Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't be such a Bama

The Washington-Baltimore axis, the cultural touchstone that has given us the West Wing, the Wire and Joe Wilson, has apparently long been the center of an interesting colloquialism: a Bama.

My wife, who regularly works in suburban D.C., heard the term for the first time on her current trip. A kid she's known for years dropped it in a sentence that went something like this: Don't be so Bama. Asked for a translation, he said, "You know, a Bama, a loser." He called it a "Baltimore-Washington thang."

So I turned to another B-W thang, that would be Tonya Jameson of the Observer staff. She grew up in Maryland and, like me, graduated from Alabama. She said the expression has been around since she was a kid, 20 to 25 years ago. To her, again in that Baltimore-Washington thang sense, Bama means more country or rube-like. Like a Spelling Bee contestant handed an unfamiliar word, I asked for the derivation. "Baltimore-Washington thang," she said. Then I asked her to use it in a sentence. "That's some serious Bama stuff," she offered, except she didn't offer stuff.

Peter St. Onge, who married into a 47-generation Auburn family, listened to the exchange and piped up. "I promise we don't use the word at home." Translation: We can't wait to start.

With similar abuse pending, I've decided my best defense is a syllabus of alternate meanings for other SEC team. I hope I don't violate any Baltimore-Washington sensibilities. The rest of you, I could give a rip. Let's begin:

An Auburn: a noun/adjective that describes an unnatural obsession with another person, group, or, here's a real stretch, football team. Sentence: "You're telling people my son cheated because he made a better grade than Billy? Can you be more Auburn?"

A Georgia: Prone to exaggerate and yap about individual exploits. In other words, the compulsion to emotionally lick oneself. Sentence: Steve, you should be proud about getting everybody's lunch order right. But drop the Georgia, it's hurting morale.

A Tennessee: A tendency to shoot off one's mouth, lacking the ability to back any of it up. Sentence: Sources close to the Alamo negotiations say a truce was about to be signed when Crockett stormed in the room and went Tennessee all over Santa Anna."

A Florida: An unnatural assortment of unpleasant personalities who underachieved somewhere else now united and a need to act out; alcohol or other substances often involved. Sentence:
Sheesh, this prison yard turned Florida in a hurry.

There are others of course. Just keep them reasonably clean.

It's an SEC Expats thang.
Michael Gordon

P.S., 2:15 p.m. - Peter St. Onge: Although it's surely self-affirming for a Bama fan to think Auburn folks have an unnatural interest in his school, a look at any Tide or Tiger message board would indicate that Alabama folks share an equally passionate interest in Auburn. It's called a "rivalry."

So let's make one addition to Mr. Gordon's syllabus:

An Alabama: A person who was once popular and thinks everyone still cares as much as they used to.


Anonymous said...

I'm from Alabama, went to the University of Alabama AND marched in the Million Dollar Band when I was at UA. So imagine my horror when, about eight years ago, a friend from the Midwest took one look at my BAMA tag and burst out laughing. When I asked why, she informed me what being called "Bama" meant. It ain't cool, ya'll.

Bigdawg said...

Axis of Evil: Florida, Tennessee and Auburn. Sentences from George Bush's State of the Union address in 2002: "Teams like Florida, Tennessee and Auburn constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten UGA and other teams. These regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide throwing arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack or attempt to blackmail."

Anonymous said...

FYI - note that the term "Bama," in the Baltimore-Washington area context has a history more reflective of migratory patterns of mid-20th century African-americans than was mentioned by the author or Ms. Jamieson. In the 1950s-70s, the DC metro area experienced an influx of African-Americans from the Deep South, many of whom took service industry jobs after being reared in rural areas. Rural sensibilities led native DC blacks to refer to the newcomers as Bamas. It is now widely considered to be a pejorative reference for someone who is "country" or "behind the times."

Anonymous said...

"Bama" could also be a term to describe an executive who hires a middle manager without conducting proper background checks.