Day 105: bay-leaves and equines


“What you want,” Dr F. mused, “is to be somebody’s bae.”

“Somebody’s bay,” I repeated, confused.

You might imagine, reader, that in mishearing “bae” as “bay” I wondered, “what, I want to be someone’s body of water? Someone’s blue lagoon?”

But you’d be wrong. In fact I thought, “what, I want to be someone’s smooth, chestnutty horse coat? Somebody’s fragrant tree?”

Like many girls, I went through a horse phase. Mine wasn’t a serious obsession, but I definitely put in a good number of hours flipping admiringly through picture books of various breeds; the word “bay” calls to mind the smooth glossy brown of fresh conkers.

(N.B. Do I maybe want to be someone’s conker? Not sure. It sounds slightly obscene and possibly violent.)

As for bay leaves, an enormous bay tree loomed outside the kitchen door in our back garden when I was growing up. My mum would send me out to pick bay leaves. She would hang them up in the kitchen to dry and use them in stews and casseroles.

The point, reader, is that the word “bay” triggered a lovely string of associations… chestnut-horses and horse-chestnuts and shiny, fragrant leaves.

“Ooh, yes,” I thought, “Ooh, yes, I DO want to be ALL those things!”

Meanwhile, Dr. F clarified: “Bae,” she repeated. “It stands for ‘before anyone else.’”

“Oh,” I said.

“It just made it into the Oxford dictionary,” she added.

I frowned skeptically.

The sense of being “before anyone else,” was, Dr. F. proposed, what I meant I lacked when I described myself as “lonely.” As she pointed out, I didn’t mean, simply, “I want company”; or, “I want to talk to a friend.” On the contrary, reaching out to others would sometimes exacerbate the “lonely” feeling by reminding me of my friends’ enmeshment in other, prior networks of love and responsibility.

When I got to campus after therapy I looked “bae” up. Except that I couldn’t remember how to spell it because I kept forgetting what the acronym was. I kept coming up with “be-all and end-all,” which seemed awfully sinister given its provenance and, also, a bit too bleaty as an acronym (baaea). [1]

When I finally remembered that bae supposedly stood for “before anyone else,” I looked it up in the OED. And what did I find? It was, according to the OED, the 16thc. spelling of “baa” as in, “the cry of a sheep or lamb; a bleat.”

“Pshaw!” I exclaimed. [2]

But I shouldn’t have judged so quickly. I was, it turned out, looking in the wrong Oxford dictionary. The word was not in the OED but rather in the upstart, which is much more permissive than the OED about the words it includes. defines bae as follows: “US informal A person’s boyfriend or girlfriend (often as a form of address): ‘I’m going to see my bae.’

Interestingly, however, it mentions nothing at all about it being an acronym, instead claiming it is simply an abbreviation of “baby” or “babe.”

The notion of being called “baby” or “babe” is quite as exotic to me as the idea of being someone’s “before anyone else.” Nonetheless, I prefer bae as an acronym. To wit:


I’ll be

your Bethe-Ansatz Equation,

your Bosomy Amorphous Entity,

your Beta-Amylase Enzyme,

your Baddest-Assed Evildoer,

your Bureau des Affaires Etrangères,

and your Bloody Anticlimactic Ending.

And what will you be for me?

Much love &c.,




[1] See Macbeth, 1.7.5.

[2] I didn’t really say “pshaw”; I actually said something like “puh,” in a disgusted tone; but it’s important to seize the opportunity to use the word pshaw whenever the occasion presents itself.


One thought on “Day 105: bay-leaves and equines

  1. I asked my bae whether he knew that bae is an acronym and he said he did! Though he thought it was “baby above everything”.
    I find both dubious, because it suggests that people were using either phrase so often that they felt the need to create a shortened form. Or? Perhaps people invent acronyms just for the sake of having an acronym?
    In any case. A shortened form of babe seems more likely to me.
    When I first encountered the term I thought it was Bey, as in, people adoringly referring to their partner as the shorter ended form of Beyoncé as a compliment. Which still seems less weird to me than Baby Above Everything or Before Anyone Else. So there.

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