New One On Me

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New One On Me

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Ago 21, 2009, 6:46 am

I'm happy with the concept of language developing, and new usages evolving because people find expressive value in them. So I hope that queries such as that which follows don't artificially distort this process by artificially strengthening the survivability of a usage.

However, when I hear/see a usage which I do not understand, or which appears to have several credible, but distinct meanings I would like some clarification, despite this risk.

The particular usage I found today (on LT, but "no names, no pack-drill") is:

"I was getting all bummed this morning because they hadn't come yet"

Now the word 'bummed' has all sorts of connotations, from anal intercourse, through importuning, to being treated as one of the entities often referred to as a bum, but I find myself at a loss here about what the author actually meant. I cannot even determine whether the said bumming was a pleasure or an inconvenience, or even 'a practice illegal in many US states' that I should report to the appropriate authorities.

Perhaps some 'streetwise' LT correspondent could enighten me?

Editado: Ago 21, 2009, 7:35 am

My guess is that it is a passive verb "to be bummed", meaning "to be subjected to an experience described as a bummer (a disappointment or failure OED)". Logically, a bummer must be something that bums you, so if it's a bummer, you've been bummed.

Ago 21, 2009, 8:04 am

"Bum" as an adjective meaning "of low quality" goes back at least as far as the 19th century. The verb you cite looks to be derived from it in such locutions as "bum steer"--incorrect travel directions--particularly in drug-related idioms like "bum trip"--an unpleasant drug experience--a "bummer". Other adjectives also became nouns of agency in the same milieu, eg. "downer".

Ago 21, 2009, 8:35 am

Bummed, as an adjective, I'd relate to "oh, that's a bummer". It clearly means "annoyed, miffed", by something that's a bummer. I wouldn't for a second connect it with bum "posterior, bottom". Too many steps inbetween (the ones Fogies mentions).

It's not listed as such at, and the OED is silent, too. Bummed is listed as " a. Of garments: Padded out, made to project. b. Having a bum (only in comb.).", Illustrated by the following examples:

> 1588 W. AVERELL Comb. Contrarieties Bij, This yeere bumbd like a Barrell, the next shottend like a Herring.
> 1611 COTGR., Fessé..Fat-bumd.

If this rare use of this particular word form has become obsolete, then the form "bummed" will be available for new uses. Cheers to English, then.

Editado: Ago 21, 2009, 9:48 am

Are you all British? Bummed is a fairly common American expression exactly along the lines that MyopicBookWorm stated.

ETA: it might be surfer slang.

Editado: Ago 21, 2009, 11:43 am

Where I grew up in New England, we had "bummed out" which was closer to "disappointed" than "annoyed," I think, and was sometimes shortened to "bummed." It definitely has a surfer/stoner association, but I think the usage goes back to at least the sixties. I don't know the specific origins, though. has two entries that deal with it, if you're curious.

Ago 21, 2009, 4:31 pm

Also New England, also thinking along the lines of disappointed, also adding "out" to the original bummed. So basically, read #6 again and you'll get my response.

Ago 21, 2009, 11:22 pm

As a long-time CA resident, I'll tell you we mostly use it as the original poster noticed or "I was so bummed." Something can also bum you out, but that's not quite as common.

It always means disappointed, but the degree varies with context, especially if the speaker is consciously channeling the surfer dude mentality.

Ago 22, 2009, 5:03 am

Thanks everyone for the clarification.

In view of this I wish to protest at this hijacking of a superb word - the noun 'bum' as a nicely rounded word that designates that nicely rounded part of the human anatomy which attracts attention as no other does, save for the female mammaries, of course. However, since twice as many members of the human race possess the former as the latter, I feel it should be accorded higher status and should certainly not be so lightly demeaned.

More seriously, I find it an interesting word in that its usage says so much about cultural differences amongst English speakers, specifically where it sits on the spectrum of 'rude words'.

Ago 22, 2009, 5:56 am

It's fun to see how people act strangely around these "rude words" and the things they refer to. It's precisely this attitude of uncertainty and nervousness mingled with politeness considerations and avoidance strategies that makes for all kinds of odd uses. So much is going on with these words, but only because people act so fidgety around them.

Editado: Ago 22, 2009, 5:52 pm

When we say fanny over here, we mean bum, now you guys take that one to another place altogether.

Oh and I think it's funny that no one really hit on how us New Englanders would use the word bummed. We'd say we were wicked bummed.

Ago 23, 2009, 2:47 am

In my idiolect, "bum" is not a word I would use for the buttocks. I certainly recognize that usage, but would never use it that way myself. Not because it's rude, but just that's not a word I grew up using in that sense. I wonder how many other Americans this is true for. I certainly do hear some speakers using it, but most seem to favor other slang terms (of varying degrees of rudeness).

