Slang Origins (Valentine’s Day Edition): History of Bae

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to do something special. It’s all of that sappy stuff going around that turns the world into a sugar maple tree that made me decide to recognize this holiday. I’m Ian Kimbell, and this week on Slang Origins, I’ll take a look at the evolution of “boo” and “bae.”

Let’s start with bae. The origins of bae are shrouded in mystery, so I’ll present to you a few of the popular theories. TIME magazine presented the fact  that “bae” was used as a term in the 1500s to represent the sound that a sheep makes. Think about it: baa-aa-aa, baa-aee-eee. It’s pretty solid. Now, the part about how it evolved from that is where it is disputed. Many think that bae began as a term of endearment when it was used as the acronym BAE, or “before anyone else.” However, this is the least solid popular theory. Oftentimes, people on the internet pretend that current slang words are acronyms just to get some views. Also, the acronym theory does not explain many things, such as how the term has been spelled, “bay” in the past and the fact that it can be used for non-romantic intentions.

Nay, the most popular theory is that in the last five years or so, people began to use “bae” as a shortened form of “babe.” This drops one letter from a common word, which is popular among slang. Coo and cray can testify to that. This explains the “bay” paradox and also how it has been used in non-endearment settings. No matter the history, bae peaked in 2013 and 2014, being a runner up for Oxford’s Word of the Year in 2014.

As for boo, the history is actually quite simple. The French word “beau” meaning beautiful, has been part of American slang since the 19th century. In recent years, “beau” has been simplified to “boo.” Whether or not you use slang in your daily life, hopefully your heart is warmed at this time of year. From Slang Origins, I’m Ian Kimbell, and next time I’ll finally do the YOLO one.