Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands and goes to work. -- The New York Times, February 13, 1959
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Issue 4
October 2016
Nifty tips on how to write and speak more effectively
Why “my bad” makes me cringe
I first heard the phrase “my bad” a few years ago. Maybe our teenage daughter uttered it at supper one night or I heard it on TV.

I can’t recall, but I remember how stunningly weird it sounded. “My bad—is that for real?” I asked, cringing.

Yep, apparently it was. And apparently, I’d been living under a rock. “My bad” had been seeping into our popular culture and parlance for years as accepted slang. It’s even earned its place in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

In case you, too, have been living under a rock, “my bad” is a breezy way of saying “It’s my fault,” or “I’m wrong.” It likely stems from pick-up basketball games decades ago, when exasperated players exclaimed “My bad!” when they flubbed a shot or a pass. Factor in the growth of the Internet and mainstream movies such as 1995’s Clueless, and “my bad” gained ground.

So why does the phrase irk me so? I guess because it flagrantly defies the rules of grammar.

Let’s take a look at its parts:

My is a possessive adjective.

Possessive adjectives indicate ownership and are followed by nouns,


bad is an adjective, not a noun.

Pairing the two adjectives is like pairing “her” (another possessive adjective) with “intelligent,” “bold” or “witty” (all adjectives). We wouldn’t say “her intelligent,” “her bold” or “her witty,” but we do say “her intelligence,” “her boldness” and “her wit.”

Maybe that’s why I’ve adopted other slang terms more readily over the years. “Neat,” “cool” and “awesome” have all rolled off my tongue. They can work alone or in tandem with nouns, and they don’t flout grammatical correctness.

I’m told that “my bad,” is now passé, so my new pet peeve is the chronically overused adverb “absolutely.”

But that’s absolutely another story.

What expressions make you cringe? Email me your favourites if you’d care to share.

Sara Bedal is a writer, editor and plain-language specialist. She helps organizations tell their stories clearly, creatively and concisely.
Photo: Angela Durante Dukát, DUKÁT PHOTOS
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Sara Bedal · 175 Stone Road · Aurora, On L4G 6Y9 · Canada

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