Ago 23, 2009, 12:49 pm

The use of bum to mean buttocks would most certainly identify the speaker as a Brit.

Ago 23, 2009, 7:35 pm

I only learned that "bum" refers to 'buttocks' from listening to my sister, who immigrated to Canada from the U.S. about 30 years ago, and her associates. Canadian English is much closer to British English, I've observed. Until then, as a U.S. resident, I was unaware of that connotation.

Before my birth, "bum" as a noun in the U.S. would only have referred to a person who begs or is homeless. By the time I learned the language, "bum" was mostly an adjective, as in "bum rap." See Merriam-Webster definition 2, adjective, at

Evidently also coined when I was a toddler in the '60s was "bummer", entry 2:
Date: 1966
1 : an unpleasant experience (as a bad reaction to a hallucinogenic drug)
2 : failure, flop

In my own U.S. speech, I use "bummed," which in my mind I think of as shorthand for "bummed out," meaning disappointed, sad, or depressed as the result of some news I have learned or some situation. Being bummed is not a pleasure in my world!

Ago 23, 2009, 10:19 pm

I used to bum cigarettes off people sometimes. Running out of cigs was a bummer, man.

Ago 23, 2009, 10:29 pm

Speaking of "new one on me", that usage is unusual to me. I'd always thought it was "new one to me", but here's the title of this thread showing me another option.

Ago 23, 2009, 10:30 pm

The best way to understand the usage is to find an old Cheech and Chong album.

Ago 23, 2009, 11:16 pm

>13 jjwilson61:. Canadians have long been known to get slightly offended at being called Americans. You have just proven that Canadians can also be slightly miffed by being identified as "certainly Brits".

Editado: Ago 24, 2009, 6:53 am

The step from "bummer" to "bummed" involves a tricky bit of re-analysis. The formation of "bummer" from the adjective "bum" is by way of a suffix that, so far as we know, is common to all Germanic languages, namely the "-er" of Hamburger, New Yorker etc., meaning something like "associated with" or "characterized by". It seems to have been re-analysed as the homophonous suffix "-er" meaning "person or thing that performs the action of the affixed verb". That probably has cognates in most or all Indo-European languages, eg Latin "-arius", French "-eur" etc.

Ago 24, 2009, 10:00 am

Being American, the realization, fairly late in life, that bum was something other than a hobo or homeless begger was something of a surprise. The only other use I had been aware of was by my father and his WWII & Korean War veteran pals who used bum for bomb, knowing perfectly well the difference, it was just their pronunciation of it. Any older veterans out there who can explain how that usage got started?

Ago 24, 2009, 11:23 am

My parents (who are also New Englanders, and not even a tiny bit British in origin) used the word "bum" for our hind ends with my brother and me when we were little (in the 1980s) - it was considered, in my family, to be a politer term than "butt", which was almost a curse word. I don't recall thinking that it was unusual, like the way my parents use "tonic" for soda, which even then was kind of an outdated or at least older-person usage. I hardly ever hear "bum" used in that sense now, though, even by moms with young kids, so I don't know if it was a regionalism or a throwback or if my family is just completely weird (likely). We're from the Worcester, Mass. area.

Ago 25, 2009, 5:36 pm

Around here, a "butt" is a big container for rainwater. And an "ass" is a grey animal with long ears: you don't kick ass, because it'll probably kick back harder.

Ago 26, 2009, 10:10 am

A woman I met in Madras
Had the most wonderful ass.
Not, as you'd think, firm, round and pink
But dark grey with long ears, and eats grass.

Ago 26, 2009, 6:19 pm

#21 - we used the word "doopie" for butt when we were little. I think every family probably has weird ways they refer to things when kids are little - "bum" sounds pretty normal compared to "doopie," I'd say! (My childhood words for things you don't say in public: doopie, seep, biz, gynie, and, uh, penis. Somehow that one was okay to say as it was.)

Butt was also considered an almost-swear word in my family. But "bum" wouldn't have occurred to us - I wanna say doopie went back to the Polish side of the family...

But I really think some of the politer words actually sound worse than the impolite ones. I mean, I'm much more comfortable saying "I've gotta take a shit" than "I've gotta poop"...

Ago 26, 2009, 7:00 pm

24 > The Polish side of my family said "dupa" ("doopah"?) so you may be right about the origin.

Ago 26, 2009, 7:04 pm

My grandparents all spoke Polish; to a lesser extent, so did my parents. My mother and father seemed to prefer the diminutive dupka, which seemed to apply to that part of the anatomy in children, hence the "cuteness" factor. (To ears not used to the sounds of Polish, that "k" following on the "p" is not very hard.)