use of "my bad"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat May 30 03:22:32 UTC 2009

This discussion reminds me of a question I had about "no fair".  AHD
glosses it as 'something contrary to the rules' but, as noted in the
OED, it occurs "chiefly in representations of children's speech"--and
one might even venture to say that it is an element of children's
speech (not just its representation), even when it's used allusively
by grown-ups.   But I'm not sure how this began.  (The Opies, great
cataloguers of children's games, put it in a bag with "no good", but
the latter has no such restriction, while "no fair" (as opposed to,
say, "not fair") seems to be a feature of "children's dialect" in
both UK and US English.


At 8:57 AM -0700 5/29/09, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>On May 29, 2009, at 7:36 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:
>>The 1986 Wielgus & Wolff ex. was discovered by me. The seeming
>>of the phrase, combined with a paucity of good cites, kept it out of
>what's the surrounding context?  i ask because there's a repeated
>suggestion that the early uses were specifically from black basketball
>players, in which case cites might be hard to come by.
>but "seeming childishness" is problematic.  you came across the
>expression and asked yourself who would talk like that, and *given
>your prior experience* your impression was that it sounded like
>something a child would say.  but that's not the question to ask.  the
>right question is: who are the people using this expression, and what
>are they doing with it?  in the case at hand, they were pickup
>basketball players, and i doubt that the expression seemed at all
>childish to *them*.
>the problem is that you're projecting your own attitudes onto the
>>  Naturally, within a few months of publication (April 1994), I was
>>hearing it frequently on campus.
>the OED has a 1986 UNC-CH Campus Slang cite, already not in a sports
>>FWIW, I doubt that "my bad" enjoyed much currency anywhere before
>>the early
>>'80s except possibly as baby talk. FWIW.
>do we have any evidence that it was *ever* used as baby talk?
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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