YOLO, A Vote for Life

YOLO, A Vote for Life

By Alessia Leathers

“You Only Live Once,” YOLO.

This popular acronym has inspired different groups, from the sweet-toothed dudes rooting for their favorite cookie, like in “You Obviously Love Oreos,” to the political activists who are still celebrating the results of the presidential election with the provocative bumper-sticker phrase “You Openly Like Obama.”

SNL could not pass up the opportunity to add another meaning to YOLO with the lyrics “You Oughta Look Out,” included in a digital short video by Andy Samberg, Adam Levine and Kendrick Lamar.

Despite these creative versions, YOLO as “You Only Live Once” seems to be here to stay. It represents the contemporary version of “Carpe Diem,” a Latin aphorism for grasp the day.

The message is simple: do not take life for granted. It is so refreshing and laid-back that it does not surprise me that the always formal and orthodox Oxford English Dictionary (OED) did not choose it as the U.S. “Word of the Year” for 2012. It came close, though, being on the short list along with others like “Super Pac” and “superstorm.” The winning word for the OED was the geeky verb “to GIF,” officially defined as “to create a GIF file.” Coined first as a noun in 1987, the acronym stands for Graphic Interchange Format.

By the way, the OED organizes a similar annual contest on the other side of the Atlantic. The UK “Word of the Year” for 2012 was “omnishambles” defined as “characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations.” Not geeky like GIF but quite gloomy indeed.

The OED defines YOLO as “typically used as rationale or endorsement for impulsive and irresponsible behavior.” I disagree with this definition. I’d rather focus on the positive side of the message, which encourages appreciation for life. A message desperately needed considering the high rate of suicides in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists suicide as the third cause of death among young Americans.

The literal translation of YOLO in Spanish would be “Solo Se Vive Una Vez.” Unfortunately, the acronym SSVUV is not catchy at all. So to those who are desperately looking for a true but fun Spanish version of YOLO, let me propose one acronym before biceps start showing long and undecipherable tattoos.

My choice is SEA (“Solo Existes Ahora”), which works well in both languages. To English speakers the proposed acronym could allude to the seven seas and their brave and adventurous sailors who live life at its fullest, while in Spanish the word “sea” represents the present tense in the subjunctive mode of the verb “ser” (to be), the most existential and promising verb in the dictionary.

The Rolling Stone magazine associates the origins of YOLO with TV personality Adam Mesh in the 2004 NBC reality show “The Average Joe,” but it has gone viral since Canadian rapper Drake included it in his 2011 album “Take Care.” The acronym still doesn’t appear, though, when searching for it in online dictionaries like the OED or the Merriam-Webster. Of course, it is just a matter of time.

After all, YOLO is an example of how languages constantly evolve in order to satisfy the needs of upcoming generations. In this case, a generation that looks desperately for a grasp for air away from apathy.

Note: Please feel free to suggest and share Spanish versions of YOLO at alessialeathers@yahoo.com

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