Some words that were known for their literal meaning develop a figurative meaning, one that becomes popular and supersedes the literal meaning.
And, sometimes, a figurative meaning, a metaphor, will change with time, lending itself to different situations and contexts.
However, language doesn’t stop there; it also marks the interaction of different subcultures within a given community.
A subculture may come up with a certain word or phrase that makes its way into another subculture, enriching their speech and infusing itself into their lives.
Occasionally, a word, phrase, or metaphor will become popular within so many subcultures that it eventually establishes itself into pop culture. This is the case with today’s phrase: Stay Frosty.
What is the meaning of “Stay Frosty”?
“Stay Frosty” is a phrase that means to keep one’s emotions under control and to stay alert and on one’s toes and is used in the military. However, as time passed by, it started gaining new definitions along the way. For one thing, it now also means to “keep cool,” and it is used as a valediction as well (a valediction is how you say farewell or goodbye to others. For instance, “see ya later,” “peace out,” and “stay in touch” are all valedictions).
That said, “Stay Frosty” didn’t limit itself to the military subculture.
After making a memorable appearance in James Cameron’s “Aliens,” the word has appeared in numerous other movies, video games, and songs, asserting itself as a staple of pop culture.
Today, there are Youtube videos entitled “Stay Frosty” that have over a million views.
“Stay Frosty” as a metaphor
The main definition of “Stay Frosty” is to remain alert and to stay in control of your emotions. Obviously, this term is suitable for people in the military, especially those in combat situations.
Several soldiers have reported using the phrase in the field, especially when they are looking out for their brothers and sisters in arms.
This isn’t the first time that the military has had phrases and metaphors popularized within its different platoons and squads.
For instance, a common saying in the military is “never pet a burning dog,” which means that when someone sees a situation that has already headed south and is beyond salvation, there is no point in trying to jump in and help; it will only cause more harm than good.
The origin of “Stay Frosty”
Even though it is very hard to pinpoint the origin of “Stay Frosty” as a metaphor, we can guess that it is somehow related to the more popular term “keeping your cool.”
In fact, the term “cool” comes from the fact that emotions come in different temperatures:
You can get hot and bothered, his blood could run cold, she could receive her friends warmly, and their tempers could boil over.
This is why we can describe someone as cool under pressure, which basically means that their emotions don’t swing to any extremes when they are in hot water.
“Stay Frosty” probably comes from the same place of “cool.” The only difference is that since “being frosty” is a little colder than “being cool,” “stay frosty” implies that the person should stay alert in addition to keeping calm.
The evolution of “Stay Frosty”
Like any other word or phrase that finds its way into pop culture, “Stay Frosty” pretty soon took on a life of its own.
It might have started as an admonishment to stay alert, but once everyday civilians started saying it, it lost part of its meaning and came to signify “staying chill.”
After all, unlike military personnel, policemen, and anyone who has to deal with violence for a living, most civilians don’t need to keep alert all the time.
So, when civilians started saying “Stay Frosty,” they were just trying to say “be cool.” They were only saying it l in a different way.
After that, “Stay Frosty” experienced another mutation. Similar to its older cousin “be cool,” “stay frosty” came to be used as a way of saying goodbye. When someone was leaving, they would say something along these lines:
“Alright, I’m heading out. Stay Frosty guys.”
Interestingly, the military has its own language, which means that it should come as no surprise to hear people from the same platoon having a conversation with each other and to be unable to understand most of what’s being said.
For instance, the term “stay frosty Oscar Mike” is a legitimate expression that combines two different phrases together. We already know what “stay frosty” means, especially when used by soldiers.
As for the phrase “Oscar Mike,” it means “on the move.” So, when a soldier says that they are “Oscar Mike,” they are basically saying that they are on the move.
Putting both definitions together, we can now see that “stay frosty Oscar Mike” means “stay alert while on the move.” If you are interested, you might want to look into the military’s language; there are some very fascinating terms and expressions there.
