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 from 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.”
An Urban Dictionary definition from 2006 goes:
“Completely, utterly, absolutely ordinary in every way. British slang. ‘Dave drives a totally bog standard Escort. Not even aircon. Dave is a cheap bastard.'”
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.