An eruption of bromanteaus

Just when you thought that the ship of bromanteaus and other brocabulary (involving the (North American) slang term bro ‘brother, buddy’, used especially as an address term) had long ago sailed into oblivion, Geico comes along with a recent ad campaign that erupts with goofy brocabulary.

It’s the “gym commercial” for Geico insurance, showing two buddies working out with weights at a gym (one of them bulking up considerably in the process). For fans of shirtlessness, here’s a still from the commercial:

You can watch the whole thing on YouTube here.

It starts with Guy 1 (the guy in the still) saying to  Guy 2, “Check this out, bro”, and Guy 2 responding, “What’s that, broheim?” (using another address term meaning ‘brother, buddy’, conventionally spelled broheim but pronounced /bròhím/ in the commercial; more on the word in a little while). And then they go back and forth about the virtues of Geico insurance, each turn introducing another piece of brocabulary:

brofessor, brotato chip, brotein shake, Teddy Broosevelt

(with accented bro replacing the first syllable in the words professor, potato, protein, and Roosevelt — all syllables that are already phonetically close to [bro]).

But that’s not the end of it: the commercial (made by the Martin Agency) appears under a number of titles:

Brocabulary, Brorritos, Bromosapien, Bronoculars, Brobot, Brozone Layer

(with more initial replacements by accented bro),

Edgar Allan Bro, Vincent Van Bro

(with replacement of the last element of a name), and

Avbrocado, Guacbromole

(with replacement of a medial element). All very goofily playful.

The item broheim. Grant Barrett on the Way With Words site on 6/9/06:

broheim n. brother; friend, buddy. Also broham, brougham, or (rarely) broheem. Editorial Note: This term was recently popularized by the movie A History of Violence. Etymological Note: The Berkeley High School Slang Dictionary (2004, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California) says that the brougham variation derives from the Cadillac Brougham, a high-end sedan; however, there is no substantiation for this and it is highly unlikely.

Other speculations on its origin. Some commenters on Grant’s posting see it as as bro plus a Germanic element seen in German Heim ‘home’.  The association of the item with Black English vernacular makes this origin story (as well as the sedan-car story) relatively unlikely. Then there were commenters who knew it in an (American) Jewish context, and took it to be from a Yiddish ritual greeting, ultimately deriving from Hebrew. In general, people were reporting information about the context in which they were first aware of it, not at all the same thing as tracing the word back to its source

Grant was unimpressed with these stories, observing again and again that working out the origins  was not a particularly useful enterprise; the real question is about who uses the word, in what contexts, and for what purposes, now, and finding the original meaning (something that’s extraordinarily hard to do for many slang expressions) tells us absolutely nothing about that.

The word bro itself certainly began life as a clipping of brother, almost surely in AAVE (African American vernacular English), but it long ago escaped into much more general use.

Brocabulary. I started posting on brocabulary on this blog on 12/27/08, in “Manecdotes and brobituaries”, reporting on a book entitled Brocabulary, which was full of invented bromanteaus and related portmanteau words. The first browords to achieve widespread use seem to have been the noun bromance and its related adjective bromantic, referring to an intense (but non-sexual) relationship between straight men. Suceeding postings:

8/23/11, “Isn’t it bromantic?” (link): a cartoon with the adjective bromantic

8/26/11, “Bromantic lexicography” (link):  bromance added to a dictionary

9/20/11, “Dubious bromanteau” (link): brony = bro + pony (as in My Little Pony)

3/22/12, “man-bro-guy-” (link): brosiery = bro + hosiery

3/25/12, “On the bro- watch” (link): brogrammer (and the bronus brotein)

3/27/12, “more bro” (link): more bromanteaus: broga (bro + yoga), brogrammer again

10/4/14, “Bromantics: Pine and Quinto, Kirk and Spock” (link)

3/8/15. “Bromancing the Bone” (link): non-sexual bromance; sexual brolovers

12/12/15, “Sex between straight men: bro-jobs” (link): and other brocabulary; bro-choice campaign (involving pro-choice bros)

4 Responses to “An eruption of bromanteaus”

  1. Mike Says:

    I have this half-memory of “-heim” being used as a suffix for some other slang that dates back to my high school days eons ago. Maybe “dude-heim”?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      dudeheim in Urban Dictionary:

      Just like Broheim but with dude in the front (by Gleeky2007, 7/5/12)

      • Mike Says:

        Indeed. But the other way around: Dudeheim came first. Where I am going with this is, if you want to learn the etymology of -heim, you may need to go back two or three decades to find the proper cultural context.

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        To Mike: I’m guessing that you heard Dudeheim before you heard Broheim; that’s a fact about your life experiences, not evidence for word history. Meanwhile, there are plenty of pop culture cites for Broheim, but very few for Dudeheim. Yes, to understand the history, you’d have to go back and find the cultural context — but this is in fact a very difficult task, requiring sifting through mountains of material and an understanding of the social worlds this material comes from. I’m happy to cheer on anyone who has access to the material, a close appreciation of the relevant social contexts, and lots of time to put all this together.

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