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Are You a Bro?: Brocab 101

bro

Think back on this: 2007 was a big year for the bro. The famous phrase “Don’t tase me, bro!” catapulted into meme-status, and The Onion published a pristine piece called “Bro, You’re A God Among Bros” which parodied the tendency of bros (or brahs, if you prefer) to create portmanbros like Bromo sapien and brofessional. Over the last half a decade, we’ve seen the rise of bromance (a close friendship between bros), brogrammer (a bro computer programmer) and Bronies (bros that are into My Little Ponies), proving bro is an innovative and useful new addition to the English language. While these novel usages find their roots in ’90s surfer culture, they now are ubiquitous among those who have never come in contact with a surfboard.

Whether or not you are a bro might be determined by how you use the word. While bro may carry pejorative connotations, among bros it is often used as a term of endearment as in “Hey, bro. How you doing, bro?” On the Oxford Dictionaries blog, Katherine Connor Martin brings up this metonymic quality of brodom: “by being the sort of person who says ‘bro,’ a person becomes a bro. In the immortal utterance ‘don’t tase me, bro’ it is not the person doing the tasing who is the bro, but the person being tased.” Bros also recognize that the term can be loaded. In a recent interview on Slate, BroBible managing editor J. Camm admits: “There’s still a negative stigma attached to the word bro, [...] But we’re slowly changing that connotation.”

Where did bro come from? It first entered English in the 17th century as an often-written abbreviation for “brother.” By the early 1900s, it could refer to a “guy or fellow” or a “male friend or buddy.” This usage originally surfaced in African American slang to refer to a fellow black male.

Gene Demby, over at NPR’s Code Switch blog, breaks brodom down into four qualities: stonerishness, dudeliness, preppiness, and jockishness (though a bro need not possess all these qualities). Demby asks whether the current definition of bro requires a discussion of race. His informal poll concluded that broness is generally associated with white, privileged men, however, there are exceptions. One Twitterer responded that “It’s about wealth/privilege & often sexist attitude. Not implicitly about race.” For some, maleness is not a prerequisite for brodom either; there are lady-bros (sometimes called Beckys).

While not all bros are white or even male, these presumed descriptions accompany most discussions of bro culture. In September 2013, Ann Friedman suggested that the term bro and its offshoots have taken off so spectacularly in the last few years thanks to the fact that it allows for talk of this particular type of person without launching into a political discussion: “‘Bro’ is convenient because describing a professional or social dynamic as ‘overly white, straight, and male’ seems both too politically charged and too general; instead, ‘bro’ conjures a particular type of dude who operates socially by excluding those who are different.”

In our most recent update, Dictionary.com added a new sense of bro that captured this common usage. We also added a few of the most ubiquitous portmanbros.

(What other words did we add to the dictionary? Here’s a round-up of our favorites.)

What’s the most interesting portmanbro you’ve seen or heard? Does anyone you know call people “bro”? Do you?

75 Comments

  1. wolf tamer and iron miner -  March 11, 2014 - 7:47 am

    @D:
    Hmm…doesn’t sound like my kind of games. I checked out his YouTube homepage and he doesn’t seem like someone whose videos I want to be watching.

    And yet you can get a skin for Minecraft that makes you look like PewDiePie!

    Reply
  2. D -  February 10, 2014 - 9:14 am

    @wolf tamer and coal miner
    I’m not entirely sure. You can always check Youtube for his videos, but I’m currently unable to. (Public computer and all.)
    My guess is that he probably doesn’t, since the videos I’ve heard about involve horror/suspense games.

    Reply
  3. Aviva -  February 9, 2014 - 11:35 pm

    Broseidon, King of the Brocean.

    Reply
  4. bro -  February 7, 2014 - 12:24 pm

    what a coincidence. i’m wearing the exact same sweater that buddy is wearing in that broto.

    Reply
  5. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 5, 2014 - 12:48 am

    @D:
    Thank you so much! Does Pewdiepie make Minecraft videos?

    Reply
  6. myan -  February 4, 2014 - 4:50 pm

    pewdiepies
    awesome bors lol :)

    Reply
  7. myan -  February 4, 2014 - 4:49 pm

    its in lots of things in youtube everywhere teens like me use it !!

    Reply
  8. JAY -  February 4, 2014 - 9:55 am

    Well …this is almost an interesting article. Kinda sorta’ funny in passing. However, since 2007 seems to be the suggested pseudo-genesis of the term “bro”, it may be worth submitting here for accuracy, that it’s use was common parlance among enlisted men, irrespective of any particular branch of service – circa 1969, Republic of Viet-Nam, or just “the Nam”.

