Date: Fri, 31 Oct 1997 19:39:18 EST


Subject: Re: "my bad"

In a message dated 10/28/97 8:55:29 AM, you wrote:

A new topic: I just got a call from Bob Greene of the Chicago Sun-Times.


trying to pin down the origin of the above, and all I was able to tell him was

that I've heard a sportscaster on ESPN's SportsCenter (a nightly highlight

show) use it in commenting on a fumble, an error, a missed easy shot, or the

like. The sense there is something like "my fault". I have the impression

it originates in B.E.V. or AAVE, but that's just an impression, and Greene

commented that he was struck by an experience of bumping into someone--a

middle-aged, middle-class white man--in the Atlanta airport and having that

fellow apologize by saying not "Excuse me" or "Sorry" but, yes, "My bad".

No irony here of the sort I detect with the sportscaster. So am I wrong about

the AAVE impression? Or did it start in that dialect group and spread at


in Atlanta (or more generally in the Southeast)? I've certainly never come

across it in daily life myself, and unfortunately it seems to be impossible

to search Nexis without being overwhelmed by irrelevant cites of [my [bad N]],

where N = luck, tooth, judgment,....


In the hoops section of my recent book, How to Talk American, I talk about its

use in street basketball. I'll bet you that white guy in the Atlanta Airport

was a basketball player or coached basketball or had a son who played regular

basketball. It's definitely heard quite frequently on the courts. For example,

you drive down the court on a three and one. Rather than pass to one of your

wide open teammates under the basket, you instead choose to shoot a three-

pointer, which you miss. Everyone knows you made a bonehead play, but will cut

you some slack, if in running back down court you say, "I'm sorry guys, my


You can pass that on to Mr. Greene.

Jim Crotty

Author, How To Talk American