While walking through some mud at Moraine State Park last weekend, I thought about how “mud” is one of those perfect words that fits exactly what it is. Mud looks and acts and feels and smells exactly like something we should call “mud.” It would make no sense if the word for mud was something fancier sounding, like “strawberry” or “orgasm.” (Admittedly, “I accidentally stepped in a patch of orgasm” would have a nice ring to it.) “Armpit” is another perfect word. As is “rock.” And “wallet.” There are also perfect names: Professional race grifter Thomas Chatterton Williams, for instance, looks and sounds and acts and writes exactly like how someone named “Thomas Chatterton Williams” would. His finesse wouldn’t work as well if he was just some nigga from Newark named “Tommy Williams”—which is exactly who he is.
Anyway, I’ve always felt that “brolic” was perfect, too. I don’t remember the first time I heard it, but I know I never had a translation gap with it. It’s a word to describe a person who is large and muscular and also maybe aggressive. Perhaps even too large and muscular for their occupation. You’d expect an NFL linebacker to be brolic, so you wouldn’t describe him that way. But if you’re built like The Rock and working at T-Mobile, you might be a bit too brolic for your own good. Those bicep curls won’t help your iPad sales quotas!
Brolic can also describe particular body parts. Brolic arms or thighs, for instance. And also inanimate objects. Like a refrigerator. Or your student loan debt.
It’s such a perfect word that I assumed a universality with it. Some colloquialism, of course, is region-specific. Some is race-specific. But I always thought “brolic” was relatively transcendent, until I began incorporating it more frequently in writing and while speaking, and people started asking for clarification. And by “people” I don’t mean “white people!”—not this time, at least. Just people.
The homie Yessenia Funes apparently had a similar experience, and recently did a survey about it:
My guess is that, while many people in other parts of the country are familiar with it, “brolic” was born in the Mid-Atlantic, New York City, specifically. The internet backs me up. Nas, Biggie, Jay-Z, and Ghostface were all using it in songs as early as 1997. And, in a Spin Magazine feature from 1998, Method Man apparently took credit for inventing it. There’s also evidence that it stems from an anime character, but I got bored with reading about that.
Anyway, have you heard this word before, and do you know what it means? (Better yet, had you heard of it before, you know, reading this?) If not, where are you from? And what’s your word for “brolic?” Swole? Buff? Jacked? Damon?