‘M4M4BEAR’ meanings explored as ‘terrible’ license plate meme goes viral

Bruno Cooke January 25, 2023
‘M4M4BEAR’ meanings explored as ‘terrible’ license plate meme goes viral
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A screenshot of a social media post in which Brian J White addresses a “30-something lady with license plate M4M4BEAR,” and tells her she has made a “terrible mistake,” has been circulating on Twitter, but understanding it requires one to understand the meaning of the acronyms/slang terms “M4M” and “M4M4bear.”

One user’s tweet of the post in question has garnered 2.3M viewed and nearly 30K likes. 

It’s not new, however. It appeared on iFunny in September 2019, and proved popular on Reddit in September 2018

In the case of the latter, it’s worth noting that the OP also didn’t get it – the difference in meaning between M4M4BEAR and MAMABEAR is crucial. So, here’s what you need to know.

An M.Go Microcar parked on double yellow lines, in Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK. This small car averages 65 miles per gallon.

What is the difference in meaning between ‘MAMABEAR’ and ‘M4M4BEAR’?

“Mama bear” has two meanings, one literal and the other colloquial. The first is simply what it sounds like: a female bear rearing one or more cubs.

The second is by extension: A woman, particularly a mother, who is very protective of their child or children. Both are easy to glean from the words themselves. And you can see why someone might want their license plate to read “MAMABEAR.”

The meaning the “M4M4BEAR” license plate implies is very different, however, and has to do with the tags people use in chatrooms to identify the sorts of people they are looking too meet.

If you are a male looking to meet a male, you might tag yourself as “m4m” (or “M4M”) meaning “Male For Male.” And in LGBT culture, a bear is a gay or bisexual man who has “facial/body hair and a cuddly body,” per Montclair State University’s definition

So ‘M4M4bear’ can mean Male For Male For Bear, depending on the context

Yes. While the second meaning of “bear” in an LGBT context has more to do with an “attitude or sense of comfort with natural masculinity and bodies,” the implication is clear.

The meaning some will find in a license plate that reads, “M4M4BEAR,” is that the its car’s driver is a gay or bisexual man looking to meet another gay or bisexual man and a gay or bisexual man who has facial and/or body hair, and a cuddly body.

It is chatroom lingo. This is also the explanation people have previously given to those who “don’t get” the joke.

“M4M4bear is something you would say in a personals post,” writes one Reddit user. “Male [for] male [for] Bear (a term for a large hairy gay man).”

Computer generated image of a laptop with multiple colorful message bubbles.

If you didn’t get it straight away, you are not alone

Lots of people seem to have come a cropper when trying to decipher the meaning of the M4M4BEAR license plate joke. To the extent that others claim to be “worried by the number of people who don’t get it.”

Others have expressed comparable concerns, i.e., been “worried” – about how fast they did get it.

Another context in which the formulations may appear is in labelling autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) recordings.

Whether you clocked it in an instant or required an explanation, there is no reason. Some people are up to date with Internet slang; others aren’t. For many, Internet chatrooms are unknown territory, and even for some die-hard chatroom users, the language men use to identify themselves for the purpose of dating other men may simply have passed them by.

You can formulate similar tags using different letters

Once you understand the meaning of the acronym “M4M,” it’s only a hop, skip and a jump to “F4M,” “F4F” and “M4F.”

The meanings of which are hopefully clear by now. 

In both dating and ASMR-related contexts, a third letter also pops up: “A” denotes “All.” As in, not looking exclusively for a male or female partner/voice.

Incidentally, M4M4 is also the name of a 2020 Malaysian film, which doesn’t have anything to do with the license plate joke, or the implied meaning of M4M4bear.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.