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I am stumped in trying to remember the British expression used as a derogatory slant on being relegated, demoted, assigned to a lower position, reduced in rank, or (quite literally) being reassigned to the unsophisticated and remote regions or villages. I get stuck with "sent off to the 'colonies'," but I know colonies is not the term involved.

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possibly "Sent to Coventry" which actually means being "in trouble" not being sent away. –  Kate Gregory Dec 16 '11 at 15:46
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"Sent to Coventry" means "being given the silent treatment": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Send_to_Coventry –  slim Dec 16 '11 at 16:06
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Sent to the boondocks. or to the boonies. –  GEdgar Dec 16 '11 at 16:23
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@GEdgar, I have never heard anyone refer to the country as "the boondocks" on the right-hand side of the pond. –  Brian Hooper Dec 16 '11 at 16:56
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Agreed, boondocks is definitely a US thing. Also it tends to refer to very rural areas, whereas "the provinces" can refer to built up areas, as long as they're remote from London. –  slim Dec 16 '11 at 17:11

4 Answers 4

The term you are probably thinking of is "the provinces".

It is also common for London-centric people to use "provincial" in a pejorative manner.

Nowadays, generally when these words are used, it's in a knowing parody of that patronising big-city attitude, since people who live in "the provinces" are generally doing so by choice, and are happy to be doing so.

"The colonies" refers to overseas parts of the British Empire; Australia, Canada, pre-revolution America, various African countries, and so on. Being sent to the colonies would be quite a lot more severe than being sent to the provinces. Indeed, it was mostly convicts who were sent to the colonies.

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Perhaps rusticate is the term you are searching for. It means to move into the country, and is used in some universities to mean being suspended for some time (made to move away from the university), so has most of the overtones you are looking for.

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Hmm. "Jones wasn't really up to the 'cut and thrust' of the way we do things at Head Office, so we rusticated him". I don't think so. –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 23:58

Perhaps

Sent into the sticks.

I have certainly heard that said a lot in the South East.

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I knew there was a "vernacular" turn of phrase, but I just couldn't recall it! That's definitely standard for me (also SE UK). I also know it as relegated to the sticks –  FumbleFingers Dec 16 '11 at 23:55

The first expression that comes to mind is sidelined - removed from the center of activity or attention; placed into an inferior position.

He was sidelined seems to have started in the 50s, but really took off in the last couple of decades.

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