Monday, November 23, 2009

A Bubba By Any Other Name

One of my favorite TV shows of days gone by is Nash Bridges. A good cop show with Don Johnson and Cheech Marin. Good writing, good characterizations blah blah blah, but why mention it here, you ask? Good question...(Thanks for keeping me on track.)

Don Johnson's character, Nash Bridges, called everyone BUBBA...ok, mostly just the perps and goons but it was one of the reasons I really liked his character. Unfortunately, it doesn't work like that in real life. I tried calling a couple of people 'Bubba' here in the Mid South (within earshot of the "Nashville Bridges" I might add) and got the strangest looks. One guy even went so far as to squint me up and down and say "Who you callin' Bubba?"

Though the word 'Bubba' conjures up visions of men in camouflage and all night beer fests, Bubba is not a word to be bandied about lightly. (Especially, it would seem, by some suthun upstart such as yours truly.) Apparently, there are rules, though unwritten. Bubba is a term of endearment, a term of personal involvement, a nickname. But more than that, the USER of the endearment and/or nickname has to be ENTITLED to use it. Ergo, the connection between user and receiver must exist long before the user even considers using "bubba" to someone. Another example, I call my brother Bubba (he lives out west) and he just laughs. I expect this means that the user and receiver also must both be from or at least IN the south for the 'Bubba' to work properly. (It could also be that my brother just likes to laugh at me. I'm not ruling anything out where he's concerned.)

Bubba is a shortened version of the term Brother. Now, unlike the 70's term "Bro" or the Hawaiian version "Brah" either of which can take the place of any name to anyone (sort of like "Bud" - but not the this getting confusing?) Bubba must have that personal connection. You have to be related to a Bubba, or have known this particular Bubba for sometime to be authorized or deemed worthy of using the affectation. This may seem a bit protracted and drawn out, but I swear, suthunas seem to know this stuff from birth! The one glaring exception to this rule is that if someone is introduced to you as Bubba, or in some way tells you that they are "known as" Bubba, or even "you can call me BUBBA" you are free to use that as their name or nickname even if you have just met. Yes, it is that complicated.

No one ever bristled at Nash Bridges, looking him up and down and squinting with a "Who you callin' Bubba?" Cheech never laughed when he used it either. Perhaps that's why I liked the show. Perhaps I'm just trying too hard to blend in with the locals. Perhaps I'll phone my brother and call him Bubba one more time just to hear him laugh.

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