    Generally, a term of exclusion if you will, among black enlisted men.(The intention being, if you were not black, you were not a “bro”. It automatically was followed by an extraordinarily complex and eventually tedious handshake). By the way, RAP/Hip-Hop has roots dating back as far as ’69-’70 as well.

    Slowly, however, “bro” was adopted by the “stoner/surfer” crowd, and I think to the current day holds a certain predominance in that crowd. Although, the “How I Met Your Mother” fans have added another not so subtle shift to the usage.

    Reply
  9. D -  February 4, 2014 - 9:13 am

    @RaindbowDash
    Pewdiepie is a popular internet “idol”, sort of. He makes live (or pre-recorded) video walkthroughs of video games, although I think it’s less of a walkthrough and more of amusement at his reactions to some things. This is a second-hand explanation though since I’ve never watched the videos myself, but you can find plenty of them on Youtube.
    Also, from my first-hand experience, a Brony is a male fan–usually around the age of mid-adolescence or late thirties–of the show My Little Pony, not just a male pony. Pegasister is probably the same. (I think you meant that description anyways, but I’m just clearing it up.)

    Reply
  10. PewDiePieBRO -  February 4, 2014 - 8:39 am

    He is awesomeness.

    Reply
  11. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 4, 2014 - 12:41 am

    Okay, now that RainbowDash and I have both asked WHO IN THE MINECRAFT PEWDIEPIE IS, maybe somebody will answer us?? And yes, we know he(she?) is a YouTuber.

    Reply
  12. Burroughs -  February 3, 2014 - 5:17 pm

    The term ‘bro’ – originating as an abbreviation of the word brother – with various nuanced meanings, dates back at least to the 60′s and 70′s, . I’ve heard it used by all races as an affectionate greeting as well as an ironic/facetious interjection in a statement. “Don’t tase me, bro” sounds like something a doper would say in a confrontational situation while it also contains a sense of self-parody. I’ve also heard it in a conversation where one person tries to schmooze the other, i.e., “Don’t you agree, bro?” and the response was, “Don’t bro me, man . . . I’m not your bro.”

    Reply
  13. RainbowDash -  February 3, 2014 - 7:49 am

    WHO IS PEWDIEPIE?!? :/ and, here are the mlp defininitions you guys were questioning:
    BRONY: a boy or male pony
    PEGASISTER: female pony or just a female pegasus
    hope this helps, and again, WHO IS PEWDIEPIE?!?

    Reply
  14. wolf tamer and coal miner -  February 3, 2014 - 3:19 am

    Can someone please tell me what videos Pewdiepie has made and what they’re about? I don’t get on YouTube much, like “An Awesome Minecrafter.” Maybe, if I subscribe to him, I’ll be a bro. ;)

    Reply
  15. lyric -  February 2, 2014 - 6:43 pm

    My friends and I call each other “bro” all the time, those of us who use it the most are neither male nor sexist. The description of a “bro” given above is certainly not what we are, or what we think of when we use the term. At least for us, it’s really just a chill thing to call your buddy. The inherent chillness of “bro” is not synonymous with the assholenness described in the article above.

    Reply
  16. Deena -  February 2, 2014 - 5:41 pm

    Even though I am a girl I call my bother bro.

    Reply
  17. Joey -  February 2, 2014 - 9:47 am

    My sister calls me bro for the obvious reason that I am her brother, and I am a brony and a bro in the sense that I am a Pewdiepie fan. Speaking of, is that a picture of Pewdiepie in a hoodie?

    Reply
  18. Pewdiebro -  February 1, 2014 - 10:25 pm

    Once I glimpsed the title, I knew this whole comment section is going to be about pewdiepie..

    Reply
  19. Jack -  January 31, 2014 - 10:25 am

    My dad calls me bro occasionally, but it’s typically in informal situations where it’s just us. For instance; he was driving the car the other day and said,”Hey bro, can you pass me my water bottle?”, point proven.

    Reply
  20. person -  January 31, 2014 - 9:46 am

    People started saying bro way before 2007

    Reply
  21. Artist With Brains -  January 30, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    Pewdiepie: all over the internet. How interesting isn’t it? (Brofist everybody)

    Reply
  22. Jed Keegan -  January 30, 2014 - 6:23 pm

    The only people who are actually bros are PewDiePie’s 20 something million fans and subscribers

    Reply
  23. Jed Keegan -  January 30, 2014 - 6:19 pm

    Why do I think that the person who wrote this is actually PewDiePie

    Reply
  24. lol face -  January 30, 2014 - 1:18 pm

    Bro is always what I’ve called my brother, and only my brother. ._.

    Reply
  25. wolf tamer and coal miner -  January 30, 2014 - 8:42 am

    Also @anonymous:
    I usually say “dude” too. I guess it’s a middle school thing.

    Reply
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