What you call your mates, and what it says about you

Buddy? Babe? Sugar? Boss?


The way you address your friends reveals everything – the type of school you went to, how posh you are, how you view those around you. Are you loving and warm? Or just a condescending prick?

Hun

No matter how you say it, there’s just something so patronising when you call someone “Hun” (always capitalised, please). You choose to remind everyone how inferior they are to you by calling them “Hun”, with a lot of emphasis on the “h”. You’re the type of person who’ll get botox when you’re 28, and be on your second nose job by the time you’re 35.

Unless, of course, you’re a member of the warlike Asiatic nomadic group who invaded and ravaged Europe in the 4th-5th centuries. In which case, Hun is fine.

Dude

The only people who still use this word are people who were banned from Games Workshop for stealing glue when they were 10-years-old. Dude is, without a doubt, the least cool word in the entire English lexicon. It’s uncoolness has absurd, outsized dimensions.

People who use it want to capture an idea: something louche and laid back, a vague late 60s Californian vibe. But they’re not in California, they’re in a muddy field in Castleford, working as a volunteer paintball marshall, explaining what a “hopper” is to a group of feckless, disinterested 13 year-olds – each of whom they address, pathetically, as “dude”.

Pal

Fuck me, you know you’re in trouble when somebody calls you pal. Underneath it’s every use is a broiling, tumultuous world of barely-contained frustration, hatred and ill will – all aimed, javelin-like, at you.

Pal comes out when someone wants money from you. Pal comes out when you’ve left dirty dishes on the side for a little bit too long. It’s just the sound of it as well, the hard “P”, like “puncture” or “punch” or “plead”, all unyielding and electrically severe. If someone’s calling you pal all the time there’s a good chance they secretly want to murder you.

Buddy

There’s something creepily over-familiar about calling someone “buddy”, like you’re the manic third year who’s been forced to live in halls again because all your ex-flatmates couldn’t stand you. It’s meant to sound friendly, but it’s more like the vocal equivalent of breathing heavily down someone’s neck.

Just a few buddies at the bar

Just a few buddies at the bar

Mate

Slightly passive-aggressive and always works like a charm. You’d never actually call your real mates “mate”. This one is reserved for the man driving your Uber once you’ve run out of questions about how his night is going and, at a push, the person who just spilled your drink.

Babe

You’ve been friend-zoned, babe, well and truly friend zoned. Every time your beloved patronisingly suffixes their requests for you to go and get them ice cream from the shop with this grating phrase it hurts. And it hurts even more while you’re carrying that 500ml tub of Phish Food back from Sainsbury’s.

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Babe what you doing put your shoes on

Lad

Pints. All the pints. You drank all the pints. If you’re not from Skipton don’t ever risk saying this outside of the safety of your tight-knit lad-circle, else you might end up in a behaviour seminar with Emma Watson’s ex-boyfriend.

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Screaming in pics makes you more of a lad

Bro

Alpha-Kappa-Sigma called, they want their expression back. Unless you’re wearing a backwards cap and doing a kegstand, you have no right to call anyone your “bro”, ever. This also extends to all the Broseph related synonyms, that need to be sent back to the mediocre buddy cop movie from whence they came.

frat

Bros always get snapped with a girl on each arm

Chum

Who are you, Dick Van Dyke? Fuck off back to the 1800s and take your penguins with you.

Darling

A balding, rotund 58-year-old Cockney cab driver approaches you. “Alright darlin’?” he says. The cringe can be felt within a thirty mile radius. Unless you are my granny Bee, don’t call me darling.

Boys

Not quite posh enough to be a last name Eton type, you go for the slight step down to Made in Chelsea territory. Only said with a gentle home counties accent, it’s usually sandwiched between the word “safe” and a thousand stories of your travels around Boliviah.

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They’ll get this picture framed

Surname

Alright, you went to a private school, no need to constantly remind everyone about it. Short of wearing your blazer out everywhere, referring to people as “Jenkin” and “Dugmore” is sure to have you earmarked as a faux-Bullingdon wannabe.

This is only acceptable as a form of address when talking about Premier League footballers (imagine actually calling them “Wayne” and “Diego”), but please call your friends by your first name if you want to be taken seriously.

Doll

You’re trying to sound like quirky 1920s jazz singer, but you’re coming across more like some kind of ventriloquist serial killer. The only people who call women “doll” are the guys who’ve spent their whole lives playing with dolls when they should have been speaking to women.

Man

Up there with “eat my shorts” and gel pens at the top of the list of things best left in the 90s, you can’t call anyone “man” without sounding like a crusty teen trapped in an awkward adult’s body. Next you’ll be calling things “rad” and throwing up peace signs.

Fella

The people that say fella are the sort of people that put kisses after leaving a Facebook comment. Using fella tells everyone the cultural highlight of your existence is the weekly trip you and the squad make to the outlets to pick up obnoxiously coloured Ralph Lauren polos and stop for a cheeky nandos.

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Don’t be jealous of the fellas

Chap

A formal glossy equivalent for when you’ve overused mate or pal and lurch for the nearest alternative. There’s a hint of the public schoolboy in here, deference mixed in with condescension.

Fam/G

Sitting in the smoking area for most of the night, clad in a vintage Adidas jacket and handing out filters to all your mates, you are the life and soul of the rave. But you’re never in there. You’re the one who offers to pick up for your collective fam, dreaming of the day you’ll make good enough friends with your dealer to sit in the back seat intimidating his customers.

Brah/bru

You either just got back from your travels or you’ve watched too many episodes of Angry Boys. Whichever one it is, if you’re not actually Australian or South African then you’re just the British equivalent of a Yank tourist shouting “Alright me old china, let’s go up the old apples’n’pears”.

Sugar

It’s not that I fancy you, it’s that I fancy myself way more. I mean, come on, look at me. I know you fancy me, but I’ll behave like your bigger brother and give you a hug with just one arm while I WhatsApp 10 girls at the same time.

Yeah what if I am close to my mum? No, I’m not insecure. Did I tell you how many girls I got with in freshers?

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Who wouldn’t fancy a men in yellow shorts

Boss

Aw’ight boss, been busy tonight then, you say, half-pissed as you clamber into the Uber with an iPhone in one hand and a tinnie in the other.

He’s not your boss though is he? In fact it’s actually the other way round: you’re paying him, you have the power, you’re the boss. So why the fuck are you addressing the taxi driver as boss? Why the fuck do you say “Keep the change boss” to the sullen looking guy in the newsagents?

Deep down you know why: because you’re a coward, because the idea of nakedly being the boss and lording it over all the drones who meet your every need disgusts you and excites you in equal measure. Baffled, you decide to ironically invert reality and call everyone in the service industry bossman.