“You know I’m bad, I’m bad, come on, you know” —Michael Jackson, BadEugene Adebari/REX/Shutterstock
Around here, we love words, all kinds of words. But have you ever noticed how insults evolve to mean their opposite? Over time “fightin’ words” turn into praise—compliments that hold just enough of their original meaning to make them interesting. The classic example is “bad“—especially with a few extra “A”s to stretch it out to “baaaad”—meaning sexy, hot, not your Sunday school teacher’s idea of good. But rockers were by no means the first to turn “bad” upside down—according to the Oxford dictionary (OED), the first inverted use of “bad” dates all the way back to 1897.
“They messed with the wrong senior citizen.” —Bad Ass (2012)via imdb.com
Add “ass” onto “bad” and oddly enough you don’t get “naughty donkey” or “ugly butt,” you get… the tough guy: Clint Eastwood (Make my day!), Arnold Schwartznegger (I’ll be back!), or Robert De Niro (You talkin’ to me?). According to the English Language & Usage blog, the expression has a suprisingly long pedigree, describing the tough heroes in Westerns as far back as 1955. Now that’s “bad ass.” How much do you love old fashioned slang?