The International House of Pancakes set itself apart among chain restaurants this September when it tweeted, “Pancakes. Errybody got time fo’ dat.” But the American starch dispensary—whose claims to internationality include a middling presence in Canada, four stores in the Middle East, and a menu disconcertingly inclusive of burritos, spaghetti, and the word French—failed to distinguish itself the next month with its tweet “Pancakes bae <3.”
At that point, the term bae had already been used by the official social-media accounts of Olive Garden, Jamba Juice, Pizza Hut, Whole Foods, Mountain Dew, AT&T, Wal-Mart, Burger King and, not surprisingly, the notoriously idiosyncratic Internet personas of Arby’s and Denny’s. Each time, the word was delivered with magnificently forceful offhandedness, the calculated ease of the doll that comes to life and tries to pass herself off as a real girl but fails to fully conceal the hinges in her knees. (“What hinges? Oh, these?”)
This bae trendspotting is courtesy of a newly minted Twitter account called Brands Saying Bae, which tweeted its first on December 27. Yesterday morning it had 7,000 followers, and by evening it had doubled to 14,000. That is the sort of audience engagement and growth that corporate accounts almost never see, despite their best attempts at hipness through dubious cultural appropriation. Brands Saying Bae is reminding people, rather, that advertising—of which social-media accounts for businesses are a part—seeks out that authenticity, twists it out of shape, and turns culture against people. Our brains are cannily adapted to sense inauthenticity and come to hate what is force-fed. So it is with a heavy heart that we mourn this year the loss of bae, inevitable as it was.