Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language

Article excerpt

MR Alastair Campbell put his political foot in it when he referred to `bog standard' comprehensive schools, but he brought new life to a marginalised slang phrase. The connotations, though, need not have been as pejorative as some of Mr Campbell's critics presumed. The bog in question, despite Mr Steve Bell's satirical cartoonist's interpretation in the Guardian, is not in all likelihood the lavatory.

A letter-writer to the Guardian came up with an ingenious etymology, insisting that the correct form is boxed standard. The phonology is convincing, but even if evidence exists of industrial goods being described as boxed standard, it need not lie behind the slang bog standard. We are in the territory of au quay, Old Kinderhook, orl korrect and similar explanations of okay/OK. Or of `Port Out, Starboard Home' for posh.

Bog is a funny, I mean an amusing, word. Does not Peter Simple make Boggs the marque of some fantastical motorcar? And I see the dreadful Encarta World English Dictionary tells us that bogtrotter is a `highly offensive term for an Irish person'. You don't say? Perhaps in the revised edition they could include piskie's podex as a highly offensive term, if needed, for a Cornish person. …

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