The language of the "big luau"

The very-online vernacular of the Hawaiian-shirted paramilitary now stalking the streets nationwide.

Welcome to Fingers, a newsletter by me, Dave Infante, about drinking culture, being online, and beyond. If you’re getting this email it’s because you’ve signed up for one newsletter or another of mine over the years. If you don’t want this one, by all means hit the unsubscribe link at the bottom of this email, and please accept my apology for intruding in your inbox. Sorry to bother you!
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A boogaloo boi, or boojihadeen, on the steps of Michigan’s statehouse in April. I added the shitty arrows. Note the Hawaiian shirt. Source

A few weeks ago, I published a story in MEL Magazine about the curious overlap between White Claw hard seltzer and America's hardcore gun-rights paramilitary types. Here’s the nut graf from that piece:

In certain corners of the gun-owning internet, “ain’t no laws when you’re drinking Claws” functions as a Molon Labe for militant millennial males who are as taken with the hard seltzer’s effervescent low-carb wiles as they are with alt-right lingo and maybe-serious-maybe-not jokes about political violence.

But why have strapped, shitposting, self-avowed “autists” taken up an effeminate mainstream malt beverage as their drink of choice?

It took me a long time to hazard an answer to that question, partially due to the fact that the online community on which this story is focused, reddit's r/weekendgunnit forum, speaks in the heavily ironized, slang- and cognate-heavy vernacular of the alt-right. That shit is simply not very easy to parse for normies like you and me!

Considering the absolutely nightmarish horror show our nation has become/has always been/etc., the online paramilitary has increasingly turned up offline, toting their assault rifles and tactical vests to the steps of statehouses across the country to protest governors’ stay-at-home orders.

More recently, with protests over George Floyd’s murder putting people in the streets across the country and police doing apparently wanton violence against American citizens, these guys are out in force, supposedly looking for opportunities to co-opt the chaos to spark a broader conflict.

It’s very good and cool shit, and you should expect to see more of these “boogaloo boys” (also: “boog bois,” “boogs,” etc.) IRL this summer as the pandemic rages on and the American experiment crumbles apace.

So you may as well get familiar with how they talk. Some of the terms I became familiar acquainted with in my months-long reporting on this subculture (and their rough definitions as far as I can tell):

  • Alphabet boys: Agents in federal agencies typically shorthanded as acronyms, like the FBI, BLM (Bureau of Land Management), and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.)

  • Autists: The boog bois like to refer to themselves as “autists” and their behavior as “being autistic.” Beyond the obvious insensitivity, the schtick “occupies a strange middle ground between insult and honorary title,” as MEL’s Miles Klee explained in 2017. Basically, being an “autist” (in this context, according to this cohort) is both bad, in the sense that you consider yourself deeply flawed and weird; and good, in the sense that your flaws and weirdness have found sympathetic, albeit violence-fetishizing, audience. To understand just how dangerous this “weaponized autism” can be, I recommend Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s 2017 profile of the Charleston Nine murderer.

  • Boogaloo: Roughly, the second coming of the American Civil War, a yearned-for “uprising against a seemingly tyrannical or left-wing government, often in response to a perceived threat of widespread gun confiscation,” as NBC News’ Brandy Zadrozny put it recently. It’s also known as “big igloo,” “the big luau,” and lately, with the pandemic raging, “the boogaflu” or the “flugaloo.”

  • Boojahideen: A synonym for boog boi, used to describe the boogaloo’s would-be chaos agents. In case you weren’t smacked in the face hard enough by the very awkward pun, this is a riff on mujahideen, the Arabic term for the Islamic guerilla fighters Americans mostly bucket as “jihadists” or simply “terrorists.” Cool!

The excellent art that ran with my MEL Magazine piece. I believe it was by designer Sam Dworkin. Source
  • Cuck: Short for “cuckold.” A cuckold is a cuckoo (like, a literal bird) that tricks birds of other species into raising its young. In the past half-decade or so, the abridged version of this term has been hijacked by the alt-right to describe liberals, leftists, insufficiently right-leaning Republicans… you name it. Now, online paramilitary shitposters are hijacking it again, identify as “cucks” to show they’re in on the joke and to differentiate themselves from normies, fudds, etc.

