Friday, July 29, 2005

"My Bad" is Replacing "I Beg Your Pardon"

My sister, Erin, was once handed a small yellow card by a deaf person. It read, "Beg pardon," and then went on to explain that the person was deaf and needed some cash or something like that. Stamped on the card in red was the outline of a hand doing the sign for "I Love You" in sign language. We had a laugh over this--not because we make fun of deaf people but because starting off with "Beg pardon," an abbreviated form of "I beg your pardon," seemed funny. It also seemed like the kind of thing non-native English speakers would say which does lend credence to the argument put forth by the signing community at large that ASL is a real language. At any rate, I am very fond of the phrase because it is old- fashioned and hyper-polite. It can be used in a variety of ways from the straight forward, "I beg your pardon?" to the sarcastic, "I beg your pardon."

I am concerned, however, that the phrase "I beg your pardon" is slowly but surely being replaced by the much clumsier, much less sophisticated "My bad." I understand "My bad" and even use it on occasion. Of course when I do it is not without irony because I am over 30 and an English teacher, nevertheless. I get the youthful, careless, sports connotations. But people are employing "My bad" in an ever broader spectrum of situations and that is causing it to lose some of its flavor. They say it when they mean, "I'm sorry," "Forgive me," "It's my fault," "I caused that to happen," and so on and so forth. It has become a sort of short hand for all manner of apologies. I don't like it.

And while the request of forgiveness or admission of guilt has been diminished to "My bad," the acceptance of the apology or granting of forgiveness is now changing to the all-encompassing "It's all good." "It's all good?" I heard this last night in the parking lot of Smiths when a girl was stuck waiting while her friend hadn't yet unlocked the car door yet. "It's all good." I suppose I don't really care how people talk; it's just that I like to reserve the use of "It's all good" for times when a laid back, pimptastic and/or Cheech and Chong tone is called for. Such as, "It's all good my babies." With the careless tossing to and fro of "it's all good" instead of a simple "ok" or "don't sweat it" or even the more sincere "I forgive you" it won't be long before "it's all good" becomes as meaningless, and, quite frankly, ridiculous, as "my bad." Oh well. I beg your pardon. Forgive me this indulgence. I know it's really random.


  1. Why do you say ASL isn't a real language?

  2. Beg pardon, but what country would the "language" ASL be native to?

  3. Oh, my bad! American Sign Language! Oh well. That may have been a dumb question, but it's all good.

  4. I heard it only means "I love you" with the right hand so, I try to do it with my left, but I'm a natural right slinger so I occasionally lapse.

  5. I found your blog via Chris Clark. I have enjoyed reading your previous entries.

    I just want to add my comment to the "ASL, a language or not?" debate. It actually IS a langauge. This is a very common misconception among people who aren't familiar w/ the deaf community. Most people think that when a person is signing they are simply substituting a sign for a word. Actually, ASL has all the components of a language... grammar, structure, idoms, colloqualisms...etc. It isn't the same as English. It is recognized as a language (a real language, not like Pig Latin is a language). If you were to translate it literally you would sound like Yoda.

    I promise I am not a nerd, know it all or a deaf power groupie. I am fluent in ASL (which traces its origins from French Sign Language) and served a mission in the British Isles Signing Mission where I learned Brittish, Scottish, Welsh and Irish Sign (yes, they are all different). I even learned some African, Pakistani and a bit of Russian sign. I have been an interpreter from one signed language to another and TRUST ME, they each have their own grammar etc.

    I just felt like I needed to clarify this point. This is actually a really sore spot in the deaf community. Also, most members of the deaf community would NEVER hand out those cards. That is like our pan handler. Many have worked hard to show that they aren't handicapped, just different and able to live and work in the hearing world. Those people make them all look bad. :=_


    P.S. I love you can be done with either hand, but don't forget to put out your thumb. I can't tell you how many people think they are flashing I Love You but are actually doing the satan rocker sign!!

  6. We may never know for sure whether ASL is or isn’t a real language, but there is one thing we do know for sure: It isn’t.

  7. I feel very strongly that this post was specifically written to me even though I wasn't in any grocery store parking lot recently.

    Regardless, I am going to man up and say whether or not you are fine with my happenin’ lingo it is all good.

  8. What ever happened to
    "Well Ex-cuuuuuuuuuuzze ME!" ?
    That used to say it all.

  9. Lynn Anderson3:08 AM

    I never promised yo a rose garden.

  10. Lynn Anderson3:19 AM

    Sorry ya'll, I'm new at this blogging thing, I meant to say you.
    But I guess that along with the sunshine
    There's gotta be a little rain some time.

  11. My kids say "No worries" all the time. Not sure where THAT originated from, but it is a catch all for when ever they happen to smack each other in passing, or just about any other time they are knowingly offensive.

    The "Excusssse me" phrase was banned in my house quite some time ago, along with "duh" and "Talk to the hand" YUCK.

    Thanks for the info on ASL. I really don't know much about it. My 19 month old baby recently been diagnosed as being deaf/blind. So I am sure I will be learning more about it myself.

    Fun post! Thanks

  12. Concerning this random "Seinfeld-esque"'s all good...which is to say, I forgive you.

  13. People in Texas (don't get me started on all the crazy grammar here) say "whenever" instead of "when." Example, "whenever we went to that movie last week, we got mugged." This is one that is a mystery to me, and yet I have to say, being the somewhat grammar nazi I was raised to be, I have said this bizarre thing just to say it because I know who I can say it around and not get a reaction. It's like a game, really. Or maybe I am OCD.

  14. I didn't know that you were an engrish teacher.


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