The Washington Post

The eternal debate: ‘bamma’ vs. ‘bama’

Wearing this shirt is probably pretty bamma. Or bama. (enoch7thppicks)

Clinton Yates is all over a grand municipal debate: When referring to an unrefined gentleman on the D.C. streets, do you spell it “bama” or “bamma“?

The immediate debate was prompted by Washington City Paper’s suggestion that the Redskins might be renamed to the Washington Bammas as a less racially offensive alternative. My ex-employer believes double-Ms are the way to go (reversing its earlier and overly prescriptive position of “‘Bama”; Clinton, native Washingtonian as he is, is a single-M guy all the way.

As for me, an un-native Washingtonian, I’m agnostic on rendering the venerable epithet. I like the look of “bamma” on the page, but I also prefer one-M derivatives: “bamafied,” “bamatude,” “baminosity.” The Washington Post style guide is silent on the matter.

One point I’d add: In a post Barack Obama world, the phonetic dimension of this debate has changed. Plenty of folks will look at “bama” in print and think it has something to do with POTUS and say “BAW-ma” rather than correctly thinking its roots are in “Alabama” and say “BAH-ma.” So yeah, sorry Clinton, I’m leaning “bamma” at the moment.

I have backup from bona fide native Washingtonian, denizen of the streets and Ward 7 D.C. Council candidate Ronald Moten. He’s a double-M man all the way: “That’s  how I would spell it,” he said. “I would never spell it with one M.”

Here’s a taste of the Twitter debate, courtesy of Clinton.


Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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