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Bro is a colloquial term of address used for any person, primarily males, that began as an abbreviated form of the word “brother.” In addition to its usage as a friendly label, the term can be also used as a prefix to associate any activity with stereotypical frat boy or guido subcultures.
The word “Bro” originated as an abbreviation for the word “brother,” the title given to male siblings, not to be mistaken for the Catholic definition of the term. The shortened version of “bro” appeared as early as the 1660s in The History of the Parliament: The House of Commons 1690-1715 to denote brotherly relationships between members of Parliament.
John Clargis, farrier, of Drury Lane, Westminister by Anne Leaver. educ. G. Inn 1662; Wadham Oxf. matric. 1689. m. 29 Sept. 1646, Mary, da. of George Proctor, yeoman, of Norwell Woodhouse, Notts. and coh. to her bro. Edward, 18.
In 1912, people began using “brother” as a slang term in the United States to address one’s close friends, which became further popularized after it was adopted by the African American community in the early 1970s. Similarly, the Hawaiian Pidgin English word “brah” was brought into colloquial usage by American surfers as early as in the 1960s. Prior to its colloquial usage online, “bro” has been referenced in numerous films, TV shows and video games during the 1990s and 2000s. The Los Angeles Times also used “bro” in an article published in November 2000, to describe George Bush’s participation in the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon during his time at Yale.
The first definition of “bro” was added to Urban Dictionary on January 24th, 2003 and at least 200 definitions have been since submitted to the site. On the online artist community DeviantArt, searching for “bro” yields more than 200,000 results of artworks, many of them relating to Andrew Hussie’s webcomic series Homestuck. There is also a FAIL Blog site dedicated to featuring image macros and funny photos under the category of “Bros.” Male fans of the popular animated series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic often refer to each other as a “brony”, a portmanteau of “bro” and “pony.” The term was also popularized through other internet slang phrases like “Cool Story, Bro” and “Come At Me, Bro” in the late 2000s.
Usage as a Prefix
As internet slang, “bro” is commonly used as a prefix (Bro-) placed before other words to describe an activity between two close male friends. These portmanteau terms were collected on message boards as early as September 2006. Approximately two years later, bro fist began on 4chan to describe a common greeting involving two friends bumping fists. An ASCII-based copypasta often appeared on the image board as well as other forums to represent a virtual fist bump. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom has transformed this greeting into the brohoof, using hooves instead of a fist to denote they are a fan of the show.
While “bro” is typically used as a word for close friends, it can also be used to describe stereotypical “alpha males,” an idea popularized by the men’s culture site Bro Bible, created on April 15th, 2008. That month, the single topic blog Bro.cabulary appeared to collect terms that should be used with bros to help fit in with the group. Later in 2008, online culture magazine The Bygone Bureau published a slightly satirical look at the personality and fashion traits of men who fall into this category, defining them by their love of polo shirts, cheap beer, and gelled hair.
In 2010, Surfworld compiled the Broism Dictionary to define bro-related terms. Also in 2010, TIME shared a photo set entitled “A Brief History of Bro Culture” which looked at historical figures including Latin poet Ovid and English monarch Henry VIII who would have fallen into the contemporary definition of “bro.” In April of that year, a single topic blog called My Life is Bro. was created, poking fun at this lifestyle in a manner similar to the site FMyLife. Most of the submissions use the common traits of being sexist or lazy purposely to an extreme for a humorous effect.
Bro Fist is a series of image macros and ASCII-based copypasta often used on imageboards and forums as a virtual fist bump, a popular method of male-to-male greeting that conveys mutual respect for the participating bros. While the act of fist-bumping itself has become a common practice through TV shows and films, the legitimacy of “Bro Fist” as an internet meme remains debatable, as it has been criticized by some as a forced meme or spam.
Bromance is a close non-sexual relationship between two (or more) men in the homosocial nature. It was first used by Dave Carnie, the editor of skate magazine Big Brother, in the 1990s. He used the term to define the sort of relationships that develop between skaters who spent a great deal of time together. Bromance was discussed in 2008 by Australian newspaper the Age. In 2010, relationship blog Nandoism posted an article about when a bromance is turning into a gay relationship.
The term was brought into the mainstream in 2008 to describe the relationship of the lead characters in the sitcom Scrubs, J.D. Dorian (portrayed by Zach Braff) and Christopher Turk (portrayed by Donald Faison). The following year, the Boston Globe and entertainment site Starpulse compiled lists of televisions most well-known bromances. There is also a TV Tropes page for the term.
Cool Story, Bro
Don’t Tase Me, Bro!
“Don’t Tase Me, Bro!” is a catchphrase taken from a video of University of Florida student Andrew Meyer getting tasered by a security personnel after being forcibly removed from an open Q & A session with U.S. Senator John Kerry.
I Told You About The Stairs, Bro
“I Told You About Stairs” is a catchphrase from the webcomic series “Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff” written and drawn by MS Paint Adventures creator Andrew Hussie. The comic has become an in-joke within the Homestuck fandom and has been the subject of numerous parody videos and fan arts.
Come At Me, Bro!
“Come at me bro” is a confrontational catchphrase used to instigate a fight with another person. It’s typically used to convey that one will not physically initiate fight, but is willing to fight if the situation arises. In image macro form, the text is overlaid on an picture where the subject is making an aggressive posture, usually with arms spread out to each side.
Brotips is a single topic blog that features image macros meant to provide help in various social situations, ranging from how to solve a problem or make good choices from the perspective of a bro. Brotips contains over 1700 image macros as of April 2012. Various brotips are often reposted on Tumblr and Twitter through the hashtag #brotips.
Curlbro is a pejorative slang term referring to gym-goers that focus on training their arms when weight lifting. It is often used on 4chan’s /fit/ (fitness) board and the BodyBuilding Forums to stress the importance of compound exercises and leg training or to mock those who perform curl exercises in the squat rack. Curlbros are often associated with the Jersey Shore “guido” stereotype along with steroid use and excessive tanning.
I Know That Feel Bro
"I Know That Feel Bro” (also known as “to uczucie” or “to uczócie”) is an expression and reaction image depicting two bald men embracing each other accompanied by a caption that reads “I know that feel bro.” The phrase is a poorly translated version of “I know how you feel, bro” or “I feel you, bro,” that is typically used to show sympathy toward others. The face has been used as an exploitable character and is often seen in “that feel when” threads on image boards, which describe an emotional situation or event.
Reality Hits You Hard, Bro
Reality Hits You Hard, Bro is a catchphrase stemming from a viral video of an interview with George Lindell, an Arizona man who was rear-ended on September 15th, 2011. The video was later autotuned by the Gregory Brothers. His enthusiastic response, similar to that of Antoine Dodson, has inspired a number of parody and remix videos.