Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

On Rosy Outlooks

I heard musician and all around fabulous person Mary Grigolia speak today on the subject of the vernacular expression my bad.
My bad, if you're not aware, is a slang expression meaning oops, my fault, or I'm sorry. Wiktionary links me to an article in which Geoffrey K Pullam tells us that the expression appears to have been coined in about 1988 by Sudanese NBA baller Manute Bol, who would say my bad instead of my fault when he threw a bad pass. This caught on among his teammates and spread throughout the world of pro sports. Pullam says that the world really gained traction when it appeared in the movie Clueless.
Mary Grigolia says that the expression, which she learned from her son, fills her with hope - in our adopting the expression, she says, our generation has come up with a convenient expression that means something that has been for so long so hard for people to admit or express. I'm sorry. I was wrong. I shouldn't have done that.
Of course, some use it flippantly, and some use it to speedily absolve themselves (I said 'my bad'). And one might argue that turning the sentiment into something less formal takes the seriousness and responsibility out of it. Slang haters might complain it means we can't be bothered to even say the words I'm sorry any more. But I like what Grigolia says about the expression, which is that it's like taking responsibility for our actions and admitting when we've made them in error is something our generation just takes for granted. It's not a big deal to admit fault now, we do it more easily, more readily than any generation before. I like that. I hope she's right.
Grigolia says that the opposite of my bad is bring it on. Saying bring it on is like saying "I don't care what you have to say, if you criticize me, I'll kick your ass." Although she didn't put it like that. I think, though, that the opposite of my bad might be another expression popularized by the movie Clueless: whatever. As if to say, "Your concern or grievance is completely inconsequential to me." As if to answer an accusation with total apathy. It's when you're not even willing to fight for your side; the other person's opinion is barely worth acknowledging. 

This picture has nothing to do with anything, but how freaking cool is it? Unfortunately I was really focused on how cold I was and the fact that I really had to pee, so I didn't notice the color contrast thing, or I would have played with it better.

No comments: