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I have seen many people use the phrase "my bad" in Internet forums. What does it exactly imply and is it a proper English phrase?

  • 2
    FWIW, it is commonly used in American speech, not just on the internet. – Daniel Nov 28 '11 at 1:37
  • This phase sounds awfully silly. Thankfully it is rarely heard outside America. – k1eran Feb 11 '16 at 22:54
42

Yes, "my bad" is a proper English phrase. It is an apology; when you say "my bad", you're basically saying, "I admit a mistake" or "my fault, sorry for that". Wiktionary says:

(colloquial) (idiomatic) My fault; mea culpa.

  • Yes, I realize the humvee isn't supposed to be parked in the heirloom flowerbed. My bad.

It also links to this Language Log entry, which provides further insight:

The authoritative discussion of the phrase "my bad!" at this Random House site says it originates in pick-up basketball as a phrase used by young urban players when admitting to an error. It has spread to other domains and is now used widely to mean something like "I admit that I have made a mistake." It was nominated for "word of the year" (not that it's a word, it's clearly a phrase) in 1999, but in fact it was already at least twenty years old by then.

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    Note that while proper in some sense, this phrase is definitely colloquial (as Wiktionary says). For best results, don't use it in formal contexts. – Marthaª Nov 19 '10 at 14:30
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    Note that "my bad" is an Americanism, but would be understood (through 'cultural' exposure) my most other native English speakers. – Benjol Nov 19 '10 at 20:40
  • I'm from California. I had never heard this expression until I moved (in the late 1980s) to the (US) East Coast. Fwiw. Here it is ubiquitous. – Alan Dec 11 '14 at 21:47
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    "Yes, "my bad" is a proper English phrase." – This is what Americans actually believe. – Quolonel Questions Jun 21 '17 at 8:50
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It's proper English slang. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was proper English.

It will certainly be effective in irking English teachers, haters of textspeak, and other grammar purists!

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    "Your bad what?" – mmyers Nov 19 '10 at 22:16
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    If you are going to complain about using an adjective as a noun, you better get down the Statue of Liberty with a chisel. "Your tired what? Your hungry what? 'Huddled masses yearning to breath free', that's OK..." – Malvolio Feb 17 '11 at 22:55
  • @Malvolio: I think all those adjectives do actually specifically qualify "huddled masses"... they're not just being used in isolation! – thesunneversets Feb 17 '11 at 23:01
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    @ thesunneversets - mmmm, and "homeless", and "tempest-tost"? It looks to me like a list of six noun phrases. And what about "lonely are the brave"? "The wild and the innocent"? "The fast and the furious"? "Blessed are the meek"? "Afflict the comfortable"? "The quick and the dead"? "The naked and the dead"? "We the living"? "Fear of the unknown"? "The bitter with the sweet"? "The calm before the storm"? "The still of night"? "The young and the restless"? "The old and the sick"? "The lame and the halt"? "My one and only"? "The long and the short of it"? Almost out of characte – Malvolio Feb 18 '11 at 5:18
  • @Malvolio - I would upvote that comment multiple times if I could. (Obligatory Bob Roberts quote: "I wish there was a way I could vote for you a hundred times." "There is... Just kidding.") – MT_Head May 26 '11 at 6:22
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To my ear "my bad" is very much an Americanism. Handle with care.

4

Concrete Gannet is right. "my bad" is very much an Americanism. I had not heard this until recently, and was baffled when I did. I heard it on American television programmes and a computer game. I have not heard any British people use it.

To me, it's like the Americanism "I could care less". It does not actually, make sense. It might be acceptable and even considered as proper English in the USA but, it is not elsewhere. At least not in the UK. It does not make sense because, it is an unfinished sentence.

When I have heard it, my immediate thought was, "your bad what?". Your bad behaviour? Your bad language? Or, just your bad English, which this sentence demonstrates?

  • How does it not make sense? You're approaching it from the wrong direction. It's not "my bad X" it's "X is my bad". Bad here being a noun representing "fault". – treeface Dec 30 '16 at 5:17
  • @treeface your surprising. – 18446744073709551615 Jan 26 '17 at 13:37
  • @treeface according to your response it is obvious that you do not understand grammar. Bad is an adjective, or as you Americans learn it in schools a property. Bad cannot be a noun. – Bogdan May 29 at 0:19
  • @Bogdan considering you're not American, it doesn't surprise me that a) you don't understand my point and b) you think Americans are taught that adjectives are called "properties". What exactly are you on about? This is a dialect thing, so there's no need to act pompous. – treeface May 29 at 0:52
  • And if you read other responses in this thread, it's completely common in all forms of English for adjectives to take noun forms in certain contexts. Just because your dialect doesn't use "bad" as a noun, doesn't mean it's impossible. Again...try broadening your horizons a bit. – treeface May 29 at 0:54
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I think it is a short way to apologize: many people are ashamed when they realise they have been wrong about something, so this may be a shorter and faster way to admit that they were wrong and/or to apologize.

  • I sort of agree (or at least this is the best answer I could find). There were plenty of examples but I've never heard "my bad" be used anywhere but by itself. (eg. - Am I right? - No, my bad.) – Jack Maddington Aug 6 '16 at 7:55
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It's a slang, faux apology. It says, "I was wrong, but I'm too haughty to actually apologize for my error."

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    I'm not sure I agree. To my ears there's nothing artificial about it, though it's not the kind of thing you'd expect to hear for serious misdemeanors. – Benjol Nov 19 '10 at 20:38
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    No, it's a real apology, said in haste so as to clear the air, but not distract the teammate, so both players could focus. Obviously, like any sincere phrase, it can be said sarcastically or insincerely. – Wayne May 24 '11 at 19:54
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    the phrase has pick-up basketball origins - the fact that a player would even apologize quickly by saying "My Bad" is commendable in itself - normally, if you make a mistake you just run back :) – Paul Amerigo Pajo Jul 7 '11 at 4:50

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