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As the movie hype dies down, 'Barbenheimer' is staying in the lexicon

The portmanteau for the "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" movies has turned into shorthand for polar opposites.
Margot Robbie in "Barbie" and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer."
Margot Robbie in "Barbie" and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer."Warner Bros.; Universal

As the hype over the "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" movies plateaus, some people have incorporated the portmanteau for the two films into their everyday vocabularies.

"Barbenheimer," the shorthand phrase initially used to describe a double feature for the two movies, has turned into slang for two phenomena with opposite vibes. First, it was applied to similar contrasting double features such as the same-day release of "Mamma Mia!" and "The Dark Knight." Then, users applied it to more unlikely conversations.

Following the news that former President Donald Trump would surrender at the Fulton County Jail in Georgia on Thursday, some users on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, anticipated the release of his mug shot. Simultaneously, people embraced the return of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks.

The juxtaposition of the two events reminded some of "Barbenheimer."

"it's giving barbenheimer," another posted in reference to Trump's surrender and the pumpkin spice latte news.

Nicole Holliday, an assistant professor of linguistics at Pomona College in Claremont, California, said the strong marketing of the movies, especially “Barbie,” have made the term “Barbenheimer” top of mind for many people.

“The thing about Barbenheimer is it was wildly successful,” she said. “So the reason that people are able to use that as a term and have it be a new coinage in the lexicon is because literally every person in America probably understands Barbenheimer right now.”

Meanwhile, others have used "Barbenheimer" to simply refer to a stark contrast between two things, typically one pink or colorful object with another black and white one.

Some social media users have also used it to illustrate the difference between idyllic and bleak scenes. On Reddit, a few people said an image of a train station featuring a bright platform and menacing tracks was "giving Barbenheimer."

On TikTok and YouTube Shorts, users similarly used "Barbenheimer" to describe opposite vibes.

One TikToker described recent concurrent Wikipedia and cosplay conventions in Singapore as "barbenheimer for singaporean wikipedia editors who like cosplay."

Another TikToker shared newly acquired art prints of a moody scene featuring a horse and airplane, as well as an image of all-pink tile with a bright blue key. In the video, she wrote that the prints were "giving barbenheimer."

Whether the word will stick around in our vocabularies is another story. Holliday said it's hard to predict what slang will persist in the coming years, but pointed to terms like "stan," "Google" and "Hot Girl Summer" as examples of common words stemming from popular culture that have stuck around.