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I encountered the slang word 'bruv' for the first time not long ago while playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

The word is used quite a lot by a genius scientist character named Gladstone Katoa, but I think other characters use it as well. The game was made by 2K Australia, and a lot of the voice actors have Australian accents. It also seems like they're probably using Australian slang, but never having been to Australia I can't say for sure. Some of the characters seem more English than Australian, but they're all in an absurd sci-fi setting on a fictional planet, so they aren't really of any Earth nationality.

To my American ears, this word sounds a lot like 'bro'. 'Bro' has a lot of connotations in American English, summarized a bit in this Wikipedia article. Basically, if you use the word 'bro' a lot, many will think you an uneducated fool.

It may be useful to note that Gladstone does not have a thick accent, and he's not pronouncing every 'th' as a 'v', he's just using this word a lot when speaking directly to the player, whom he barely knows.

Hearing a genius scientist say 'bro' over and over would be a bit odd, and therefore hearing Gladstone say 'bruv' over and over sounds odd to me. I'm wondering if this was intentional on the part of the game designers.

In other words, should Gladstone saying 'bruv' all the time sound incongruous, or would a native British or Australian English speaker feel that it sounded completely natural?

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    Would you have the same questions about "scientists" using the short form sis? Note that bruv is primarily BrE, and bro is primarily (or at least, originally) AmE (specifically, AAVE), but sis is the same everywhere. – FumbleFingers Feb 27 '15 at 22:00
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    @FumbleFingers To someone unfamiliar with th-fronting, this is a perfectly reasonable question. – tchrist Feb 27 '15 at 22:05
  • @FumbleFingers 'Sis' doesn't have even remotely the same connotations as 'bro', so I'm not sure how relevant this is, but I would find a scientist (or anyone else, really) constantly referring to someone they barely know as 'sis' quite odd as well. – DCShannon Feb 27 '15 at 22:05
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    @DCShannon - I can't say what connotations "bro" and "sis" carry for you, today - I don't hear them as much anymore - but these terms are affectionate diminutives, just as FumbleFingers related. They also signaled solidarity in our war against the senex of the day. Back then, we sisters were losing brothers every day to a bloody war in Vietnam, so the solidarity and affection were real and the words heart-felt. "Bro" & "Sis" had wide currency on America's college campuses and those of us who used the terms were never considered fools, educated or otherwise. – user98990 Feb 28 '15 at 11:19
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    @FumbleFingers - "bro" was specifically African-American English initially because this diminution of "brother" originated in A-A communities prior to its adoption by counter-cultural Americans of every stripe. – user98990 Mar 1 '15 at 5:59
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Bruv can be a friendly, jocular way to greet a close friend or indeed a brother.

In London, I wouldn't hear it being used among strangers unlike the female expression luv which means love or its male version mate.

A London black cab driver might ask a female passenger:

"Where are you going, luv?"

But to a male customer he is more likely to say:

"Where to guv'nor?" (an old fashioned term for governor, if he looked "important") or just mate.

But among friends who are of a similar age one might hear this greeting:

What's happen' bruv?
What's up bruv?

As to whether the listener or receiver would consider the speaker to be uneducated or uncouth, I would say "absolutely not!" It's a very friendly dialectal term used mainly among Londoners. Unfortunately I can't say if the term is used in other inner cities in the UK, it could be.

As I already mentioned, a BrEng speaker (of either sex) is unlikely to greet a stranger as bruv or bruvver, but if they did it would be simply brushed off. Obviously in a more formal context such as a job interview, it would be a serious faux pas and would reflect negatively on their character and level of manners.

  • Okay, that makes it sound more like 'man' or 'buddy' than 'bro'. Do you have any comments on the Urban Dictionary entry I linked which characterizes 'bruv' as a 'chav' word? I'm not really that familiar with the concept of chavs, but it looks pretty derogative. – DCShannon Feb 28 '15 at 22:07
  • It has more of a Cockney feel to it, rather than someone who is a Chav, but I wouldn't exclude it from their vocabulary. I would say the term bruvver has an older history than chavs, so it's not exclusively associated with that social group. – Mari-Lou A Feb 28 '15 at 22:15
  • 1906 excerpt It 's to pay for Billy-what he stole,” stammered the boy. “ Who is Billy? And what did he steal? ” “ Billy 's my bruvver. He stole a strap 'longside your hitching'post; I don't b'lieve he knew it b'longed to you. We lives in the house back of your stable. – Mari-Lou A Feb 28 '15 at 22:24
  • Dialect Play-readings (1940) P'r'aps you're my bruvver — anyway you're my best pal – Mari-Lou A Feb 28 '15 at 22:32
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Bruv is a word used by mainly South Londoners. It's the shorter version of 'bruvva' which is a slang variation of 'brother'. Urban Dictionary

Bruv is shortened from bruvver: (UK, slang) brother, mate, friend. Wiktionary

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    I'm UK SE, and completely agree with this. – FumbleFingers Feb 28 '15 at 23:36
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    And I was born in North London and lived there until I was a teenager. The definition is correct. – Mari-Lou A Mar 1 '15 at 0:04

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