”Stay Frosty” in pop culture
Having better understood this chill expression and seen how it has changed over time, we can now look see how it has been used in pop culture, starting with the movies:
Stay frosty in the movies
Movies are probably the reason most expressions end up spreading and becoming popular among mainstream audiences.
This is definitely the case here.
Most people will tell you that the first time this expression was used on the silver screen was in the movie “The New Centurions” that came out in 1972. In the movie, George C.
Scott is on the phone with his former partner Stacy Keach when he tells him to “stay frosty,” hence imploring him to stay on his toes. After that, Scott shot himself.
However, the most famous usage of the term “Stay Frosty” can be found in the movie “Aliens,” directed by James Cameron and released in 1986. In the movie, Corporal Hicks, played by Michael Biehn, is talking to his men when he says the following line:
“Hey! I know we’re all in strung-out shape but stay frosty and alert. We can’t afford to let one of those bastards in here.”
In the movie “Kickass 2,” Jim Carrey’s character, Colonel Stars and Stripes, says the following line to his team: “Stay frosty team. I used to eat punks like this for breakfast.” This line came right before the first onscreen fight of Justice Forever.
”Stay Frosty” in music
If you scour the internet, you are likely going to find a few songs with the phrase “Stay Frosty” in the title:
There is a song by the band Fall Out Boy called “Stay Frosty Royal Milk Tea.” The song can be found on their MANIA album, and even though no one is actually sure what the title of the song means, the song itself is meant to be provocative and the lyrics are explicit.
Also, seeing as the title of the song contains the word milk, most fans assume that it was written by Brendon Urie, the lead vocalist of Panic! at the Disco.
Van Halen has a song entitled “Stay Frosty,” and, in the song, the band uses the phrase as a piece of advice to tell their listeners that everything will be alright provided that they, the listeners, remain calm and alert in the face of life’s ups and downs.
”Stay Frosty” in video games
There are plenty of war games out there, and each battle scenario is an opportunity for the player to “stay frosty.”
In “Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare,” the phrase “stay frosty” is used during a sequence that is influenced heavily by “Aliens;” in fact, the sequence in the game borrows so much from the movie that it could almost be considered an homage.
In the game “Modern Warfare 2,” the phrase “stay frosty” is used to such a degree that it is almost absurd. Funnily enough, the characters that keep shouting that you need to “stay frosty” are the ones most likely in need of heeding said advice.
In the game of “City of Heroes,” the hero Manticore says this phrase upon realizing that you, the player, along with the rest of your team of villains, are gunning for him and the Freedom Phalanx.
There are so many other games that have this phrase in them that we could go on indefinitely. Here is a small list of the most popular:
- Batman: Arkham Knight
- Dota 2
- Fire Emblem Awakening
- Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter
- Hitman: Absolution
- Kingdom Rush
- Mass Effect 2
- Max Payne2
And, the list goes on and on.
”Stay Frosty” in other forms of pop culture
Aside from movies, songs, and video games, the phrase “stay frosty” has found its way into several other forms of media. Here are a few examples:
Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, Codename: Kids Next Door, and Space Ghost Coast to Coast are some of the many animated episodes that used this term.
There are many series that have used the phrase “stay frosty,” including Parks and Recreation, Stranger Things, and Flashpoint. The phrase was also used as the title of an episode of the TV series “Generation Kill.”
And, in the series Falling Skies, its usage was particularly memorable: When Tom Mason says to Weaver, “Dan, stay frosty,” Weaver quips back with, “Like a winter in Buffalo.”
In “Older Than They Think,” a character that had a history as an L.A. cop uses the term when they are talking about how to perform their job.
And, in “The Glitch in Sleep,” one character tells the other to “stay frosty,” to which the second character replies, “staying frosty, sir.”
Online pop culture
The internet is famous for taking everyday things and twisting them to such a degree that it becomes no longer recognizable.
In short, someone somewhere is always going to find the humor in the simplest of things and share it online; that’s how we get memes.
An excellent case in point is a YouTube video entitled “Stay Frosty.” I’d try to describe what’s in the video, but the footage is so ludicrous and absurd that words would just fail me. You are better off watching the video for yourself.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.