Is "bummer" used as a bad word?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Lila_Banshee, Jun 5, 2009.

  1. Lila_Banshee

    Lila_Banshee New Member

    Sorry to bother you all with such a stupid question :(

    I'd like to know if, according to your experience, the word "bummer" is currently used as a swearword.
    I mean, is it a word a kid would say without being scolded by his parents?
    Thanks a million for your opinions!

  2. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    Parents are not all the same; but I would not use it in front of my parents - maybe just because it sounds too much like bum-boy. (Actually, I'm not sure how helpful this is, because I don't regularly use the expression at all).

    I assume you mean bummer in the sense of an unpleasant or depressing experience.
    - I've just lost my job.
    - That's a bummer! (clumsy attempt at consolation).
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2009
  3. Rational_gaze Senior Member

    British English
    A 'bummer' (in AE) is something disappointing or frustrating, e.g. "The tickets have all been sold - what a bummer!", although it can also refer to some kind of bad drug experience.

    I don't think it would ever be considered a 'swearword', but then, I'm not American. :)

    In Britain (in the north of England at least) 'bummer' is commonly used to mean 'homosexual male'. (Edit: This has no connection to the American meaning.)
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2009
  4. Lila_Banshee

    Lila_Banshee New Member

    Well, I would not use it in front of my parents too :D
    The story is that I'm actually supervising a little english boy who's trying to convince me that BUMMER isn't a bad word and I can use it wherever I am, even in front of the Queen :p
    Such a little pest!

    se16teddy, Rational_Gaze, thanks a million, that's been useful.
    Have a nice day
  5. Erebos12345

    Erebos12345 Senior Member

    Hi. What qualifies as a "swear word" varies from person to person. If we do consider "bummer" to be a swear word, then around here, it's a very mild one at best. Not really speaking from experience here, but I'd say that most parents wouldn't scold their kids for using this word. At least it's a much better alternative to words like "crap, damn, shit, etc."
  6. Rational_gaze Senior Member

    British English
    I'd think that the Queen might well raise an eyebrow, but I doubt you'd be escorted immediately from her presence. :D
  7. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    For AE speakers it is not a swear word in any way.

    Random House Unabridged Dictionary- any unpleasant or disappointing experience: That concert was a real bummer.
    Lacking a Queen, we use the slang term wherever and whenever slang is an appropriate register. To use it in a thesis on theoretical physics would be a bummer of course.
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2009
  8. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Same goes for Ireland.
  9. Lila_Banshee

    Lila_Banshee New Member

    Indeed; I lived 3 years in Ireland and I never heard that word! :eek:

    O.T.: This forum is great. I'm glad I've finally found a place where I can improve my written english; I still have huge problems with grammar and verbs!
    Thanks to everybody for the opinions.
  10. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    It's undoubtedly American (or even Australian for me) but you would hear it used by some (younger) people. It isn't that popular but we know it, and certainly wouldn't treat it as a swear word :)
  11. I Love Greece Member

    Spanish - Chile
    I dunno, but it's in Harry Potter (Fred and George say it...), so perhaps it might have something of informal, not exactly a swearword, but not a too "delicate" form of saying that something bothers...

    Still, this is just what I think, for I have really no idea whether it is or not a swearword... :S
  12. Uriel-

    Uriel- Senior Member

    New Mexico, US
    American English
    Bummer, meaning depressing, is not even remotely a swear word in American English. It's not even impolite, probably because we don't use "bum" to mean rear end. (We use butt or ass -- the first is impolite but more or less acceptable, and the second is much cruder.) A bum is either a worthless moocher (from the phrase to "bum" something off someone, meaning to borrow, usually without the intention of giving it back), or a homeless person who isn't trying to better their situation. Being bummed out is being depressed, so something that bums you out is a bummer.
  13. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    In American English, it only means that something is very disappointing. It is not a swear word, as people have already said. However, it is very casual slang, so you wouldn't use it in places where you want to show you that you know standard English.

    I wouldn't use it around people who wouldn't know what it means. I probably wouldn't use it around people who don't speak American English. As you can see from comments above, it may remind them of words they use that would be vulgar.
  14. miss.meri91

    miss.meri91 Senior Member

    Durban, South Africa
    English - South Africa
    'Bummer' is not considered even remotely a swearword in South Africa either. I would happily use it, but not in front of the Queen. This isn't because I think the queen would be offended by it, but it's slang, and so the register is not appropriate for conversing with the queen. To use it among your friends in social conversation would be the time to use it.

    And I have said it in front of my parents and they certainly didn't even notice.
  15. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    There's a memorable use of bummer in a poem about Humpty Dumpty I picked up somewhere. I can't find it on the web, but have dredged it up from some dusty corner of my mind. It goes, more or less:

    Humpty Dumpty's winter was no winner,
    Humpty Dumpty's spring had no zing.
    Humpty Dumpty's summer was a bummer.
    But Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.

