Why the word “bae” should encourage us (even if it is kinda annoying).

Image from the Youtube channel of “Emma Saying

Earlier this year one of my close colleagues was introducing me to her significant other. I am positively sure that somewhere in the conversation she did mention his real name, but for whatever reason, I only recalled this phrase that she said in identifying him:

“This is bae!”

Being basically illiterate on pop culture, it wasn’t not too long after that we were making casual conversation and I excitingly told her that I had really enjoyed meeting, as I called him, “Beau” (/bō/).

She was rolling around on the ground laughing.

“My boyfriend’s name isn’t Beau!” She probably exclaimed between tears and prolific thoughts of pity, “It’s Eric! Eric is the name of my bae.”

Oh right. I knew that.

“Bae” is a word that has been cast-ironed into the millennial’s vocabulary — like it or not. Its proponents find ways to use it at almost any possible moment, in almost any possible context. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • “Taco Bell is bae”
  • “Talking to bae” (significant other)
  • “Talking to bae” (cashier at Taco Bell)
  • “Talking to bae” (best friend)
  • “Talking to bae” (dude from Tinder) ← okay, maybe that one is just me
  • “With baes” (group of friends)

Critics of this word find that its flexible usage renders it both meaningless and annoying. And they have a point. Wtf is bae? According to the Danes, its a pile of poop, and for the rest of us, we don’t even know where it really originated from. (But seriously, where does anything come from?)

Regardless, there is something about “bae” that appeals to me. Despite it being kinda annoying, and so-slightly bizarre, it has an inclusiveness that encourages me about the world.

I look back to the words we used to describe people — or groups of people —back in my elementary, junior high, and high school years. I come up with words like “retarded”, “gay”, and “faggot”. I come up with words that intended to divide people and highlight our differences. “Bae” is different.

“Bae” is a word that has essentially been defined by society to mean “people or things that we like”, and there seems to be room for almost everything or anything in this category. It is a descriptor for things we love, care about, or just enjoy. People in this category aren’t divided or degraded; they are celebrated.

Everyone can have a “bae” or “baes”. There is no segregation or disqualification by age, gender, race, or even sentience. And while, yes, we will be forever cursed by basic white girls (i.e. me) labeling group selfies as “the baes” on their Snapchat stories, it is, in my mind, a small price to pay for the existence of such a hate-blind word.

“Bae” represents a small — but defiant — step toward a more inclusive national vernacular. It represents an unconscious choice that our society has made to embrace (and partially obsesses over) a word that unifies everyone, rather than one that divides us.

To use a much older phrase, I wasn’t born yesterday. I know our world has problems, and that “bae” is going to do little to nothing to fix them. But while I do not have solutions to our challenges, I do believe that the ushering in of a positive language is a good place to start. A language that asks not, “who are you with”, but rather firmly states, “we are all together in this”.

In the words of one of my close co-workers:

“Everyone is bae.”