“My Bad” and its nuances

I first heard the term “my bad” many years ago. After my initial puzzlement, I figured that it was a new way of saying “my mistake” or “I am sorry”.

Over time I have realized that “my bad” is subtly different from “I am sorry”.  “My bad” is usually accompanied by a casual flick of the wrist and a sardonic smile. If the head is full of bouncy hair, there also the optional toss of the head.

It is like the person is saying, “I have apologized, now don’t make a fuss about it.”

I suspect (without actual data), that many folks rehearse saying “my bad” in front of a mirror. They also deliberately make the minor mistakes in their work,  or practice spilling coffee on the others – just so that they can say “my bad” in style.

I believe that the Corporate Communication team of a large organization is soon going to release a policy and guidelines document on the use of “my bad”. This is likely to be copy/pasted across the world eventually.

More to be done:

  • Clarity on the use of  derivatives like – “my worse” or “my badder”? “my worst” or “my baddest”?
  • Whether performance appraisal systems/ forms need to be modified to reflect the new terminology (what were your bads in the last period?)
  • What are the equivalent terms in other languages and regional variations in those languages (e.g., the Hindi equivalent in Delhi is likely to be different from the Hindi term used in Lucknow)
  • What is the historical origin of the term? Some say it is “my bag”.

I think I have gone on too long already – my bad!

Your comments are absolutely essential to make progress on the matter.

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I'm Rajesh Naik, and this is my personal website If you are interested in contacting me professionally, I am available on LinkedIn and I will be glad to accept your invite. You may also check out my professional website, Alignmentor.com.

13 thoughts on ““My Bad” and its nuances”

  1. I believe that “my bad” is the language of the millennials. It is a way of offering an apology but bereft of intent and sincerity. There is a certain haughtiness about the expression (tossing the hair). The underlying tone is “So what if I goofed up. Dont make a fuss, let’s move on”.

    “My bad” is used when one makes a deliberate error and wants to sort of cover it up.

    “I am sorry” has a deeper invocation, like it comes from within. “My bad” comes from the lips, is superficial.

    In software development, when developers induce a bug, they classify it as “oversight” (my bad). Rahul Gandhi’s recent apology to the supreme court had a “my bad” tone to it. One can call one’s manager a pig and follow up with “my bad”.

    I am not sure whether these are 2 separate words or it is spelled as “mybad”.

    I believe these are yet early days for “mybad”. Those who feel offended by “mybad” need to come up with an expression that provides a strong riposte (verbal equivalent of holding a person by the scruff of the neck).

    Defenders of the “I am sorry” culture need to gang up to prevent the “mybad” from becoming a pandemic and creating an unapologetic generation.

  2. I would say that sincerity is not about what you say but how you say.
    One can be perfectly apologetic with ‘My bad’ and perfectly unapologetic with ‘I am sorry’.
    That having said, loved the way you have created a standup act on the lingo.
    My good that I read it 🙂

    1. Thanks, Jonu. You have brought your “tashreef” to the site and deposited your comments – that is “your good” too.

  3. I will start with My Good ….
    I suppose My Bad is like a short form of an expression which can have multiple contexts.. like my bad luck or my bad mistake or my bad statement or my bad Whatever …..More like my bad X .. where that variable X can be substituted with whatever… left to the imaginative assumption of the listener without having to pronounce it explicitly :-)…
    And regarding policy on usage.. just wondering..which company !..Again My Good..!

  4. “My Bad” comes from “I did something bad”. It is accepting an error, and apologizing for something, without actually saying “Sorry”.

    Usually used in scenarios where it is an “error” rather that a serious mistake, it is quiet common in today’s corporate world 🙂 and is the new “lingo”

    I love the way you have added details around how it is said, the flick of the wrist and the smile with it, probably it is an attempt at “charming” our way through the “error”

  5. Nice one Rajesh.

    “My Bad” in the context that I have used is more for forgetting something that I promised to deliver amidst 100 different things that I promise to deliver or do. Not intentional, though. Just capacity or simply forgot to do it. Well, it is “My Good” that I do not hesitate to say “My bad” under such circumstances.

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