U Ok Hun?: The Digital commodification of White Woman Style
2022-04-14, 10:30–11:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 3


The networked capacity of digital environments, such as social media, offer users new opportunities for styling and stylisation. These stylistic practices sometimes reference problematic and essentialised stereotypes of enregistered social personae (e.g., Ilbury, 2019). Understanding the ways in which these styles become digitally mediated can help us explicate the social meanings of those variable patterns of language use and the related 'characterological figures' (Agha, 2003) that they index.

In this paper, I examine the digital representation of a style that is prevalent in British social media – the ‘Hun’. By exploring a series of widespread memes and Instagram accounts that contribute towards the enregisterment of this identity, I examine the linguistic and social characteristics that typify this persona. Specifically, I focus on the use of non-standard orthographic variation (e.g., <dallyn> for 'darling', <u ok?> for 'are you ok?'), particular lexis (e.g., hun ‘honey’, fella ‘husband/boyfriend’), and characterological tropes (e.g., life mottos such as ‘live, love, laugh’) as indexical representations of a particular type of classed, gendered, and ethnic identity – the ‘Hun’. To do this, I analyse over 300 posts that reference this identity to isolate more general patterns of orthographic variation in relation to the social meaning of those features. This leads me to argue that the popularity of this persona is reflective of an embodied style that indexes a particular type of working-class woman who is typified by the (offline) use of non-standard language, an interest in mainstream (White) culture, and participation in other enregistered practices, such as enjoying the budget alcoholic drink, Lambrini (cf. Slobe, 2018). Finally, I demonstrate how this style, which is ideologically associated with a particular type of British White Woman, has become commodified (Agha, 2011) and adopted by others stylistically as an icon of digital culture.

Concluding, I emphasise the need for variationist sociolinguistics to engage more seriously with components of digital culture to fully explicate the social meaning of variable patterns of language use. I then discuss the relationship between stylistic patterns such as those analysed here and more general patterns of language use.


Agha, Asif. 2003. The social life of cultural value. Language & Communication. 23(3):231-273.
Agha, Asif. 2011. Commodity registers. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology. 21(1): 22-53.
Ilbury, Christian. 2019. Sassy Queens: Stylistic orthographic variation in Twitter and the enregisterment of AAVE. Journal of Sociolinguistics. 24:245–264.
Slobe, Tyanna. Style, stance, and social meaning in mock white girl. Language in Society. 47:1-27.