Nobody else said boo about it
A colleague was startled by a word he saw in this sentence in the pages of The Sun:
But what happens when two of the most important people in your life — your best friend and your boo — don't agree?
Boo? Our desk dictionary says that boo is a slang term for marijuana. And it is. But the Oxford English Dictionary also lists this meaning:
Esp among teenagers: a girlfriend or boyfriend. Also as a form of address.
And, among others, these citations:
1988 Washington Post 22 Dec. Lionel R. Harris is my boyfriend. Lewis shot my Boo and it was not self-defense.
1994 T. WOODS True to Game Qua, please, please..baby, don't leave me. Don't leave me now! Boo, talk to me!
1998 Time Out N.Y. 2 July Reenacted phone conversations that find Miss Jones dishing stridently to a girlfriend about her man's imagined infidelities, as well as an actual conversation with her boo.
I’ve omitted a citation from 2004, which contains a couple of additional words that we do not permit in the print edition and which I am reluctant to introduce to the electronic edition.
The OED speculates that boo derives from beau, a point with which the electronic Urban Dictionary agrees:
boo is a term that is derived from the French word "beau" meaning beautiful. In 18th century England it meant an admirer, usually male. It made it's way into Afro-Caribean language perhaps through the French colonisation of some Caribean islands.
Now meaning girl or boyfriend
pet name: your hunny,sweety,baby.
The Urban Dictionary is, of course, an uncertain authority, since people are free to post whatever they think a word means. The entry on the origin of boo might have carried a little more weight if the author had spelled Caribbean correctly. But let that pass; the Urban Dictionary is not anal about orthography.
“Thank God John Carroll is no longer here,” my colleague commented. Mr. Carroll, a former editor, had pronounced views about the language published in his newspaper. It took some persuasion for him to permit the features desk to write about Beavis and Butt-head, and he might well have shrunk at boo as well.
It falls to copy editors at newspapers such as The Sun to operate as gatekeepers about language, particularly to question slang and colloquial expressions. Are they going to be obscure to many of our readers? Are they clear in context, or do they require some explanation? Are they of questionable taste? And whose taste is to determine that?
I’m not necessarily happy about policing the language — a grammarian’s lot is not a happy one. But so long as The Sun aims to be intelligible to a wide rather than a specialized audience, and to maintain a flexible but identifiable range of diction, the duty falls to the copy desk. And we gave boo a pass.