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Is Your Best Friend a Bro, Dude or Buddy? It Depends on Where You Live
Using the location data attached to billions of tweets, these maps indicate where the five best friend words — bro, buddy, dude, fella, and pal — occur most frequently.
A man's best friend is his dawg. Or his pal, bro or buddy, depending on preference. And, more relevant for this blog, depending on location. Revealed for the first time, thanks to the big data generated by gazillions of tweets: the geography of dudeness.
Dude may be just one of many options the English language has for men to refer to their male BFFs. These maps show that it is by far the most widespread of five such colloquial vocatives examined by Quartz magazine. However, its fight for the hearts and minds of American guys – hey, there's another one – is not over. In certain parts of the country, bros, buddies, pals and fellas are firmly standing their ground.
These maps are based on quantitative research by Jack Grieve, a forensic linguist, and Diansheng Guo of the University of South Carolina. Using the location data attached to billions of tweets, they generated maps indicating where these five vocatives occurred most frequently, via a technique called hot-spot testing.
Perhaps counter to the intuition, these terms, all quite generic and equally brief, have very specific geographic spreads (see #679 for earlier, similar maps on the occurrence of uh and um in the US).
Texas is bro country. But the term also covers the entirety of Oklahoma, and almost all of Louisiana and Arkansas, plus good chunks of Kansas and New Mexico. A mid-sized gathering of bros straddles the Michigan-Indiana border, and a tiny bro community lives by the seaside on either side of the Virginia-North Carolina state line. As an abbreviation of brother, the term bro predates the colloquialism of the surf culture one would instinctively associate it with – unless the Elizabethans were already catching waves back in the 1660s, when its first use is attested. As one of the most stable words in the Indo-European language family, both across languages and in time, brother is a word with a large family, including the Old English broþor, the Lithuanian broterelis and the Old Persian brata.
As a term of familiarity rather than familial connection, it is attested from 1912 in American slang.
If you call your bro a buddy, you're most likely a Minnesotan, an Iowan or an Ohioan. Quite possibly a Kansan, an Arkansan or a West Virginian. And more than maybe a North Dakotan, a Nebraskan or a Kentuckian. Far out west in Montana, a lost tribe of Buddies is clinging to the Canadian border.
First attested in American English in 1850, buddy could be a modified version of brother, but also of butty, a British colloquialism for companion (attested from 1802) that may be linked to the early 16th-century term booty fellow, as in someone who shares in the plunder. Another possible source is the use of butty as 'work-mate' by miners in England and Wales from the mid-19th century onwards.
They may not be everywhere, but dudes are spread out across the nation both in numbers and regions like no other. Dudes rule coastal and southern California, but are surprisingly absent from the East Coast, where they originated. They rule the southwest, notably Arizona and New Mexico, but their presence across Texas contrasts with a curious absence in the central part of the state. It's as if this heart of dudeness was ripped from Texas and dropped in the Great Lakes states of Michigan, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, which are as heaving with dudes as are Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas.
The earliest mention of dude is from 1883, as New York slang for a 'fastidious man', possibly as an abbreviation of Yankee Doodle, after the dandyish protagonist of that folk song. Other theories relate it to Low German Dudendop ('fool, dunce'), Saterland Frisian Duddigegen ('idiot'), or duddies, the Scottish word for clothes.
Back East, the term was used especially fashion-conscious men, while out West, it described any urbanite who stood out from the rough-and-tumble locals. As quoted in this travel journal from 1883: "[The Montana cowboy] is convinced that a person caught in the act of wearing a white linen collar, and who looks as though he might have recently shaved or washed his face, must be a dude, true and proper".
After World War I, the Eastern word attached itself to the Western phenomenon of the 'dude ranch'. The term describes guest ranches catering to Easterners coming to indulge in the nostalgia of the Wild West, after it was safely won. The locals called these tourists tenderfoots, greenhorns or dudes. The latter word apparently lacked the negative connotation of the former two, since the industry in 1926 founded the Dude Ranchers Association (which is still active).
