The last few years, teen-speak in the UK has moved further and further away from the co-opting of black American culture ("Yo! What up, dawg?" etc.) and more toward the co-opting of Jamaican culture, spreading outward from the, ahem, international districts of large urban centres such as London and Birmingham and now into the lingua franca of pretty much everyone in the UK aged between about 9 to 29.
At first it was just the odd word. A "Wha' gwan?" here, a "bred'ren" or "fam" there. But the word that gets a lot of usage in this house, at least, is the word "bare".
This has lost its original English definition of "naked or uncovered", and has even lost its Jamaican patois meaning of "only" (I mean, that one I can understand. Bare is close to barely, which can be an alternate meaning of 'only'.) Now it means "many", "very", "lots of", etc.
A while ago on one of my other blogs, The Unbelievables, I started a story about a wannabe superhero teddy bear named Barry whose superhero alter-ego persona was called Bear Vexed.
I should perhaps explain where that came from.
Not just to you, the readers of this hallowed institution, but to my Unbelievables co-authors, Michael Noble and Clark Brooks, who, being Americans and not perhaps being as au fait with the current UK teen slang, probably didn't quite see as a joke.
There is in my house a young man named Matthew. He's 14 and a cool dude. He speaks in this way all the time with his mates. His overuse of the word 'bare' to mean 'many', 'very' etc. is a source of, shall we say mild annoyance at times, but being 14, his extended stays in the bathroom applying 'product' to his manly locks and covering himself in Lynx body spray are, shall we say, mildly annoying too. Not to mention the fact that purchasing all this gunk for him to apply liberally to his mane costs us 'bare dollah'.
One day recently, he could not find his hairbrush. This, as you can imagine, was distressing for the poor lad. How was he going to look good for his girlfriend and anyone else who might care about his appearance if he could not lavish that special brush's affections on his tresses and apply 'bare' product?
He wandered around looking for the aforementioned brush, getting more and more agitated over its disappearance, and mentioned that it was making him "bare vexed."
Oh, we did laugh. Once we had wiped the tears of mirth from our eyes, Laura, the source of many an inspirational word, mentioned that she would think it amusing if I was to write a story about a superhero named Bear Vexed.
That, folks, is how it all came about.
Worth waiting for, huh?