At the movies · Language · Lyrics · Notes from West London

“My Bad”

A short piece about a short phrase: “my bad”. I don’t hate it, and I don’t use it. It came up in conversation recently when 14 of us had gathered for a meal on my wife’s birthday. One of the other mums said that she had only just come across the phrase and thought it must be new.

As a group we were seated at two adjoining round tables (eight at one table, six at the other, with frequent movement between them). This conversation began at the table I was not sat at. I was called on to guess how old I thought the phrase was.

Do you know? Do remember when you first heard it?

I believe that I first heard it at least 20 years ago, but based on a little digging around here it could have been as little as 15 years ago. The first character I heard use the phrase was Gregory Pratt in “ER”, played by Mekhi Phifer. I didn’t remember the character’s name; I’ve just looked it up on IMDb and can see that he featured in the show from 2002 and 2008, later than I thought.

I associate Phifer’s name with the lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”: “And it’s no movie, there’s no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life …” The words jumped out at me back in 2002 because Phifer stars in “8 Mile”, which features the song. It even won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for that year.

I’m pretty sure that I first heard Phifer say “my bad” in an early appearance on “ER”, in 2002 or 2003. 2008 was the latest it could have been. Now, if by any chance I’ve got my facts and dates mixed up, what would be the best way to own up to it? For the first and only time: my bad.


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