In the 1960s, dude was co-opted into surfer slang as a general term for any male person. From the 1970s, it entered the mainstream and is now used to address anyone informally, including females (variations such as dudess and dudette having waned in popularity).
The 1998 movie The Big Lebowski gave the term another popularity boost. Its protagonist, a laid-back loser known as the Dude (“or His Dudeness, or Duder, or, you know, El Duderino, if you're not into the whole brevity thing”) infused the term with a scruffiness quite the opposite of its original, well-groomed connotation.
Mississippi is the home of the fella, with significant spillover into Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas. A smaller core of fella-ship is found in southeastern Indiana, leaking into Ohio and Kentucky. The last major concentration of fellas is found in a band cutting across Nebraska into Ohio. Cut off from the major centers of their preferred denomination, a small group of fellas straddles the Montana-North Dakota border.
Originally, a fellow is a business partner, someone who puts down money in a joint venture. The roots of the Old English felawe and the Old Norse felagi are fe (goods, money, fee) and lag (society, community). Used in a more general sense as 'any male person' from the 15th century onwards, although it is also applied gender-neutrally, for example in the King James Bible (Judges 9:37: And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows).
Men call other men pals in most of North Dakota and Minnesota, and contiguous bits of South Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. And almost nowhere else, except for two remarkable exclaves: an island of pals centered on eastern Kentucky, and a toehold in southwestern Utah. There also seems to be a relatively high frequency of pals in and around New York City.
Pal is one of the few English words in common usage to derive from Anglo-Romani, the language spoken by Gypsies in Britain. Others include lollipop (originally: candied apple) and chav (derogatory term for working-class youth). It is related to (continental) Romani phral and Sanskrit bhrātṛ, and cognate with English brother and Latin frater.
In its first attested usages, pal described a partner in crime: “When highwaymen rob in pairs, they say such a one was his or my pal”, wrote G. Parker in 1789. Later, the term more neutrally referred to a friend or associate. “Guppy”, Dickens wrote in Bleak House (1853), “we have been pals now for some years!”
The Quartz article mentions some caveats to the research, one being that due to its widespread use in other contexts, the vocative reach of man could not be gauged. Which is a bummer, man.
The research does seem to indicate that fella and pal may have their best days behind them. Perhaps they will one day be replaced by imports from other parts of the English-speaking world. Vocatives like mate, bloke or chap. After all, one of the most generic vocatives of all, the ubiquitous guy, started out as the English catholic terrorist Guido ('Guy') Fawkes.
But perhaps future history books will overlook him for the triple vocative of the rather splendidly-named Californian musician, Guy Mann-Dude.
Many thanks to Toon Wassenberg for sending the link to the article on Quartz, and to its author Nikhil Sonnad for granting permission to re-use some of the images accompanying the article.
Strange Maps #694
Got a strange map? Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Scientists are using bioelectronic medicine to treat inflammatory diseases, an approach that capitalizes on the ancient "hardwiring" of the nervous system.
- Bioelectronic medicine is an emerging field that focuses on manipulating the nervous system to treat diseases.
- Clinical studies show that using electronic devices to stimulate the vagus nerve is effective at treating inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- Although it's not yet approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, vagus nerve stimulation may also prove effective at treating other diseases like cancer, diabetes and depression.
