Totes Adorbs Doesn’t Mean Cute Handbag…

“Totes Adorbs” is a slang abbreviation of “totally adorable.”

It’s a phrase that’s evolved among the 20 and under age group here in the States. I probably will never use this phrase, but I felt like blogging about it because I think language evolution and changes are interesting as they happen.

When I heard “totes adorbs” the first time, my reaction was “what?” Then the realization: “Ohhh, totally adorable. Is it that really that hard or pesky to say in full?” (You know you’re too mature for a phrase when you’re asking yourself that last part.)


I grew up in the South. When I hear “tote”, I think of a verb meaning to carry, a usage that dates back to 1670 and possibly shows West African influence. Totes means someone else is doing the toting.

A “tote bag” is used to carry items you don’t wish to carry by hand, like groceries, books, or office supplies. This usage dates back to at least 1900. There is even a brand called “Totes,” that started with bags, then moved into umbrellas and raingear before merging with Isotoner slippers.


But, full disclosure, the slang phrases that stick long after childhood is over are all too familiar for me, and pop culture always has an impact in any decade.

When I was younger, my generation said “like” as a filler word, and it became a lifelong habit. Both “Like” and “Awesome” outlasted their peer words ” “Tubular” “Fer Shurr”  and “Gnarly”. Films like “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”, family sitcoms on ABC, NBC, and CBS, and John Hughes’ films, and pop music were a big part of the language.

As the 1990s arrived, “you know” and “whatever”, ‘whatevs”, “as if”, “all that (and a bag of chips)” and “(<<something the opposite of what you really would do>>…NOT!” arrived. “Clueless”, Kevin Smith films, Mike Myers’ films, Terminator films, Tarantino’s films, SNL, and In Living Color were just some of the influences for that decade.

As the 2000s arrived, so did more phrases: “Wazzup?!” “That’s hot!” “The tribe has spoken” “Is it real or is it the Matrix?”

Which brings us to the 2010s, enter “totes adorbs.”

The more I aged beyond the schoolyard years of life, the more I lost track of what the contemporary catchphrases were and how much I cared about using the latest, greatest ones.  There’s also a delicate balance of wanting to sound informed and contemporary, but not so slang that your peers can’t understand a thing you’re saying. People are far more judgmental of your language use after your 20s than they ever were before that age.

So I hope I’ve maintained that balance…you know? 


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