The following is an excerpt from the CNN news of July 20. What does “next level henchman status” mean in this context?

While temperatures in the area could reach 102 degrees, it'll likely feel even worse: The heat index, or the more accurate temperature your body feels when air temperature and humidity are both factored in, could be as high as 115 degrees, the weather service said. That's simply too hot for lawbreaking, Braintree police said. Committing a crime in this sort of weather is "next level henchmen status," the department said, not to mention dangerous to the offender's health.

  • The reporter seems to be viewing levels of henchhood in descending order, from head honcho to high henchmen to "next-level henchmen." The idea is that assignments that involve working in such bad conditions tend to get pushed farther down the hierarchical ladder than they would if the weather were nice, so a criminal task that higher-up henchmen would normally perform goes instead to guys who are lower on the org chart. – Sven Yargs Jul 26 '19 at 5:41

I think they mean the criminal in question would be going above and beyond the call of duty in carrying out crimes since the weather's so hot ('next level') for their hypothetical criminal boss ('henchman'). It's not a phrase I've heard before though.

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The construction, involving compound adjectives formed with level is in use typically by younger American English speakers in informal settings. I don't know about other Anglophone countries. Here's a similar example:

Side note, when I went to the property there was a guy there that works for the marshals as a contractor going to houses they own and prepping them for sale, he was telling me all the stories of what happened in that house and some of the crazy things he's seen in different places, sometimes you forget that some breaking bad level shit does happen in good normal neighborhoods.

Anyways, it probably started with video game players, since if you are a very good video game player you get to higher levels. This particular example also uses status in a way that may also be sourced from video game lingo. As you get good in a video game you get status upgrades. To understand the usage, imagine that you are playing a video game where you are committing petty crimes and you get status upgrades, like "henchman," etc. And then you get a rare level upgrade for the "henchman" status. That is how gamers think and talk.

Now I suppose I'll get in trouble for making insensitive remarks about gamers, as sensitive as gamers are.

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