“It’s not bra, it’s Bruh!” Scott Greenlee said. “It has nothing to do with women’s undergarments. You have to add an ‘H’ to the end of it.” *
Ask a Gen Z (Generation Z, born between 1997-2012) to Gen A (Generation Alpha, born after 2013) what they watch, and it’s all about YouTube. They might add Netflix with a sigh, and a few others, but YouTube is so popular among these generations that cultural observers call them the YouTube generation.
So, if a kid you know uses some derivation of brother (bruh, brah, bro, bruvvy or bruv) you know who to blame.**
The language some influencers (AKA hosts, talent, or content creators) use on YouTube involves an inclusive, exclusive way of truncating language to form an inclusive, exclusive path to a fraternal order. What’s the difference between these truncations of brother and man, buddy and dude? Short answer the differences are as common as the similarities, or “It is what it is bro.”
We might consider their linguistic adaptations worrisome, as we fear no one would take them seriously, but linguists find nothing unusual about the derivations. Every generation makes subtle changes to the language to create something they can call their own. By defining how their audience should use the lingo they make language more interesting and individualistic.
As with other generational terms of endearment, their inclusive exclusivity prohibits participation of other generations. Any attempts to participate, observe, or analyze their language results in a cringe, subsequent violations lead to derisive laughter, until they drop a “Stop saying that!” on us to try to prevent us from tainting the Bruh.
A linguistics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, Scott Kiesling, states there might be something deeper to linguistic adaptations. He suggests that the various forms of usage might also ease the transition into adulthood. “‘I’ve got [it] together,’ or ‘I’m going to get what I want and I don’t have to try too hard,’” Kiesling explains. “It’s almost like a swagger. I think about powerful men in suits, but sitting in a laid-back, relaxed way, because they don’t have to be in the job interview, sitting straight-up, right? Then this idea that I’m going to be able to just say things and they’re going to happen.
“Basically, [using such terms is] just another way of “being in the club,” he continues, “which is most clearly indicated by knowing how to use it the right way. They’re all the kind of thing where you’re showing solidarity with a person. I kind of have a theory about how masculinity also has this valence of masculine ease. People talk about masculinity being associated with power, but it’s not just about trying to be powerful, but how easily it comes for me.”
How hard was it for us to work our way through the complicated algorithms of youth into adulthood? What rhetorical devices did we use to form some sort of brotherhood with our peers? We weren’t concerned with overwhelming questions regarding what we were going to do for a living at that point. We just wanted friends, and to accomplish that we needed to learn how to talk like them. Making friends established a certain, unspecified level of confidence that led to a swagger that benefitted us greatly in life. If we could convince them we were confident, how far away were we from convincing ourselves?
How many successful people say, “If we can get out of our own way, we might actually become successful.” Doing something substantial in life might not be half as difficult as developing the confidence to do it, in other words, and the confidence that comes from language can be a powerful force in this regard.
* The slang term Brah originated in Hawaii.
** Bruv is a British truncation of their terms bruvver and bruvvy.
Further reading on this topic can be found at: https://melmagazine.com/en-us/story/bro-brah-bruv-bruh-and-breh-meanings-explained