I have a question about the usage of the word 'bog' in the following sentence:

Bog standard scoops of ice cream etc

I understand that the meaning is 'form'; nevertheless, this is the first time I have seen it. Of course, I'm not a native speaker, Italian being my mother tongue. Any help would be much appreciated. Smile.

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    "Bog standard" is an American idiom for "unremarkable". I don't know what the etymology is, and I've never heard "bog" used in any other construction that would suggest the same sense. (Normally "bog" is simply a swampy area.)
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 23 '16 at 18:35
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    @HotLicks I never heard 'bog standard' in the US. I've often heard it in England (and J. Oliver is British).
    – Joel
    Apr 23 '16 at 22:43
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    @tchrist - I'm not claiming it's never heard, but it's not something I've ever heard. Given questions like english.stackexchange.com/questions/66102/… and the fact that every reference below is British, I just want to highlight for the OP that it's typically British rather than American.
    – Joel
    Apr 24 '16 at 1:36
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    The OP could have looked up "bog standard" and found all the information she needed herself. The question lacks basic research. Could the OP please provide the source of said citation.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 24 '16 at 12:22

From Tony Thorne, The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang (1990):

bog-standard adj British totally unexceptional, normal and unremarkable. Bog here is used as an otherwise meaningless intensifier.

From Paul Beal, Partridge's Concise Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (1989):

bog-standard. Standard, straight from a factory, with no refinement or modification: orig. applied mainly to motorcycles, since mid-1950s; by 1980s > gen. engineering, with wier application. Prob. ex bog-wheel. (Bishop; Hanley, 1988.)


bog-wheel. A bicycle: Cambridge undergraduates': earlier C.20. (Keynes, 1981, quoting his diary for 1907.) Its wheels are—like the gap in a water-closet seat—round. Cf. bog n., 1.—2. ["Abbr. bog-house, ... a privy, since early C.19 (in Spy, 1825); orig. Oxford University s{tudents}"; "Abbr. bog-wheel, a bicycle: Marlborough College"] Hence, a motorcycle: Army: WW2. (L.S. Beale.)

So Oxford University students were calling privies "bog-houses" by 1825, and Marlborough College and Cambridge University students were calling bicycles "bog-wheels" by 1907—presumably because of a perceived similarity between the roundness of bicycle wheels and the roundness of the open space in a privy seat. From bicycles, the term bog-wheel was extended to motorcycles, and by World War 2 the term was sometimes shortened (when used in that sense) to the word bog.

The compound adjective bog-standard then arose in the 1950s in the sense of "standard-issue," first in connection with motorcycles, but later applied to other machinery, and eventually (it seems) to such general things as scoops of ice cream.

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    I've never heard "bog" used to refer to a bicycle in the US.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 23 '16 at 18:38
  • A word of warning, nowhere online did I find the citation Bog standard scoops of ice cream. And I mean nowhere. idem for its shorter version, i.e. no results for "bog standard scoops" which suggests that the sentence cited by the OP is definitely not "bog standard", and may not have even been uttered by Jamie Oliver.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 24 '16 at 12:20
  • @Mari-LouA "bog standard" is the idiom. It is just being applied to scoops of ice cream in this case. There's no particular reason to expect every possible thing that someone might apply it to be a common phrase. I might say "a bog standard stackexchange question" for example to indicate that it is run of the mill. Apr 24 '16 at 12:52
  • @MartinSmith but the OP is citing someone, I presumed it was Jamie Oliver, you thought she was referring to John Oliver... if it was the latter, the transcript would be online somewhere. At least the OP could say "where" and from "whom" she heard the line.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 24 '16 at 13:38
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    @MartinSmith Hmm... but a scoop is always a scoop, have you seen an exceptional ice-cream scoop? :) Ice-cream flavours can be bog-standard such as: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate, or they can be rather unique, weird and original. I once had saffron flavoured ice-cream, and another aromatised with rosemary.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Apr 24 '16 at 14:00

Probably most British speakers of English would be familiar with the phrase; I have often heard it in the London area, and never thought about its origin. OED mentions the theories about the origin of the phrase given above, then says "The most commonly held view is that the transition from box to bog resulted from a mishearing or misunderstanding of box-standard n." That theory does have the problem that the earliest printed evidence for 'box-standard' is 20 years later than 'bog-standard,' and all the theories about its origin seem a little speculative.


There is a common backronym for bog-standard: "British Or German Standard" - but as the answers above make clear that is very much post hoc.

The phrase caused political controversy in 2001 when the UK Prime Minister's spokesman referred to "bog-standard comprehensive" schools - which was taken to be insulting by some (an interpretation strongly denied by the PM's office.)


"Bog-standard" means ordinary. Here's a link:


"Bog" is not a verb that means "to form"--"bog standard" is an adjective. There is no verb in the phrase "bog standard scoops of ice cream."


British English [slang] usage: regular, not fancy or unusual, commonplace.

See: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/bog-standard.html

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