posted by Joe Anaya on March 11th, 2013

Every so often, a fad or a phrase hits our popular culture and spreads to the point that everyone is using it, often to the point of annoyance. I’m sure everyone remembers the “Whaaas up?” commercials. Like that commercial, some of them can be traced back to their origins. Some are a little more mysterious or harder to prove.

“My bad,” is a phrase that was used many times in the 90′s. You heard it in sports, mostly on the basketball courts. In a rare instance, the origin of the popular phrase is known. It came from the Dinka tribesman turned NBA center Manute Bol. He was on the Golden State Warriors and whenever he made a mistake, he would pat his chest and acknowledge in his broken English, “My bad.” It quickly spread through the team, fans and then across the country. Did he know he started a national fad?

I’ve invented at least one trend and been part of the genesis of another.

Way back, I was a substitute tuba player at a Stanford football game. Anyone who knows about marching bands knows that Stanford is famously unorthodox and irreverent. I had a great afternoon (the subject for a future blog). As I was leaving, two of the band leaders stopped me and asked if I had fun. In my excited and “stupefied” state, I sped trough my sentence and skipped a few words. So instead of “It was a hell of a lot of fun.” I stumbled through, “It was — hell — of — fun.” The two band guys looked at each other and repeated, “It was hell of fun?” “It was hell of fun.” A catch phrase was born.

I never thought much of it until several years later, my friend’s younger sister was describing her night out and ends it with, “It was hella fun.” “Hey, I started that.” Of course, she didn’t believe me. I couldn’t prove it, but that particular mutilation of grammatic syntax was created by yours truly. Not one I’m particularly proud of but there it is.

The other pop culture trend I was part of was the “L” on your forehead for Loser. It was my bachelor party and as we caravanned from the batting cages to the pool hall one of the cars got lost and showed up 30 minutes after the rest of us. As we were mocking the late guys, we forced them to buy the next round of beers. As boys are prone to do when on a roll, we called them losers and expanded on their punishment by threatening to make each of them wear a scarlet letter “L” for the rest of the night, to let everyone know they were Late Losers. Someone suggested a branded L. Then some suggested the branded L on their foreheads. Then   John P., one of the Losers, put his hand to his forehead and with his thumb and forefinger made the letter “L.”  This got a big laugh and we mimicked it the rest of the night. Losers!

Many years later, people were doing it. It was even mentioned in a Smashmouth song. This time I have some proof of at least the beginnings of our creation. Here’s a picture of the T-shirt from my bachelor party, under the 3 guys who showed up late are the words “Loser.” I also have witnesses.

(Matt W. Verification: I was there, remember the Losers, and won at pool.)

But again nobody believes me when I say; it started at my bachelor party many years ago. Or maybe they just don’t care. What would I get for creating a cultural phenomenon anyway? Nothing. But next time I do something unusual, I’m putting it in a blog, and having it notarized. At least that way, I’ll be able to say, “I created that trend, and here’s the proof.”

File Under Mr. Cool