered the demographic of who uses totes and they’re neither valley girls nor idiots.
According to my Twitter research—just do a search for #totes—most of the users of this word are women in art or publishing in their mid-to-late 20s and 30s. The people I know IRL who drop totes in conversation are brunettes with bangs and master’s degrees. They’re intelligent, but in constant competition with recent college grads. They’re using online maneuvering to appear just as knowledgeable about hot cultural topics in industries where admitting that a gen gap exists is like poison kool aid. Remember when sexting was just something that teenagers did? We’re all trying to act less boring and wrinkled with the help of our digital devices. Like sexting, these ladies are using totes to act and sound younger in fields where ageism starts at 25.
The depths of my research—and it’s totes research—into the etymology of this word’s endorsement by the brown hair with bang contingent goes further than Twitter. Just take a look at the use of totes in this film review about Bridesmaids on a popular blog that will not be named here:
The new Judd Apatow film about the quandries facing unmarried career-minded women is more than a meh-type comparison; after spending years working on becoming cool, someone is there to remind you that there’s still something wrong with your comfortable single life. The women in Bridesmaids should have said totes whenever possible, but I guess that’s for the sequel.
Feel the word come off your lips when you say it slowly, like “ta” in “ta-dah” followed by a short, almost orgasmic “Oh!” It’s one of the naughtiest-sounding words that can be applied to throughly unsexy conversations.
Of course, “the totes” will become popularized with moms IRL—”Totes is the new ‘Totes McGotes!”—and lose its original textspeak reference; it’s slowly becoming used by more than a fair share of Twitter noobs.
Justin Bieber lovers are tweeting #totes. If only they knew that they’re ripping off a word started by people who had the Backstreet Boys and Hanson as teen heartthrobs.
Maybe it’s because teenagers are using totes that it’s well on its way to becoming hated en masse. Regardless of whether the word reaches a plateau of cultural relevance like BFF (now replaced by “bestie”) or OMG (it’s now an Usher and will.i.am song), its origins will always remain the same, started on Twitter by a crowd of slowly wrinkling brunettes with bangs.