use of "my bad"

Margaret Lee mlee303 at YAHOO.COM
Sat May 30 09:49:59 UTC 2009

The same descriptors--"childishness" and "baby talk"--were used by the uninformed in reference  to early (late 19th-early 20th centuries) use of AAE (Black English, Negro dialect, etc.), unaware (or refusing to accept the fact) that it is a rule-driven language system.  

--Margaret Lee

--- On Fri, 5/29/09, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU> wrote:

From: Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
Subject: Re: use of "my bad"
Date: Friday, May 29, 2009, 4:57 PM

On May 29, 2009, at 7:36 AM, Jon Lighter wrote:

> The 1986 Wielgus & Wolff ex. was discovered by me. The seeming
> childishness
> of the phrase, combined with a paucity of good cites, kept it out of
> I.

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?


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