The Surprising Nuances of 'Bro'

Men, when feeling a level of closeness or kinship, will often times call each other "brother." It's nice. It's a term of endearment. It demonstrates how we are all a part of the family of humanity. It also happens to be mega unchill and thusly "bro" was born. Not weighed down by that pesky, formal second syllable, "bro" was able to float freely across college campuses and into frat houses everywhere. It's ventured from Silicon Valley to Wall Street — sea to shining sea — so that dudes could go from simple boys to brogrammers and stock brokers.

But then bro innovators (inbrovators?) realized they could push "bro" farther and make it even more laid back. "Stop saying the 'oh' sound," one said to another, probably at a Phish show. "Say 'bruh' instead. Your mouth has to work, like, half as hard." This was the greatest development in the casual lifestyle since the first ultimate frisbee player realized that you could wear a visor both backwards and upside-down. The world would never be the same again.

Sadly, all is not chill in the world of bruhs. Recently, the OED legitimized the bruh existence by adding the word to their online dictionary, only get this — the OED spells it "bra." Huh?

This sparked a debate amongst the Jezebel staff this morning. Some people thought it should be spelled "brah," others (me) felt an "uh" closer was more appropriate. The one thing we could all agree on was that "bra" was definitely wrong. Then the conversation, much like the word "bro" itself, evolved. It became a discussion on how most of us use the word "bro" (or "brah"/"bruh" for that matter) in our daily lives.

Most of our staffers, it turns out, use it as an insult. "OK BRO" is an easy way dismiss someone's lunkheaded opinion or a friend's bad joke. To us, the word is fundamentally unappealing and associated with gross concepts like hyper-masculinity, red solo cups and Dave Matthews Band.

Our negative connotation with the word, however, isn't universal. In frat and college culture, it still exists as a term of endearment. Some men readily identify as bros and — despite our instinct to assume otherwise — a lot of them are alright people. (Yes, my name is Madeleine and I have friends who are bros. There. I said it.)

So maybe we're getting annoyed by the wrong thing when we get annoyed with the OED (which is still totally wrong, by the way). What's actually annoying is how surprisingly nuanced the definition of "bro" is. Sure, it's easy to outline what makes a bro, but for such a supposedly simple people, they're much harder to define emotionally. I guess, for now, we should just take a page from the bro bible and not stress about it. We'll put aside our differences over a game of beer pong then go layout on the quad and relax.

Yeah, bruh. This life isn't so bad.

OED Adds 'Bra' and 'Slow Jam' to Online Dictionary [Salon]

Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.