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Bromance in American English

Andrew Coatsworth
Honors 211


I. Introduction
In American culture, it has become a widely held belief among males that heterosexuality
is a key component in fulfilling the idea of masculinity. Although the society as a whole has
developed a greater acceptance of homosexuality, many straight males still fear being perceived
as non-masculine. However, there is somewhat of an exception when it comes to the
relationships between two males: the bromance. The term bromance, first coined by writer
David Carnie (Corliss), is the combination of the words brother and romance. Websters
Dictionary provides multiple definitions for brother including, a male who has the same
parents as another, one related to another by common ties to interests, and a fellow member
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary). Over the years, brother has been shortened to bro, a term that
signifies endearment between two males. The verb romance, on the other hand, is defined as
to have or to try to have a romantic relationship with someone, and to give special attention to
someone in order to get something that you want from that person (Merriam-Webster
Dictionary). Although the term bromance is the simple combination of brother and
romance, the definition and meaning of the term are much more complex. The top definitions
of bromance on, a user created lexicon, include, the complicated love and
affection shared by two straight males, and a non-sexual relationship between two men that are
unusually close (UrbanDictionary).
Bromance has become a common occurrence in American pop culture. TV shows and
movies such as Scrubs, Entourage, Wedding Crashers, and Superbad all revolve around
characters in bromance relationships. Additionally, bromance relationships are very common for
young adults, specifically the millennial generation. It has been hypothesized that this trend is a
result of a delay in major life milestones (Bindly). During the 1950s, men could finish college,
find employment, and get married within the span of a few months. However, in modern
American culture, this transition to adulthood takes roughly a decade longer according to
Michael Kimmel, a sociology professor at Stony Brook University (Bindly). As a result of the
delayed process, young adult males commonly cultivate stronger relationships that can be
labeled as bromance.
While the transition to adulthood may currently be delayed, bromance relationships are
not exclusive. It is possible for a male to be in both a traditional romantic relationship with a
female and bromance relationships. Elizabeth Chen offers females with a list of elements to help


determine if their male partner is in a bromance. The list includes: he has more nicknames for
his best guy friend than for you, they take 10 minutes to tell the hilarious story about the first
day they met (again), and you finally earn enough airline miles for the anniversary trip youve
been dreaming of, and he says, Cool! Dave and I can go to Vegas! (Chen 246-247).
These relationships revolve around activities and characteristics that would normally be
attributed to more traditional romantic relationships. For example, it would not be out of the
ordinary for two men in a bromance to go on a dinner or movie outing together. Additionally,
beyond activities, these relationships allow for a greater range of emotional expression than
traditional friendships. Whereas traditional friendships may have stricter boundaries on what
two friends are willing to talk about, men in a bromance tend to discuss much more private
topics. Finally, as a result of the more open expression of emotion, the friends will be more
willing to display aspects of their friendship such as inside jokes in public settings. Although the
components of a bromance can be complex and a very American ideal, the relationship boils
down to two emotions commonly found in other cultures: love and happiness.
II. BromanceLove and Happiness
While happiness is generally associated with male friendships, love is not. In American
culture, love is commonly restricted to familial and romantic relationships. However, as
previously discussed, bromance is an alternative form of traditional friendships that includes
non-romantic love. In order to fully understand the idea of a bromance, it is necessary to
breakdown the definitions of love and happiness in Natural Semantic Metalanguage. Love,
according to Ravin and Leacock, can be described as:
Person-X loves person-Y
a. X often thinks about Y
b. X thinks good things about Y
c. X wants to do good things for Y
d. X wants good things to happen to Y
e. When X thinks about Y, X often wants to be with Y
f. When X thinks about Y, X often feels something good
(Ravin and Leacock 136)
Although some may consider it to be out of the traditional social norms for two nonrelated males to feel love towards one another, especially in the case of masculinity, the Natural
Semantic Metalanguage definition paints a different picture. When broken down into


universals, the idea of love simply suggests that one person has good feelings towards another.
Pairing love with happiness helps to more completely describe the idea of a bromance.
Happiness, as described by Anna Wierzbicka in Natural Semantic Metalanguage is:

X felt something (because X thought something)

sometimes a person thinks:
some very good things happened to me
I wanted things like this to happen to me
I cant want anything else
When this person thinks this this person feels something very good
X felt something like this (because X though something like this)
(Wierzbicka 53)

The aspects described in happiness are obviously not exclusive to bromance relationships.
However, when love and happiness are paired in the context of a non-sexual relationship
between two men that are unusually close (UrbanDictionary), it is possible to begin to
understand the idea of a bromance. When the two friends are together, they experience
happiness and the shared love, and when the friends are no longer together, they still experience
the aspects associated with love. This differs from a more traditional male friendship as a result
of the inclusion of love. Although breaking down bromance into the most basic terms may not
make the term seem like a unique idea, it is important to consider the implications behind the
III. The Cultural Implications of Bromance
Based strictly on definition, bromance does not seem to be a culture specific or even a
unique relationship. As previously stated, it involves the common emotions of love and
happiness. In order to fully understand why bromance is a unique relationship and involves
emotional states outside of cultural norms, it is necessary to consider the social implications of
bromance. According to Amina Batyreva, the idea of bromance stems from two places:
homophobia and an increased awareness of homosexuality in mainstream culture. She posits
that, people use bromance to completely close off the possibility of romantic or sexual samesex interaction between two close male friends (Batyreva). Batyreva goes on to discuss the role
of bromance in popular culture and while she offers very strong opinions, there is merit to her
The traits associated with masculinity include: strength both physically and mentally,
mental toughness, good looks, and a high level of emotional control. As result of this emotional


control, it is not necessarily within social norms for males to express love for one another.
Whether this stems from homophobia as Batyreva suggests or another factor, males have felt the
need to develop a label for close friendships: bromance. Bromance has become a safeguard
against perceived homosexuality. The development of the term bromance is an attempt to
normalize what were previously considered complex or even strange relationships.
IV. Conclusion
Love and happiness are not unique emotional states in American culture. However, when
considered within the scope of the close relationship between two males, the bromance provides
insights into the construction of modern day American society. Men have felt the need to
normalize what otherwise might be considered strange relationships. While many view the
creation of bromance as damaging and potentially hurtful to others, in the long run it may
positively impact emotional expression among American males. As bromance become more
widely accepted, these relationships will become less unique. It will no longer be necessary to
normalize a bromance, and in turn, it can be viewed simply as a friendship.

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the "bromance" The McGill Daily. McGill Daily, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Bindley, Katherine. "Here's to the 'bromance'--straight Men Embracing Close Friendships."
JSCMS. N.p., 18 Mar. 2008. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
"Bromance." Urban Dictionary. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
"Brother." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Chen, Elizabeth J. "Caught in a Bad Bromance." Texas Journal of Women and the Law 21
(2012): n. pag. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Corliss, Richard. ": A Fine Bromance." Time. Time Inc., 17 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Ravin, Yael, and Claudia Leacock. "A Problem of Definition." Polysemy: Theoretical and
Computational Approaches. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. 136. Print.
"Romance." Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2016.
Wierzbicka, Anna. "Defining Emotion Concepts: Discovering "cognitive Scenarios"" Emotions
across Languages and Cultures: Diversity and Universals. Cambridge: Cambridge UP,
1999. 53. Print.