12th 2009
Bro-lliant, but a bit brong

Posted under: American history, art, Gender



Check out “The Brocyclopedia,” by Matt Young.  (H/t to Michael Moore, also known as Monocle Man.)  Funny and clever–but a bit slipshod on the historical facts.  To wit:

The bro is a category of male most commonly found on the campuses of North American universities and colleges. Bros display the most extreme form of homo-social behavior. They are most typically found in groups of other bros who refer to one another as “bro,” “bra,” “broseph,” or some other term of endearment using the prefix “bro-”. The categorizing of bros is a fairly modern development, but bros as a social entity are believed by many to have existed in some form for centuries.

The earliest known recording of an exchange between two bros was during the 1804 expedition of the Northwest Territory by explorers [Meriwether] Lewis and [William] Clark. The exchange took place when Clark reportedly asked Lewis to, “Be a bro, and fill up [his] Nalgene” with water from the newly discovered Mississippi River. 


and Meriwether

Funny!  But word to your brother:  the Corps of “Discovery” started at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers.  (Since it’s Columbus Day after all, I just thought that people might want to get their claims about so-called “discovery” correct before giving the Anglo dudebros all of the credit.)  Being right on the major facts would make the silly anachronism (“Nalgene”) even funnier.  For realz!  Overall, I like the interpretation of the Corps of “Discovery” as a bromance–that’s totally deserved.

Here’s something I learned from the “Brocyclopedia:”


The bra, as distinguished from the bro or the broseph, tries as much as possible to emphasize his physical prowess. A bra spends much of his waking hours in the gym “liftin’” with his other bras. The bra can be most easily identified by his sleeveless Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt and backwards baseball cap. A bra is most at home in a setting where he can punch another comrade in the chest and refer to him as his “bra.”

So, the “bra” is a like a super-buff bro?  Interesting.  (Or is it because unless they’re scrupulous about the workouts, bras require a bro, otherwise known as a manziere, or bra for men?)  Go ahead and read the rest–don’t miss the fascinating discussion of the noun “Broseph Stalin” and the superlative “Croosh-chev.”


16 Responses to “Bro-lliant, but a bit brong”

  1. Indyanna on 13 Oct 2009 at 8:58 am #

    I think Under Armour ™ has replaced A&F as the item of choice among the bra’s in the gyms I spectate in– from the safe distance of the cardio section. As in most cultures, by the time something hits the blogosphere, the underlying practice has already begun to mutate.

    I don’t have any idea where to lay hands on this, but a sportswriter in Philadelphia some years back wrote an amusing but perceptive linguistic anthropological account (in the “People Paper” of all places!) of similarities and differences in the Eagles locker room with the use of “Brother” and “Bubba” among black and white (and northern and southern; rural and sub-urban) teammates. Maybe Pete Dexter, but that’s just a guess.

  2. Deborah on 13 Oct 2009 at 9:34 am #

    Maybe if I show up to class with a baseball cap turned backwards and throw around some bro-cabulary I’ll earn some bro-props. Maybe then all my little bros will stop procrastibating and do their assignments on time.

  3. Historiann on 13 Oct 2009 at 9:39 am #

    I don’t think so, Deborah–being responsible and punctual is a chick thing. Dudebros have a much more relaxed (sometimes to the point of comatose!) appraoch to their studies.

  4. Dr. Crazy on 13 Oct 2009 at 9:43 am #

    Is it wrong that as soon as you started talking about “bras” (I thought that word was spelled, “brah,” though… Hmm) I had a flashback to the 1987 little-seen movie _North Shore_, staring Matt Adler as Rick Kane, a guy from Arizona who won a surf competition in a wave pool, which gave him entry into a contest to surf the Big Waves on the North Shore in Hawaii?



  5. Historiann on 13 Oct 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Heh–surfer doods are among the original bros. (Did Spiccoli from Fast Times ever use the term “bro” or “bra?” It seems so plausible now, but I think in the early 80s the term of art was definitely still “dude.”)

  6. Comrade PhysioProf on 13 Oct 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Shit, this is not good at all. I call people dude, bro, pal, buddy, man, brother, and the like all the fucking time. (Never bra, however.) I do this completely unconsciously, but I think I even call my department chair and the dean, “man”. Perhaps I need an intervention.

  7. Indyanna on 13 Oct 2009 at 7:16 pm #

    Northwest Territory? So Lewis and Clark were lying low in the Maumee Valley when they were s’posed to be scoping out the Columbia? There’s a breaking news item if we can get some film. (Or I guess, since Ohio had been carved out by 1803, we’d be talking about the Wabash or maybe the St. Joseph?) Either way, I’d be surprised if there hadn’t already been some high-fiving and way-to-go-Bro’ing at the Stamp Act Congress in 1765. There’s never an earliest known anything in history…

  8. Historiann on 13 Oct 2009 at 9:00 pm #

    CPP: clearly, you work with too many men.

    Indyanna–be a bro, and refill my dram o’whiskey. That’s what early 19th C dudebros would be drinking–cold river water, even from “undiscovered” rivers, was downright dangerous to drink!

  9. Julia on 13 Oct 2009 at 11:21 pm #

    I’m sure I’m the only Historiann reader who has seen this show, but if anyone wants to see a plethora of “bras, bros, and d-bags,” check out five minutes of the MTV show, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” It’s incredible that people like this really exist…

  10. Historiann on 14 Oct 2009 at 5:35 am #

    Ha! Julia, I doubt you’re the only one. Some won’t admit it, but others are probably using it for their American Studies Ph.D. dissertations. . .

    (Plus, Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives are just that show plus affluence.)

  11. Feminist Avatar on 14 Oct 2009 at 5:39 am #

    In my neck of the woods, we have always thought the Scottish Enlightenment ‘crew’ (Smith, Hume, Miller, etc) were a real set of bros. They hung about Edinburgh New Town, eating and drinking too much, in male only company, never marrying, and then complaining of their drunken exploits (in a way that is really boasting imo).

  12. Historiann on 14 Oct 2009 at 8:59 am #

    FA–right on: another appropriate historical example of a brommunity. American literary history is replete with them too: the Transcendentalists, and of course, the Beats.

    Bronson Alcott: Dude, be a bro, and lend me $100. It’s, like, totally croosh. I’m writing all day long on this unreadable educational treatise, and my wife and daughters are having to work as nurses and governesses to support us.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson: OK, bro: but I can only lend you $50, because Thoreau took my last C-note and I’m, like, totally tapped.

  13. Indyanna on 14 Oct 2009 at 1:13 pm #

    Only mightn’t Emerson have said “…my last BENjamin,” a bro what launched a thousand bro-therhoods? I’m seeing my west-end gym through completely new eyes since this post first aired, although still waiting to see some bra’ punch another one in the chest playfully.

  14. Historiann on 14 Oct 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    Ha! You got it, Indyanna. It’s all about the Benjamins.

  15. Monocle Man on 16 Oct 2009 at 8:21 am #

    praise for A-bro-ham in Arms

    “innovative and thought bro-voking”

    “clearly written, bro-gently argued”

    “the writing bros elegantly from insight to insight”

    “its clear and lively exposition recommends it for teachers who wish to bro-vide students with a gendered analysis of events”

  16. Historiann on 16 Oct 2009 at 12:30 pm #

    Ha! Good one, MM. Or, shall I say, “bro-vo!”

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