Yeah, bwee-ayyy!
September 30, 2008 2:15 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know - or care to guess at - the origin of the phrase "Yeah, bwee-aayyy!" uttered by teenagers like me in 1970s Northern England to express complete disbelief at a huge lie told by someone else?

So, North Notts/South Yorks, around 1975. Your friend just told you he shagged Doreen Knickerelastic. the cutest girl in town. This is obviously a lie. You stroke your invisible beard and say "Yeah, bwee-aayyy"... a riposte to which there is no come back whatsoever.

What on earth is the origin of this? Does anyone else remember it? Or was it confined to boys at the King Edward VI Grammar School, Retford?

(I always thought it sounded French, like 'Bouillée", but I guess it could also have a hint of Jamaican "bwoy").
posted by unSane to Writing & Language (17 answers total)
Surely no relation to Flavor Flav?
posted by bink at 2:21 PM on September 30, 2008

When I was at school (Lancashire, late 70s/early 80s), the word in question was "belm", albeit very distorted. Urban dictionary credits this word (for what it's worth) to Blue Peter's Joey Deacon, although your usage would predate that.
posted by Bodd at 2:24 PM on September 30, 2008

Flavor Flav would be more of a "Yeeeeah, boy-eeeee!" (for reference).
posted by nitsuj at 2:25 PM on September 30, 2008

stroking your invisible beard is reminiscent of chinny reckon
posted by handybitesize at 2:46 PM on September 30, 2008

I would expect it was a corruption of Flavor Flav's trademark line. Flav's intonation of "Boy" would be easily distorted, possibly through indirect transmission and/or because your classmates had a different accent from Flav's. (Is Flav even an English speaker? Seeing him on TV makes me think he's some sort of high-functioning imbecile)
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on September 30, 2008

In Scotland in the early nineties, we stroked our chins and said 'Aye, chinny!'.

The Yeeeaaah boyeee thing was in Shaun of the Dead too, if memory serves.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:51 PM on September 30, 2008

Flavor Flav wasn't popular in 1970s England.

Growing up in 1970s Southeast England we used Chinny Reckon or Itchy Chin. That definitely explains the invisible beard, but I have no idea what the word is meant to mean.
posted by Joh at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2008

I speculate that it comes from Jamaican usage, or if not that it has been filtered through Jamaican English. I've heard people who are influenced by this language using 'Yeah Bwoy!' a lot, but not to express disbelief, but agreement or to say that an idea is good (from early 90's to 2002)
posted by Not Supplied at 2:54 PM on September 30, 2008

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that, as with many (many, many) things in hip-hop, Flavor Flav got it from Jamaicans.
posted by box at 3:09 PM on September 30, 2008

Dunno if that's where your pals in Northern England got it, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me.
posted by box at 3:10 PM on September 30, 2008

For the record, I will admit that I somehow managed to only read 75% of the words in this question, including the key one: "1970's". My bad.
posted by GuyZero at 3:16 PM on September 30, 2008

In London in the 70's it was all "oh, bowl-yaaaaay" with the last word drawn out and sneered horribly. This wonderful expression was of course used in exactly the same way as all the other variants detailed above (to indicate total disbelief on the part of the speaker).

I think there were also versions along the lines of "chin-bowwwwwlllll" and "ooooh, itchy chin". I have always wondered WTF it was all about and I'm still none the wiser.

Sometimes the legendary Jimmy Hill got mashed up with this too, but that's another story entirely...
posted by Chairboy at 4:17 PM on September 30, 2008

Blimey. "ooooh, itchy chin" was still going strong in the 90's and "Jimmmeeeeeeeeeeeeee" was popular. No idea it had anything to do with Jimmy Hill.
posted by Not Supplied at 4:44 PM on September 30, 2008

As I grew older in my North Yorkshire school at around this point in history, the more devastating version of this would simply involve the briefest of chin-strokes, barely noticeable as having been deliberate.

Sorry, I don't know the answer to the question.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:06 PM on September 30, 2008

Recall the chin-stroking others have mentioned (wilds of south Cheshire) but not that phrase. You could also stick your tongue in your cheek to make a bulge and rub that for similar effect.
posted by Abiezer at 11:16 PM on September 30, 2008

This was still going strong in Kent in the mid-1990s - the version there was chin-stroking accompanied by "be-ard" in the same intonation as the OP's phrase, or occasionally "Jimmy reckon" or "Jimmy hill chin".
posted by greycap at 4:32 AM on October 1, 2008

I may be wrong but I always understood it to be 'Bulleeee' as in bull as in bullsh**.
posted by xla76 at 9:44 AM on October 1, 2008

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