Do you have swag? Of course you do. You’re with it, you’re hip, you’re cool. You’re well aware that swag is the latest cool word among fashionable young people like yourself, and you know that it’s an uncountable noun that refers to a fashionable manner and accompanying manner. Unsurprisingly, it’s an abbreviation of swagger.
And do you know what? Swag makes me feel old.
Not because it’s a word I never used when I was young, or because I don’t see why we need it when we already have perfectly good words and phrases with the same meaning.
Not because it’s another case of people mistakenly believing a word began life as an acronym; in this case, a secret code among gay men, standing for secretly, we are gay (which really should sound implausible to anyone).
No, it’s simply because swag was already a word. When I was a child, swag was what robbers stole, and what was written across the large sacks they put their swag into. I don’t blame young people for not knowing this. Words change their meaning all the time, and sometimes a word is independently coined, when another word with the same spelling but a different meaning had already existed. I accept that that’s the way it is, and I know that there are older people than me feeling the same way about words I use. Still though, it makes one feel one’s age, thinking of the great gap in time and meaning between a cartoon of a robber with a swag bag, and a teenager’s Instagram post with a swag hashtag. At least it’s comforting to think that today’s teenagers will complain in 20 years’ time when swag means synthetic wife and girlfriend or something.