Can you properly proclaim yourself a “bad ass”? Or, is “bad ass” status something that can only truly be conferred by others, in recognition of your record and your lifelong body of work?
This compelling issue arose because a friend at work referred to herself as a “bad ass.” Admittedly, she did it in a carefully phrased, utterly lawyerly way — I think she may have said that she “projects a bad ass persona,” or something similar — but the implication was essentially the same. And that raises the question of whether self-proclaiming that you are a “bad ass” is really valid. Can you become a “bad ass” simply by buying a “bad ass” nameplate for your desk?
I think earning true “bad ass” distinction can only come from your recognition as such by third parties, and not by a personal declaration. A “bad ass” is defined as someone who is tough, intimidating, and uncompromising. (And wouldn’t you like to know, incidentally, how the phrase came to have that meaning, and when it was first used in that context?) Being a “bad ass” therefore is a quality, like being deemed “smart,” that is difficult for individuals to self-assess, in part because it involves some comparison of your qualities to others. And true personal evaluation isn’t easy for people.
Samwell Tarly, for example, desperately wants to be seen as a tough guy, and he’ll remind anyone within earshot that he once killed a white walker — but despite poor Sam’s pleading, no one is going to call him a “bad ass.” Arya Stark, on the other hand, is recognized by one and all as a “bad ass,” without really even trying. She has that quality and everyone knows it, and Sam doesn’t. Indeed, the Urban Dictionary website says that the first rule of actually being a “bad ass” is that you don’t talk about being a “bad ass.”
I therefore question whether self-proclaiming that you are a “bad ass” really works. However, I acknowledge that my friend is indeed tough and uncompromising — so I hereby declare that I consider her to be a “bad ass,” thereby conferring upon her official “bad ass” status. Now I just need to find one of those nameplates for her desk.