my bad

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Apr 30 23:37:22 UTC 2010

Shakespeare's sonnet 112 is mentioned by Mark Liberman  in connection
with "my bad" at the Language Log blog in 2005. It is also mentioned
by Gary Martin at the The Phrase Finder website:

The Phrase Finder says: Shakespeare used the term with something like
the current meaning, in his Sonnet 112:

Your love and pity doth the impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?

That's clearly just coincidence, and it's hardly surprising that such
a fragmentary phrase would appear in a large body of work like
Shakespeare's. It's also a world away from pick-up basketball, which
is an informal street sport where players frequently call out to each
other (trash talking), and is a well-known source of street lang.

End excerpt from the Phrase Finder.

Here I just want to point out that some students were exposed to a
modernized gloss of the sonnet via a commonplace study aid. The
Monarch notes pamphlet for Shakespeare's sonnets in the 1960s era (and
probably later) provided an interpretation of the sonnet that retained
the expressions "my bad" and "my good". I doubt this directly
influenced the modern use, but "one never knows" and it is still fun
to see.

Circa 1965, Monarch Notes: Shakespeare's The sonnets by Unicio Jack
Violi, Monarch Press/Simon & Schuster, (Google Books snippet view, not
verified on paper, date may be inaccurate)

1. Your love and pity for me erase the stain,
2. which public scandal gave to my reputation;
3. for what do I care whether I am called good or bad,
4. so long as you cover up my bad and commend my good?

Of course "my bad" might refer here to "my bad reputation" and not "my errors".

On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 3:15 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       victor steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: my bad
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Newspaper search (GNA) revealed very little. Searching for straight
> "my bad" is nearly impossible because of the volume--although there is
> no newspaper stories from 1979 or 1980 (I did check those two). Nor
> are there any stories prior to 1987 that mention both "my bad" and
> basketball. There is a cluster of 1989 and 1990 stories, but there is
> also a Dallas Morning News hit from 1987. These are not helpful, as
> OED has these antedated.
> One hit is bothering me, although, I am sure, there is a simple explanation.
> Knicks Down Sonics, 111-106, on 4th-Period Spurt; Nat'l Basketball...
> $3.95 - New York Times - Nov 5, 1973
> Basketball Ass'n LAST NIGHT'S GAMES NewYork II, Sosttle 100. ... "Now
> my bad ," said Reed; referring to tise left one that almost ended his
> career, ...
> I am assuming it's bad OCR or something got corrupted along the way (a
> good number of "my bad" hits were actually "my dad" or "my bed"). But
> I can't make heads or tails of this one. If someone has access to the
> archives, this would be something worth a quick look. It's certainly
> not worth $3.95--the rates for accessing archives are still atrocious,
> but I can hardly blame publishers for trying to make a quick buck in a
> declining industry.
> VS-)

On Fri, Apr 30, 2010 at 3:21 PM, Sam Clements <SClements at> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Sam Clements <SClements at NEO.RR.COM>
> Subject:      Re: my bad
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "now my bad knee, said Reed, referring to...."
> Sam Clements
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "victor steinbok" <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Friday, April 30, 2010 15:15
> Subject: Re: my bad

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