Mate, Pal, Buddy, Huh?


When not at university, where I am about to complete a degree in binge-watching American TV with a minor in history, I spend my summer predominantly behind the till at a local shop. Today, a customer walks in, grabs a beer from the shelf and hands over his money, thus completing another successful transaction.

I smile and open my mouth to speak. “Cheers…”

Is this a bro which I see before me?
Is this a bro which I see before me?

Cheers what? How do I fill that inescapable void at the end of my sentence? To leave matters as they stand feels a little clipped, but I don’t want to overstep the mark. I’m treading through a linguistic minefield, heading towards a bro-tastrophe. To suffix or not to suffix, that is the question.

Let’s face it, the English language has slowly become peppered with a variety of new familial pet names. Unless you were raised in a convent or have been living under a rock  for the last twenty years, chances are you’ve already been subjected to this latest syntactical trend. “Buddy”, “Pal” and the increasingly popular “Fella” have become commonplace, defiling our language more than Miley Cyrus defiled novelty baseball gloves.

“‘Mate’ – the magic codeword. Instant rapport with taxi drivers, builders and garage men.”

Mark Corrigan, Peep Show
But what’s the problem? Five years ago, a simple “mate” was enough. Mate was harmless, unisex, all-inclusive, and could even be used to bridge the class divide. With mate, middle-class people could chat to blue-collar workers, and no longer had to hide behind the breadmaker or retreat to the foie gras cellar when someone came to read the meter. As Mark Corrigan put it in Channel 4’s Peep Show, “‘Mate’ – the magic codeword. Instant rapport with taxi drivers, builders and garage men.”

Unfortunately, this equilibrium was mercilessly shattered by an influx of foreign invaders. No, not the Bulgarians – put down that copy of the Daily Mail, please – but a foe of a more linguistic variety. “Buddy” replaced the “mate”, “Pal” muscled out the “man” and “Fella” performed the burial service. The latter of these particularly grates on me, as it only seems to be used by thick-necked braying public school alpha males who, unable to keep their unmanageably large balls contained in their Jack Wills boxer shorts, use “Fella” to patronise their supposedly inadequate male counterparts. “You sure you’ve given me the right change there, fella?” (Yes). “You gunna get me a bag, fella?” (Yes, but only so I can garrote you with it in revenge for the amount of tax your accountant father has been avoiding).

It’s swiftly spiraling out of control. Boss. Chap. Chief. The other day someone called me slick, which I assumed was an insult but urban dictionary assures me is quite the opposite. Where will it end? Napoleon Bronaparte? Baberaham Lincoln?

"If she were a president, she'd be Baberaham Lincoln"
“If she were a president, she’d be Baberaham Lincoln”

My solution has been to stick to “man” when I feel the need for a bro-suffix, which I think retains enough familiarity without bordering on alpha-male condescension. I sometimes even throw caution to the wind and use the occasional “dude”, at the risk of sounding like the media’s portrayal of a 90s teenagers. But what if I’m not talking to a man, more specifically a wo-man? Is she still my man? Or my dude? Dude-ette? Arghhhhhh!

Screw it, I’m just calling everyone sir and madam. See you later, holmes.



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