The nervous system’s ancient reflexes<p>You accidentally place your hand on a hot stove. Almost instantaneously, your hand withdraws.</p><p>What triggered your hand to move? The answer is <em>not</em> that you consciously decided the stove was hot and you should move your hand. Rather, it was a reflex: Skin receptors on your hand sent nerve impulses to the spinal cord, which ultimately sent back motor neurons that caused your hand to move away. This all occurred before your "conscious brain" realized what happened.</p><p>Similarly, the nervous system has reflexes that protect individual cells in the body.</p><p>"The nervous system evolved because we need to respond to stimuli in the environment," said Dr. Tracey. "Neural signals don't come from the brain down first. Instead, when something happens in the environment, our peripheral nervous system senses it and sends a signal to the central nervous system, which comprises the brain and spinal cord. And then the nervous system responds to correct the problem."</p><p>So, what if scientists could "hack" into the nervous system, manipulating the electrical activity in the nervous system to control molecular processes and produce desirable outcomes? That's the chief goal of bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There are billions of neurons in the body that interact with almost every cell in the body, and at each of those nerve endings, molecular signals control molecular mechanisms that can be defined and mapped, and potentially put under control," Dr. Tracey said in a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJH9KsMKi5M" target="_blank">TED Talk</a>.</p><p>"Many of these mechanisms are also involved in important diseases, like cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension and shock. It's very plausible that finding neural signals to control those mechanisms will hold promises for devices replacing some of today's medication for those diseases."</p><p>How can scientists hack the nervous system? For years, researchers in the field of bioelectronic medicine have zeroed in on the longest cranial nerve in the body: the vagus nerve.</p>
The vagus nerve<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYyOTM5OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTIwNzk0NX0.UCy-3UNpomb3DQZMhyOw_SQG4ThwACXW_rMnc9mLAe8/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C0%2C0%2C0&height=700" id="09add" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f38dbfbbfe470ad85a3b023dd5083557" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
Electrical signals, seen here in a synapse, travel along the vagus nerve to trigger an inflammatory response.
Credit: Adobe Stock via solvod<p>The vagus nerve ("vagus" meaning "wandering" in Latin) comprises two nerve branches that stretch from the brainstem down to the chest and abdomen, where nerve fibers connect to organs. Electrical signals constantly travel up and down the vagus nerve, facilitating communication between the brain and other parts of the body.</p><p>One aspect of this back-and-forth communication is inflammation. When the immune system detects injury or attack, it automatically triggers an inflammatory response, which helps heal injuries and fend off invaders. But when not deployed properly, inflammation can become excessive, exacerbating the original problem and potentially contributing to diseases.</p><p>In 2002, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues discovered that the nervous system plays a key role in monitoring and modifying inflammation. This occurs through a process called the <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01321" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">inflammatory reflex</a>. In simple terms, it works like this: When the nervous system detects inflammatory stimuli, it reflexively (and subconsciously) deploys electrical signals through the vagus nerve that trigger anti-inflammatory molecular processes.</p><p>In rodent experiments, Dr. Tracey and his colleagues observed that electrical signals traveling through the vagus nerve control TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. These electrical signals travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, triggering a molecular process that ultimately makes TNF, which exacerbates conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.</p><p>The incredible chain reaction of the inflammatory reflex was observed by Dr. Tracey and his colleagues in greater detail through rodent experiments. When inflammatory stimuli are detected, the nervous system sends electrical signals that travel through the vagus nerve to the spleen. There, the electrical signals are converted to chemical signals, which trigger the spleen to create a white blood cell called a T cell, which then creates a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. The acetylcholine interacts with macrophages, which are a specific type of white blood cell that creates TNF, a protein that, in excess, causes inflammation. At that point, the acetylcholine triggers the macrophages to stop overproducing TNF – or inflammation.</p><p>Experiments showed that when a specific part of the body is inflamed, specific fibers within the vagus nerve start firing. Dr. Tracey and his colleagues were able to map these relationships. More importantly, they were able to stimulate specific parts of the vagus nerve to "shut off" inflammation.</p><p>What's more, clinical trials show that vagus nerve stimulation not only "shuts off" inflammation, but also triggers the production of cells that promote healing.</p><p>"In animal experiments, we understand how this works," Dr. Tracey said. "And now we have clinical trials showing that the human response is what's predicted by the lab experiments. Many scientific thresholds have been crossed in the clinic and the lab. We're literally at the point of regulatory steps and stages, and then marketing and distribution before this idea takes off."<br></p>
The future of bioelectronic medicine<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTYxMDYxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjQwOTExNH0.uBY1TnEs_kv9Dal7zmA_i9L7T0wnIuf9gGtdRXcNNxo/img.jpg?width=980" id="8b5b2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c005e615e5f23c2817483862354d2cc4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2000" data-height="1125" />
Vagus nerve stimulation can already treat Crohn's disease and other inflammatory diseases. In the future, it may also be used to treat cancer, diabetes, and depression.
