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Definition: An obsolete comparative term. It means ‘worse’.

Pronunciation: Say it like you see it. bad-er


Modern language purists will hate me forevermore. They will tell their grandchildren scary stories of me and my plight to resurrect the word badder. They will find out where I live and let the air out of my tyres. They will make effigies of me and burn it atop pyres of other effigies of me. And they will – no doubt – overlook the origins of badder and claim that the word was invented by a deranged Irishman and didn’t really exist before 2013.

But they’d be wrong.

Despite what you may think, it is perfectly linguistically acceptable to say “Bad – badder – baddest”. ‘Worse’ is the new badder – and has been since the 18th century. Badder first entered into common usage in the 14th century. ‘Bad’ itself dates to about the 12th century and referred to wicked, evil things. Its genesis is uncertain, however, as it seems to have no linked words in other languages.

Badder began its descent during Shakespeare’s time. Indeed, he himself never used it – though Defoe (writer of Robinson Crusoe, for example), did – even though he came after Shakespeare.

Why this word?

Despite what some people think, there really is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to use the English language. It is a living, constantly changing thing. What was badder yesterday is ‘worse’ today. But just because badder is obsolete doesn’t make it wrong. I myself recall being corrected in school as a 6 year old having attempted to inject badder into an already worsening situation. Today, 29 years later, I am able to declare that six-year-old Seán was right all along…

How to use the word badder in a sentence?

Everyone has a friend or a co-worker that corrects their grammar and language use. Think of the sentences “Actually – it’s ‘whom’”, or “’Swamp-Donkey’ is not a generally recognised conjunction.” The next time you find yourself on the receiving end of such statements, simply retort with “I am sorry – I didn’t realise my English was badder than yours.” The trap is set…

PS – Need the title of a ‘Breaking Bad’ spin-off? I have a suggestion…


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Written by Sean Carabini

Seán Carabini is a Dublin-based author. To date, Seán has written the humorous travel memoirs 'Sticking Out in Minnesota' and 'American Road', as well as 'American Road: The poems' - a book of travel poetry related to the memoir. Seán has also developed a podcast based on the book - subscribe to the American Road podcast today! Seán is a committee member of the Irish Writers' Union.

Chrissy Skelton is Seán Carabini's editor. A graduate of the University of Minnesota's Anthropology programme, Chrissy emerged armed with an arsenal of little-known words and cumbersome jargon - all of which will now be off-loaded onto 'unusedwords' readers!


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