Does "bub" sound insulting in this context?

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I am now reading Raymond Carver's "Cathedral" and wondering why Robert (a blind friend of the narrator's wife) calls the narrator "bub"?
Doesn't it sound insulting in this context where they are not familiar each other? Is it allowed because the narrator is younger than him (Robert is in his late forties seemingly and narrator's age is not directly mentioned here)?

I've never heard of someone called "bub" before, so I don't have idea about the word.
Thank you for your help in advance!
  • Juhasz

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I too have only heard "bub" used dismissively, but that's not how it's being used in this story.

    Let's look at where it first appears, on page five:

    I said, "Let me get you a drink." < --- >
    "Bub, I'm a scotch man, myself," he said fast enough in this big voice.
    "Right," I said. Bub! "Sure you are. I knew it."
    It's hard to tell just from this passage whether the blind man is being rude, or not, but what we can tell is that the narrator finds the blind man's use of "bub" strange. He comments on it - not aloud, not so that the guest can hear it, but to himself, or to the audience. "'Right,' I said. Bub!" The narrator repeats the word (to himself) in an exclamatory way. We often do this when we find a word, or an idea hard to believe. In fact, the narrator does the same thing on page three: "She’d told me a little about the blind man’s wife. Her name was Beulah. Beulah! That’s a name for a colored woman." The narrator can't believe that her name is Beulah.

    If you read the whole story, you'll see that the blind man is definitely not aggressive or rude. He is a little eccentric, though. It's possible that the blind man's friendly, non-aggressive use of "bub" is just a personal quirk, but it's also possible that a certain kind of person from the Pacific Northwest (the blind man is from Seattle - as am I) would speak this way. I've never heard a person from Seattle say 'bub,' but Carver was brought up in rural Oregon and Washington, and California in the mid-twentieth century, and would have been very familiar with lower class West Coast dialects.

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    Sparky Malarky

    English - US
    I was never aware the "Bub" was insulting. It's a placeholder name, something you use to address someone when you don't know his name, like Mac, Bud, or Buddy. That said, it's not actually used very often.
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