Credit: Adobe Stock via Maridav<p>Vagus nerve stimulation is currently awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration, but so far, it's proven safe and effective in clinical trials on humans. Dr. Tracey said vagus nerve stimulation could become a common treatment for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's, diabetes, hypertension, shock, depression and diabetes.</p><p>"To the extent that inflammation is the problem in the disease, then stopping inflammation or suppressing the inflammation with vagus nerve stimulation or bioelectronic approaches will be beneficial and therapeutic," he said.</p><p>Receiving vagus nerve stimulation would require having an electronic device, about the size of lima bean, surgically implanted in your neck during a 30-minute procedure. A couple of weeks later, you'd visit, say, your rheumatologist, who would activate the device and determine the right dosage. The stimulation would take a few minutes each day, and it'd likely be unnoticeable.</p><p>But the most revolutionary aspect of bioelectronic medicine, according to Dr. Tracey, is that approaches like vagus nerve stimulation wouldn't come with harmful and potentially deadly side effects, as many pharmaceutical drugs currently do.</p><p>"A device on a nerve is not going to have systemic side effects on the body like taking a steroid does," Dr. Tracey said. "It's a powerful concept that, frankly, scientists are quite accepting of—it's actually quite amazing. But the idea of adopting this into practice is going to take another 10 or 20 years, because it's hard for physicians, who've spent their lives writing prescriptions for pills or injections, that a computer chip can replace the drug."</p><p>But patients could also play a role in advancing bioelectronic medicine.</p><p>"There's a huge demand in this patient cohort for something better than they're taking now," Dr. Tracey said. "Patients don't want to take a drug with a black-box warning, costs $100,000 a year and works half the time."</p><p>Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, elaborated:</p><p>"Why would patients pursue a drug regimen when they could opt for a few electronic pulses? Is it possible that treatments like this, pulses through electronic devices, could replace some drugs in the coming years as preferred treatments? Tracey believes it is, and that is perhaps why the pharmaceutical industry closely follows his work."</p><p>Over the long term, bioelectronic approaches are unlikely to completely replace pharmaceutical drugs, but they could replace many, or at least be used as supplemental treatments.</p><p>Dr. Tracey is optimistic about the future of the field.</p><p>"It's going to spawn a huge new industry that will rival the pharmaceutical industry in the next 50 years," he said. "This is no longer just a startup industry. [...] It's going to be very interesting to see the explosive growth that's going to occur."</p>
The first rule of Vulture Club: stay out of Portugal.
So you're a vulture, riding the thermals that rise up over Iberia. Your way of life is ancient, ruled by needs and instincts that are way older than the human civilization that has overtaken the peninsula below, and the entire planet.
"The Expanse" is the best vision I've ever seen of a space-faring future that may be just a few generations away.
- Want three reasons why that headline is justified? Characters and acting, universe building, and science.
- For those who don't know, "The Expanse" is a series that's run on SyFy and Amazon Prime set about 200 years in the future in a mostly settled solar system with three waring factions: Earth, Mars, and Belters.
- No other show I know of manages to use real science so adeptly in the service of its story and its grand universe building.
Credit: "The Expanse" / Syfy<p>Now, I get it if you don't agree with me. I love "Star Trek" and I thought "Battlestar Galactica" (the new one) was amazing and I do adore "The Mandalorian". They are all fun and important and worth watching and thinking about. And maybe you love them more than anything else. But when you sum up the acting, the universe building, and the use of real science where it matters, I think nothing can beat "The Expanse". And with a <a href="https://www.rottentomatoes.com/tv/the_expanse" target="_blank">Rotten Tomato</a> average rating of 93%, I'm clearly not the only one who feels this way.</p><p>Best.</p><p>Show.</p><p>Ever. </p>
Contrary to what some might think, the brain is a very plastic organ.
As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active.