"my bad"

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 30 18:18:13 UTC 2010

Although the expression spread far beyond basketball, I would not
dismiss pick-up basketball games as a major factor in initial
distribution. Note that I am not claiming that it /originated/ on
basketball courts. I /know/ that I first heard it in the mid- to
late-80s in such games--earlier is not possible because I neither
played basketball nor was exposed to English-speaking populations and
later is unlikely because I played very little after 1990 and stopped
completely in 1992. And I am quite certain that "my bad" was the
expression used by most players to represent a self-imposed foul (no
refs, no fouls, right?). I suspect, although cannot verify, obviously,
that I also heard the expression from one or two other MIT students
outside of basketball context, which would narrow the range to 1983-87
for non-basketball use. I cannot be more specific, although I have a
couple of specific individuals in mind and not the entire population
where someone might have used the expression. Self-reporting,
especially recollections, is, of course, faulty. But some things are
less likely to be self-induced than others.

But even beyond that, pick-up basketball games in the 1970s and the
early 1980s, at least, were a melting pot of sociolects. They included
players from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds and expressions
that originated in one easily would have been spread into another. It
may still be true, to some extent, but not nearly as obvious as it was
earlier. Prior to basketball, the same might have been said about
street baseball games--and /that/ certainly has evolved to the
exclusion of this possibility today.


On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 1:17 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
> on the nouning of the adjective "bad" in "my bad", on Language Log:
> ML, 2/26/05: Overgreen my bad:
>  http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001927.html
> GP, 12/7/05: Pick-up basketballism reaches Ivy League faculty
> vocabulary:
>  http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002693.html
> ML, 6/17/06: My adjective:
>  http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003257.html
> lots of people date the usage from the occasion where they first
> recall having heard it -- in "Clueless" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer",
> for instance.  that's understandable, and it's a start for
> investigation, but the scholarship remains to be done.  some of these
> citations are too recent, and other recollections (a number of guys
> report that they recall it from pick-up basketball in the '70s) might
> have pushed memories back in time.  the early '80s appear to have the
> first attestations.  and it's spread far from pick-up basketball.
> arnold

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