Keith Huss (@keithhuss) writes on Twitter: “Having British wife and friends, I’m familiar with the phrase “bog standard”. Recently read it twice on US tech blogger sites.”
New one on me!
The Oxford English Dictionary describes “bog standard” as: “slang (depreciative, chiefly Brit.). Ordinary, basic, standard without extra features or modification; unexceptional or uninspired.”
The citations (the earliest one is form 1962) all refer to cars or computers, with the exception of this 1995 quote from Empire magazine: “A bog-standard biography with a cheap ‘Psycho’ sales gimmick, you can’t help thinking [Anthony] Perkins deserved better.”
The etymology is uncertain but interesting. The OED suggests that it may have derived from “box-standard,” an obsolete noun denoting “a frame or standard hollow tubing forming the main framework of a machine, engine, etc.” “Box-standard” shows up as an adjective meaning the same thing as “bog-standard” in 1983. According to Google Ngram Viewer, the two phrases were roughly equally popular until the late 1990s, when “bog” took off and crushed the opposition.
Is “bog-standard” a NOOB? It’s out there, a little. Suzy Menkes wrote in the New York Times in 2012 that a fashion show has a “focus on outerwear, including cropped jackets rather than the bog-standard trench.” But most of the quotes I find are, as Keith Huss suggests, on tech sites, such as this from Ziff-Davis’s Extreme Tech: “The company’s plans for an ARM-based server business may be in their infancy, but AMD has built at least one bog-standard ARM core.”
Whatever that means.
Not long ago, I quoted Lena Dunham’s use of the (originally) Australian “fully” as a more all-purpose emphasizer than Americans’ use of the word. Now here she is again in yesterday’s New York Times, talking about when, as a teenager, a therapist asked her to picture a soothing location:
“I fully just imagined Eloise’s home at the Plaza.”
Heloise Eloise was the heroine of a series of picture books who, indeed, lived at the Plaza Hotel.)
Seems like Dunham is on a one-woman crusade to get this word some traction.
I spied a relatively subtle addition to the list of British football expressions taken up by American soccer participants in a quote in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer. The American-born manager (actually, that’s another one–American lingo would be “coach”) of the Philadelphia Union, after a loss, said: “Credit to Dallas because they outplayed us from that point on.”
The more common British sports cliche (and correct me if I’m wrong) would be “Full credit to…” But they both differ from typical American coach-speak in this situation, which is, “Give them credit.”
I told you it was subtle.
I thought that alleged Mae West quote might get your attention…
Back in May 2013, I wrote that I didn’t expect to come across hard man (BrE for “tough guy”) in the U.S. again. It did take almost two years, but in any event, on NPR this morning, host Scott Simon described the captain of the U-boat that sank the Lusitania as “the kind of guy that you might actually, you know, like to have schnapps with, but a very hard man.”
On Google News, all the recent uses of the phrase are British, but I found one interesting. This was an article from the Daily Mail about Tom Benson, the owner of the (American) football team the New Orleans Saints. The article anonymously quotes “a close family source” as saying, ‘Tom has always been a hard man.”
I wouldn’t trust anonymous sources generally, even less so in the Daily Mail. But when a presumably American anonymous source starts throwing around British expressions in that English rag, well, as we say in New York, fuhgeddaboutit.
The store is in New York. Once again running the risk of stating the obvious, the American spelling is “spoiled.”
On my first extended stay in England, some fifteen years ago, I encountered the expression “spoilt for choice,” referring (forgive me if this is obvious) to a situation where one has a lot of options. Ever since, I have been looking for an appearance on these shores, presumably with the first word spelled “spoiled.”
My wait is finally over. The ever-observant Jan Freeman sent a link to a Wall Street Journal article about women’s trousers that contains the line “Those wanting to make a higher-end designer commitment will be spoiled for choice.”
I was going to categorize this as an “outlier,” on account of the author of the WSJ article, Alice Cavanagh. Her blog doesn’t give her nationality, but most of her writing has been for the British or Australian editions of “Vogue.” So she probably wasn’t even aware she was writing anything out of the ordinary.
But then I found it a couple of times in the New York Times archives, including a 2014 article about a New Jersey ice cream joint: “customers can also find themselves spoiled for choice at the 1940s-style roadside walk-up, which lists 60 flavors of homemade hard ice cream and 11 of soft serve on its outdoor sign.”
So “spoiled for choice” gets bumped up to “On the radar.”
Fully gets some celebrity love:
(Thanks to @mariayagoda.)