As noted in such past entries as stockists and opening hours, a number of U.S. retailers have lately affected British terminology, presumably in an attempt to seem hip or classy. Sara Wilson alerted me to a wrinkle on the trend that can be seen in the the clothing purveyor Boden. The company originated in the U.K. but has a robust U.S. website on which, if anything, it seems to use more Britishisms than on its British one. Sara pointed out this banner ad:

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 9.18.08 AM

She didn’t know what snaffle means, nor, in fact, if the expression being used was snaffle, snaffle up, or snaffle up to. Neither did I till I looked it up in the OED, whose definition for snaffle is: “To appropriate, seize, catch, snatch.” “I soon snaffled a double role in a big spectacle.”–Sunday Express, 1928. (The OED notes that the verb is sometimes rendered as snaffle up, but I believe that is not the case in the Boden ad, as it would render the word “to” meaningless. Rather, the phrase “up to” signifies some discounts are less than 40 percent.)

The Boden site is studded with flamboyant Britishisms. They call sweaters jumpers, a word that hasn’t been uttered on these shores since the film About a Boy. There are references to honour, sackings (for firings), offers (for sales), a call centre (in Pittston PA), and a range (what Americans would call a line). Logical punctuation is employed, and anyone with a question is instructed to call (why not ring?) a customer care representative on 1-866-206-9508 (needless to say, an American phone number).

Boden, could you be any more precious?

13 thoughts on “Boden

  1. I was discussing “snaffle” with my family just the other day, prompted by an article in the Guardian about family words and expressions. We use it as a noun, e.g. Did you bring us any snaffle from the party? (when my parents went out when we were children, they would bring us back a goody bag). Thus reminded me of pochle, a Scottish verb and noun for much the same thing but with the overtones of stealing. My brother conjugated the verb thus: I pochle, you are a thief, they are hardened criminals.

  2. Aha. And so the fight back against program, soccer, grocery stores, shopping carts, ‘can I get a..’ (instead of please may I have?), bangs, a half hour (instead of half an hour), bi-weekly, math, season (instead of series), and ‘I could care less’ (instead of I couldn’t care less) begins. Hoorah I say. Toodle pip.

  3. To me a snaffle is a horse’s bit. “To snaffle” presumably comes from “snap”. A more commonly used verb for grabbing a bargain is “to snap up”.
    I notice the use of “hiring” becoming more prevalent in England than the English “recruiting”. “Hiring and firing” is everywhere. We used to get the sack or be sacked. This was a reference to the workman’s sack of tools and belongings. “To call” rather than “to ring” is very common now too but we would call “customer services” rather than “a customer care representative”.

  4. My American friends loved the expression “chin wag!” ..however I hate the expression ” back to back” which is used now incorrectly..I only remember it as refering to houses which were literally back to back, that is joined to the house at the back. How can people play games “back to back”?

  5. Ben:
    The agency responsible for Boden’s ads should be commended. The store is targetting an upscale customer who rightly or wrongly will twig to the Bristishisms. They serve as shorthand to establish a relationship with a snooty prospective clientele. Creative advertising isn’t forbidden; the ads bode well for Boden

  6. I don’t see why anyone should have any objections to this. After all, those of us in the rest of the English-speaking world have to suffer US corporate language impositions. Regular fries, anyone?

  7. If I had to make my way unaided through reading untranslated references to American goods in popular culture novels this was back in the day before easy Internet access and (believe me, when I read a sentence about someone in “Keds”, I had no idea if this was clothing, some kind of illness, or a gang reference), then I say you lot can deal with a few phrases on a shopping website 🙂

  8. Going back to the word “Snaffle” it always conjures up a pig ‘rooting’ or ‘snuffling’ around for truffles or good things to eat in the mud. So to “Snaffle” in this context means ‘finding’ or ‘getting hold of’ both of which works well in the marketing world of ‘come and get’

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