bro / brother = Is it old fashioned? Is it used these days?

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sb70012

Senior Member
Azerbaijani/Persian
Hello teachers,
Once I was chatting on the internet with a British speaker. We were not friends, we started chatting.
We chatted with each other for five minutes. But once I called him Bro (brother) but I don’t know why he didn’t like the title. He told me “I am not your brother, please don’t say that again.”
He told me “We hardly use it in our daily conversations” There wasn’t even a quarrel between me and him.
We were talking very friendly. But what do you think of his reaction? Is he right? Isn’t it used a lot in the UK?
Suppose that I come to London and I go to a bar. I ask for a drink and after buying the drink I say “thank you bro”
to the salesman. Will he get surprised too or not? I will be so happy if you tell me how it is used in the UK.

I also searched (the usage of bro in the UK) in the search box but nothing appeared.

Many thanks in advance.
 
  • Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    I know you're asking about British usage, but "bro" is more common in the U.S. than ever. It's the new equivalent of pal, buddy, mate, etc.

    Regardless of how--or whether--it's used in the U.K., the person you were chatting with overreacted, in my opinion.
     
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    VicNicSor

    Banned
    Russian
    This word is an Anglicism (or Americanism). Many (or rather some) Russian teens use this word -- 'bro', in communication. I think it is a very informal, maybe even a bit unceremonious word.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I would also be offended by being called "bro". I do not think the person overreacted - but then neither he nor I is American. If Miss Julie's reaction is typical of AE speakers, we have another transatlantic divide.

    EDIT
    I think there are cultural groups in the UK who use it. If I think about it I would associate it with urban young men of West Indian origins.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    In the UK (rightly or wrongly) it's seen as part of African American slang. I'd avoid it if I were you, for all sorts of complex socio-linguistic reasons. (Well and truly cross-posted!)
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It seems to me that the reaction was from one who perhaps disliked the presumption of the closeness of the friendship he felt it should be reserved for. Perhaps he just dislikes the use of the word even under any circumstances other than true brotherhood. (Perhaps for the reson Beryl suggested).

    We have quite a few members who object to the casual/informal use of "Hi guys" when there may be either females (or people the speaker has never met) in the group. "I am not a guy" is not an over-reaction by a female; similarly "I haven't met you so I'm uncomfortable with you addressing me as a "guy"; so "I am not your brother" should not be considered such, either. I see it as drawing a firm line on the current state of the "friend"ship.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    To say "I am not your brother" was unnecessary and hypersensitive, wherever you're from. Just saying "Please don't call me bro" would have sufficed.
    You do not seem to understand the degree of offence that being called "bro" may arouse. I would be likely to react in a similar way in a similar context. In my personal form of British culture I object strongly to over-familiarity, and being addressed as "bro" falls into the same category as being addressed by my Christian name by somebody in a call centre whom I have never met.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    You do not seem to understand the degree of offence that being called "bro" may arouse. I would be likely to react in a similar way in a similar context. In my personal form of British culture I object strongly to over-familiarity, and being addressed as "bro" falls into the same category as being addressed by my Christian name by somebody in a call centre whom I have never met.
    OK, I can understand that. But why can't you just say "Please don't call me bro?" To add "I am not your brother" is unnecessary and mean, especially since "bro" doesn't literally mean brother (i.e., blood relative) in this sense.
     
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    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    >> I ask for a drink and after buying the drink I say “thank you bro” to the salesman. Will he get surprised too or not?

    A London barman's simply going to think, 'here's a foreigner who doesn't know our ways'.

    Does sb70012 happen to know the skin colour of the person he was chatting to?

    I'm a reliably informed that Londoners are far more likely to use the term 'bruv'.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Julie, bro does mean brother, and there is a long tradition in the English working classes of referring to fellow trade union members as "brother". There is also a long tradition in the free churches of members of the congregation referring to each other as "brother" (or sister). In all cases the use of "brother" implies a close relationship. Being called "bro" implies a close relationship except in those cultural groups where "brother" and its abbreviated form do not imply a close relationship. That is not my cultural group and doesn't seem to be the cultural group of sb70012's fellow-chatter. Being called "bro" gets my back up instantly, and I find it perfectly natural to say "I am not your brother". To the call centre worker I usually say "Have we been introduced?" before pointing out that there is a more courteous way to address a potential or actual customer.
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    Julie, bro does mean brother, and there is a long tradition in the English working classes of referring to fellow trade union members as "brother". There is also a long tradition in the free churches of members of the congregation referring to each other as "brother" (or sister). In all cases the use of "brother" implies a close relationship. Being called "bro" implies a close relationship except in those cultural groups where "brother" and its abbreviated form do not imply a close relationship. That is not my cultural group and doesn't seem to be the cultural group of sb70012's fellow-chatter. Being called "bro" gets my back up instantly, and I find it perfectly natural to say "I am not your brother". To the call centre worker I usually say "Have we been introduced?" before pointing out that there is a more courteous way to address a potential or actual customer.
    But in such an anonymous place as a chat room, how can either party know the background of the other? Just assume the other person is naive and gently correct him or her.

