In this week’s Stranger than Diction, a weekly column where we explore the odd origin of a 21st century word, Sarah Botelho delves into bae.
As we saw with derp, North-American slang can exist years before it becomes a trending word among pop culture junkies. But today we’re exploring a word that has been a digital negotiation from the start – bae.
A muddled history makes bae harder to understand, because the question shifts away from whether or not its current usage is in line with the original, and instead asks, “Was there ever a correct usage anyway?”
In the school of lexicon, bae is a mere infant. The earliest recorded mention was in 2005 on the lyrical website RapGenius. Bae was quiet for awhile, always among us, just silently waiting to be plucked into the mainstream. And then came the mighty year 2012 and (surprise, surprise), meme-culture sparked another revolution: the “bae caught me slippin” phenomenon, which deserves an explanation in itself.
Let’s say you have a significant other, which you happen to be on sleeping terms with. One day you “casually” leave your phone out and exposed during a post-coitus nap. “Bae” finds you sleeping, takes a (semi) cute picture of you snoozing, and you proceed to post this to your social media of choice to show the world you have a buddy you hang out with while sleeping, wink, wink.
Now, let’s say you don’t actually have that adorable photographer significant other we were talking about, but you want everyone to think you do. And let’s say you attempt to take your own selfie disguised as a couple photo, but you let your arm sneak into the picture. And let’s say you really suck at spelling when you post the caption. Well, that’s how “bae caught me slippin’” was born. The Internet floodgates opened as thousands recreated their own versions of this fail, thrusting bae into the limelight. Because of this success, lexicographer Grant Barrett nominated bae for word of the year in 2013 – though it lost out to “because.”
After that, people just went with it. Urban dictionary entries and tweets reinforced this idea, all without much reasoning. Who knows, maybe bae happened because some guy wanted a cute pet name for his girl.
Personally, I think the whole acronym theory is pretty silly and here’s why.
1) The simplest thing to assume is that bae is just a shortened form of baby because people like being lazy.
2) Timing. The earliest mention of the acronym is 6 years after the first recorded instance of people using it.
3) Sometimes it’s not romantic. And this tweet from 2009 proves it might’ve just meant baby – “And Max’s bae bro was down with dude from Spic N Spanish. It’s all too much!”
Another fascinating morsel of bae trivia: the term of endearment has somehow progressed into an adjective. Now, it just kind of means something you think is cool or at least something you like-like.
Pizza can be bae. Fridays can be bae. Your new hella cool romper can be bae. The possibilities are endless. You can be baeless. You can have baeness. You can even achieve baedom.
Though a wide array of people want to ban this word from the English language, the Twitterverse isn’t close to letting it go. It’s a productive word: you can basically use it to describe anything you think is pleasing. Now that bae has achieved its height, it’s actually been welcomed into the Oxford Dictionary family.
Maybe bae’s saturation will be its demise as people reach for the next coolest term. Only time will tell, but as 2015 would have it, bae is everywhere.
What’s your favourite use of the word “bae?” Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.