"Being Acoustic" Has a Different Meaning on TikTok Than What You Might Expect

What does "being acoustic" mean according to TikTok? The terms is meant to refer to something else entirely, but its usage is a bit muddy.

Callie (Carlos) Cadorniga - Author

Nov. 3 2023, Published 3:40 p.m. ET

The Gist:

  • People have been calling other folks "acoustic" on TikTok.
  • The term is meant to admonish someone's actions.
  • Its use as a derogatory statement is a bit murky.
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Social platforms on the internet have always given rise to new slang and terminology that folks tend to use. In the past, memes like Pepe the Frog and Forever Alone could be used as shorthand reactions to something. Outsiders who aren't aware of their real meaning may have no idea what some of those creepy faces were meant to signify.

In essence, any community can and will develop its own terminology that people won't always get right away.

TikTok is no different with its own slang, for lack of a better term. Overnight, folks on the platforms will start calling each other "Skibidi" or "Fanum Tax" before anyone even has a chance to catch up with what any of this is supposed to mean.

The same goes for when someone on TikTok accuses someone of being "acoustic." TikTokers have been calling each other acoustic for some time now, but its usage is a bit muddy. Here's what it means on the platform.

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What does "being acoustic" mean on TikTok?

If you hear the word "acoustic," you might think of music. Even someone with basic knowledge of music may know what an acoustic guitar is or understand when the acoustics of a room affect the way music is played and heard. As you might have guessed already, though, calling someone acoustic on TikTok definitely doesn't refer to any of that. In fact, its meaning on the platform may come off as a lot less savory than that.

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In many videos, people will ask or comment "Why did [x] do that? Are they acoustic?"

According to Urban Dictionary, using "acoustic" in this way is meant as an intentional mispronunciation of the word "autistic." It's often used in response to someone doing something "ridiculously stupid or ignorant," and scolding that person for it. Although the term is popular on TikTok now, its usage in this manner reportedly dates back to 2016.

Urban Dictionary claims that the term itself isn't meant to be synonymous with the word "autistic," but it's difficult not to view this as even a little problematic. In essence, someone calling someone else "acoustic" on the internet basically equates to calling someone autistic for a negative thing that they did. That isn't much better than using "autistic" as a derogatory term and wrongly conflating an autistic person as someone who would be prone to doing something with negative connotations.

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Calling someone "acoustic" seems like a thinly veiled act of self-censorship in which someone wants to use a word negatively without getting in trouble. As of this writing, however, there are no known discussions on the negative usage of "acoustic" or its impact on the autism community.

There might be no problem at all, but the term itself is still rather fishy.

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