    As for calling a customer service number, I don't really care to be called by my first name...but I'm not going to be offended by it.
     
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    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    >> And "bro" is merely the U.S. equivalent.

    Distant relations with some family resemblances, I'd say.

    >> But in such an anonymous place as a chat room, how could either party know the background of the other?

    I agree. One may find some offence there, but there's no necessity to immediately snap back or be so offish about it. This is why I asked about the interlocutor's racial origin.

    For my part, one of the participants in this very conversation has been calling me 'bro' for several months now. I see no reason to bite his head off. But then, some people are a goodly deal touchier than others, innit wouldn't you say?
     

    Wordsmyth

    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    [...] especially since "bro" doesn't literally mean brother (i.e., blood relative) in this sense.
    That's true in the AmE context you're taking as a basis, but to a UK ear (and possibly in other variants of English) it could well be taken as meaning just that, as Andy has said.

    I have never been called "bro", nor have I ever called anyone "bro", with one exception: my brother and I occasionally use it to each other, as a term of affection (and sometimes we use "bruv"). So if a stranger addressed me as "bro" or "bruv", I would naturally have the reaction (spoken or unspoken) of 'You're not my brother'.

    So tell me, Miss Julie, would you be OK with a stranger calling you "Sis"?

    Ws:)
     

    Miss Julie

    Senior Member
    English-U.S.
    I think it would be hilarious, but I wouldn't go out of my way to be offended by it. Don't take things so personally!

    Besides, there is no female equivalent of "bro"...it certainly isn't "sis."
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    I've never been addressed as bro (except by my brother, occasionally) so am not sure how I'd react. I like to think I'd be able to contain myself enough to draw a line after Please don't address me as 'bro'.

    But I know for a fact I wouldn't like it, any more than I like being addressed as mate by every Tom, Dick and Harry in the United Kingdom, especially by shopkeepers and shop assistants*. That's become so utterly ubiquitous here that to resist it would be utterly futile. Given the (totally baffling) fondness of British Youth of all colours and classes for using black-urban-American-slang, regardless of how ridiculous it sounds, I dare say I'll have to get used to bro next:mad:


    * "I'm not your mate ~ I'm your customer. If I was your mate, you'd be giving me this stuff for free!"
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Even in the US, "bro" is quite informal and, to a degree, familiar, and always male-to-male. You would not (if you were a polite person and had your wits about you) thus address the President, a clergyman, your professor, a man markedly older than you, or a total stranger in a non-social situation. Or, as must be evident, a guy from the UK, unless you have had a long-established friendly relationship.

    Generally speaking: As with any word or phrase—if you're in doubt, don't use it.
     

    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    To add "I am not your brother" is unnecessary and mean, especially since "bro" doesn't literally mean brother (i.e., blood relative) in this sense.
    But "brother" needn't mean "blood relative" either. "Brother" can also describe a close male friendship of the same kind implied by "bro" - your "bro"/"brother" is a guy you know who always has your back; the term implies complicity, trust, and a shared history.

    So:

    A: Hey there, bro! ( = not literal blood-relative "bro," but instead close personal friend "bro")
    B: I'm not your brother. ( = not literal blood-relative "brother," but instead close personal friend "brother")

    If you are both frat dudes and you've just met each other, you could probably call each other "bro" because of the context - since you're both Greek, it's assumed that you're already part of the same male community (or "fraternity") in which all the members take care of each other. But without such an implied quasi-familial tie, I agree that calling someone "bro" at the first meeting is too presumptuous.

    Finally, my friends and I would only ever use "bro" ironically. When the kind of person who uses "bro" sincerely addresses me as "bro," I feel like it's a little patronizing, since I am not at all the "bro" type. In a high school, the football team is made up of "bros"; the math club and the student poetry magazine are not - and you could easily offend a drama kid or a musical prodigy by addressing him as "bro" or by calling him a "bro."
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    This divisive issue seems incapable of resolution.

    Two opposing views have been clearly expressed. Anyone interested in the question is invited consider the viewpoints presented and make their own decision.

    I am closing this thread. Thank you all for your contributions.

    Cagey, moderator.
     
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