One of the snowboarders sitting on the run yelled to me, “Dude! Are you okay?”
“Yes, thanks!” I called back. I was on my back, sliding down the slope in a slow-motion rotation, wondering when my edges could catch enough to bring me to a stop. It was a gentle gravitational journey with enough time to think a bit.
“Did that kid really call me ‘Dude’? How nice of him.”
Sakeaus Bankson, editor of The Ski Journal, opened the Winter 2012-2013 issue with a description I can relate to: “I am a Grammarian. I am a bookworm. I am a word nerd.” He then laments his inevitable linguistic decline into ski-speak, which “is not the language of an educated, sane person—this [is] bro-cab, a dialect I had spent high school despising.” It’s a force that Bankson admits he’s powerless to forestall when the winter arrives, but he still tries to resist. I understand why.
I was talking with other skiers one day recently and realized how deep I am in ski jargon myself. “Bluebird day,” “catching an edge,” “taking a line,” “lifties,” “going uptop,” “catching air,” “chop,” “taking a core shot,” “avi debris” – these have naturally entered my conversation over the years because that’s just what happens. A specialized vocabulary is always part of joining a community with shared interests. There was a time when I’d hear conversations sprinkled with these terms and not follow everything being said. Now I join in that sprinkling without giving it much thought.
What I continue to successfully resist, however, is the bro-cab. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I’m in my mid-40s, so “shredding the gnar” or “taking a sick run” or being “stoked” about the “epic pow” just sounds weird coming from me. It reminds me of my mom kidding around with us, adopting Valley Girl speak at the most embarrassing moments.
More likely, though, it’s because I’m a word nerd, too. I can’t even write a text message without making it into a proper sentence. No shortcuts for me.
Bro-cab is full of shortcuts. It’s a code that I haven’t fully cracked. It’s a code with highly personalized meaning. What is a “sick” run? Depends upon who’s saying it. What is “epic pow” as opposed to regular powder? Who knows? It’s all a matter of taste.
And that’s where my natural interest in words severs me forever from being a Dude. Once you start studying the etymology of bro-cab you’re hopeless. You won’t even come close to getting a membership card to that community.
But that’s okay. I’m, like, totally over it.
*This essay was originally posted on the OutdoorsNW website in Winter 2013. http://outdoorsnw.com/2013/tales-from-the-lift-line-vi-dude/
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