    None of the people I've tried it on have expressed the least surprise or shock. I can't say how the Queen would take it.
  16. sergiofreeman

    sergiofreeman Senior Member

    Miami Florida
    Hi There! Playing chess online I soundly beat an American , then , he just said, Bummer, I didn't know at that time what does it mean, but now I assume it would be a way of recognize that he had a bad time in that game. Does it makes sense in this context?.Your help has been crucial in my English improvement.
  17. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    No, it is a friendly expression of disappointment that he lost.
  18. cyberpedant

    cyberpedant Senior Member

    North Adams, MA
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I would guess that he's referring to his last move—or series thereof—as being terribly unskilled.
  19. twofew New Member

    English - North England
    Hi, I thought I would give you my opinion on this even though the thread is a bit old, google still finds these things and that's how I got here.
    I am from the North of England, and around here 'bummer' is a real insult, UNLIKE the American version.
    It's mostly used as a 'noun' here, as a derogatory insult in the same way as 'faggot', 'queer', 'homo' and other stuff that discriminates.
    It all depends on how you perceive it I guess, but I really don't like the word and I dont use it so, would definitely not in front of the Queen

    But I am speaking of Northern England - as others have said, the American version has a different and non-sexual meaning as far as I know.
    Well, thanks for reading :)
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  20. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    English - England
    Are you sure? There is Teddy's example at #2

    "I assume you mean bummer in the sense of an unpleasant or depressing experience.
    - I've just lost my job.
    - That's a bummer! (clumsy attempt at consolation)."

    I know this use of the word is common in Scotland and was in the Midlands when I was there. Obviously, there is another meaning in another context. But surely, even in "The North" the distinction is made?
  21. twofew New Member

    English - North England
    hi, yes you are right, as long as the distiction is made. But I try not to use words that can be misinterpreted
    Used in the "american context" it's totally fine, but the post is called "Is bummer used as a bad word?" and I hear it too often used as a name-calling insult.
    I'd rather just go with :

    - I've just lost my job
    - Oh, that's a shame

  22. Egmont Senior Member

    Massachusetts, U.S.
    English - U.S.
    To me, speaking AE, a bummer is a greater disappointment than a shame - though context and tone of voice can vary both of them over a wide, and overlapping, range.

    As a professor (in a field totally unrelated to human languages), I would not hesitate to use the word bummer in front of a large class or in a conversation with my dean. In AE, it is totally non-offensive. (I'd like to ask my father, born in Leeds and raised in Gateshead, how he perceives it from his northern England perspective - but unfortunately it has not been possible to ask him anything for a couple of decades now, at least if one expects an answer.)
  23. guidov New Member

    England English
    When I was at school in the 1970's in Surrey, being called a bummer was the same as being called a homosexual. So I had to read this thread to see if I should allow my 8 year old to say it. I guess from reading this thread the meaning has changed over the decades.
  24. zhonglin Senior Member


    Can I use this word like this "it's such a bummer that he lost his job"I hope this does not sound weird.

    Please advise, thank you.
  25. souplady

    souplady Senior Member

    california, usa
    english - united states
    Yes, you've used the word correctly.
  26. I agree that's its not even remotely vulgar in AE. It probably was at its height of use in the late 60's and 70's, so it could sound dated to some, perhaps, but in the last couple of years I've been surprised to hear people, 18-22 years of age use it.

    Maybe it went out of fashion for a while and has returned.
  27. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    As others have implied, the force and meaning of 'bummer' are very different in AE and in certain regional forms of BE. The difference is, in many cases, influenced by the difference in the word 'bum', both the noun and the verb, in the two languages, on which we must have many threads.

    Because in BE the noun has a slang meaning of the bottom or buttocks, what I believe Americans call, in slang, the 'butt', some Brits have developed a wide range of vulgar expressions based on this meaning. That fact does not make it a swear word. I've never heard it used expletively.

    Its unsuitability for polite conversation derives as much from its quality as slang, and from its meaning - we don't talk about our bottoms very much in public - as from anything inherently offensive in the word.
  28. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    I agree with souplady and DT as far as common American English is used. Your sentence is idiomatic, zhonglin.

    It's a major bummer that British English can't agree with us. :D
  29. velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    It's a bummer that American English uses words that make us Brits blush because they have unwanted connotations.

    (Like the given name "Randy".
    American gentleman - "Hello, I'm Randy".
    Velisarius - ":eek:")
  30. perpend

    perpend Banned

    American English
    Exactly. I grew up with some "Randy's" (it's a common American male first name (actually also for females)), and ever since I learned the British term, later in life, I've ... well ... it's been awkward.

    "Bummer" is not a first name in British English, though, is it? Just to check.

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