  • Fudd: As one of my sources, who requested to be identified only by his reddit username, RawAssPounder, told me (all sic): “The people who even care what other people drink are fudds. Fudds are casual gun owners. Fudds are that guy at the gun shop who will tell you about how “VASTLY superior 45 ACP” are to the “wimpy 9mm” or will tell you “YoU dOnT nEeD aN aR-15” No one cares you fudd .those people are worse than the people who petition to actually ban the AR15. Fudds are the absolute WORST.”

  • Glo: I don’t actually know what this one means. I only came across this term when a potential source rejected my request for an interview and threatened some sort of unspecified legal action if I published his username. (Despite my first impulse, I decided to block out his handle here because I didn’t feel like researching whether the First Amendment protected the publication of redditors’ usernames, and all my high-powered media lawyer friends don’t… uh… exist.) Anyway, here’s the context; maybe you can suss out the definition:

  • Hawaiian shirts: Not really an esoteric term, but the boog bois have adopted aloha-style shirts as their attire of choice. It has very little to do with Hawai’i, and a whole lot to do with “the big luau” being synonymous for the boogaloo. Also, they seem to like the visual comedy of wearing something so light and breezy beneath hardcore tactical gear while trolling the streets with weapons of war. Ha! Jokes: I love them, also.

  • Normie: So that guy (or girl, I guess?) called me a “glo cunt fuck” because I was asking about his White Claw posts, but also probably because he figured me for a normie—a normal person, not a member of the dyed-in-the-wool online community he/she is a part of. Here’s a video explainer on the term that I found clarifying in my reporting.

  • No-knocks: Short for “no-knock raids,” a tactic used by law enforcement when serving no-knock warrants, themselves issued by judges in cases where the targeted subject for arrest is considered dangerous enough that the cops need the element of surprise to successfully capture him. No-knocks are a source of gleeful paranoia for the boojhadeen, who fantasize about answering the violation of their private property with bullets. Related: they love to joke about the alphabet boys shooting their dogs during no-knock raids, which is a reference to, among other incidents, that very thing happening in the ATF’s deadly, bungled 1993 siege at Ruby Ridge.

  • “No step on snek”: A memefied version of “Don’t Tread On Me,” the phrase that accompanies a coiled snake on the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden flag. Boog bois particularly covet the “Snek-15” AR-15 lower from Palmetto Armory (ayyy, South Carolina!), which features this graphic etched into its gunmetal.

A popular tactical patch amongst the boogaloo crew. Boogacroo? My brain hurts. Source
  • Side quest: A chance to showcase your boog boi bona fides in the field. These adventures can be real, IRL, tactical assault exercises you do with fellow boogs on a buddy’s farmland, or (more often) made-up, memefied challenges to unlock fantastical, often crude “achievements” videogame-style. Like… well, just look.

  • Soupboi: A federal agent. How? From alphabet boy, you get alphabet soup… and voila, I guess.

  • Tendies: Literally, this term refers to chicken tenders. Figuratively, it can be reward for self-infantilizing boog bois, a source of anger (when they don’t cook fast enough), something on which lunatic day-traders waste gobs of cash they earn on #WallStreetBets… you name it. Honestly at this point, my brain is about as fried as a chicken tender, so I’m gonna leave it at that.


Quick Update From The Pool Party

Last week, I wrote about the intergenerational horror stories of American suburbia, and private pools, highlight (among other things) that jaw-dropping footage from a crowded Memorial Day Weekend pool party at the Lake of the Ozarks.

A day or two after that newsletter hit inboxes… well, I guess we all saw this coming. If I were a New York Post headline writer, I might go with: “POOL PARTY GOES VIRAL… AGAIN.” But Fingers is a family newsletter (it’s not), and that sort of innuendo simply shan’t stand (it shall.)


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