The “Bog Roll” Mystery

My friend Pat Raccio Hughes took a photo almost two years ago at her local Pennsylvania supermarket, Giant. She got around to sending it to me last week.

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The reason she sent to to me, of course, was the term “bog roll”–what Americans would universally refer to as “toilet paper.” (“CHRM” refers to the brand, Charmin.) Pat reports that the product itself wasn’t labeled “bog roll,” just this sale-price card.

Giant is a chain that is based and exclusively operates in the northeast U.S., so there’s no British ownership or anything like that. So how did “bog roll” get there? I’m betting a British employee in the home office, but honestly, I have no idea.

Update: Commenters have let it be known that in Britain, “bog roll” is quite edgy and slang, and not the kind of thing you expect to read in the supermarket. Green’s Dictionary of Slang traces it to 1983:

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28 responses to “The “Bog Roll” Mystery

  1. Not only is it a bog-roll, it’s a BOGOF too!

    That’s Buy One Get One Free, which is Retail use of the childish insult “bog off”.

    • I think that’s probably the explanation. BOGO is commonly used in sale tags, and I suspect their formatting/printing software cut off the O. I’ve never heard ‘bog roll’ used in the US, and as others say below, it’s a crude term that you wouldn’t see on a supermarket label in the UK.

  2. The problem is “bog” is a slang word for toilet. That picture is the equivalent of a UK product labelled “crapper paper”. Not really the right tone …..

  3. My Brit family calls it toilet roll. Bog roll is very slang

  4. I’m guessing this thread will be “long and strong”.

  5. Peter le Feuvre

    ‘Bog roll’ is a slang word much used by schoolboys but I have never seen it referred to as such in a shop or a supermarket in the UK

  6. This gives a fascinating insight into early use of ‘bog’ in this context.
    http://rictornorton.co.uk/though12.htm

  7. Not exactly to do with bog roll but the first item on my print blog might amuse you all:
    http://westread.blogspot.com/2016/07/comic-ads-part-two.html

  8. Uhh….D’ya think maybe it was a misprint of “Big Roll”?

  9. I’m wondering whether these were manufactured or packaged in, say, China, and someone got a computer translation that went a bit slangy.

  10. I’m thinking the label was printed out from some centralized inventory-management database. For a while now, Giant has been owned by Ahold (now Ahold Delhaize), a big European conglomerate, so there’s a connection across the pond anyway. But Ahold Delhauze doesn’t own any stores in the UK, so how this slangy term got into the database is still a mystery.

  11. Boris Johnson recently warned against a Bog Roll Brexit – “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”

  12. Bog roll is an upper and upper middle class expression that would not be out of place with lower class. The lower middle class would probably be too polite to use it.
    The words someone uses to describe the (American) restroom are probably the clearest giveaway of one’s social class in Britain today. Bog, pisser, or more politely, loo or lavatory are upper and upper middle class expressions. Toilet is lower middle and lower class, although bog and pisser will also be used by the lower classes. (The biggest social divide in Britain is between the upper middle and lower middle classes).

    • I disagree with you, Anthony:
      ‘Bog roll is an upper and upper middle class expression…’ Where do you live?
      And ‘pisser’ for toilet? I have never heard that in a lifetime of living in various parts of the UK (except in the context of “What a pain in the pisser.” i.e. penis.)

      • I’m in the UK. Bog roll is definitely an upper and slightly less so, upper middle class expression, plus lower class. Maybe I went too far with pisser, but bog is a normal, informal upper and upper middle class expression (only to be used in familiar, younger company, though). The biggest giveaway by miles that someone is lower middle or lower class is to say toilet. The upper and upper middle classes would never in a zillion years be heard dead calling it a toilet. In a more formal situation, the usual upper and upper middle would say loo (or secondly, lavatory).

  13. I lived in London, England until 1956, “Bog” was a colloquial term for a toilet, but I never heard the term “bog roll”. I suspect the sale sticker was created by some Brit ex-pat trying to have fun.

    BTW, since leaving the UK I’ve heard the therm “loo” used for a toilet, but I never heard that when I lived there in the 1950s. I wonder if it’s a regional term or just something that came later.

    • Curious. I was born in London in the fifties but grew up in the north of England. I remember using the word “loo” to a school friend and he complained about my use of Londonisms. I hadn’t thought the word particularly a London term. (I’ve been in the US for the last couple of weeks and have been amusing American friends by saying I’m going to the loo.”)

  14. The word ‘loo’ evidently comes from the inhabitants of medieval Edinburgh (also known as ‘old reekie’) shouting ‘gardez loo’ (a corruption of the French gardez l’eau) to warn passers by of waste excrement about to be thrown from a window into the street below.

  15. The Waterloo theory sounds the most credible.

  16. The ever-reliable Michael Quinion reviews the evidence here:

    http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-loo1.htm

    and decides … we don’t know.

  17. It’s hardly an “edgy” term, more like a commonplace. Granted you won’t see it advertised as bog roll, give it time, give it time, but no-one, barring particularly elderly and prissy maiden aunts, would bat an eyelid at the term.

  18. I’m northern English and living there (yes it is raining today! :)) and we use ‘I’m going to the bog’ and ‘get us a pack of bog roll’ when shopping for loo paper all the time tbh. It’s probably a regional thing, maybe used more in the north than the south of England but idk. It may also be used elsewhere in Britain.

  19. I have agreed with the belief that toilet tissue would not be described as “bog roll” in a British shop. However today I chanced upon bog rolls in Poundland, the British chain store that sells a wide range of goods priced at £1. That was the price for one roll in a box, an unusual way of selling toilet rolls.

    I have a photo. Unfortunately there seems to be no way to posting it here.

    • I’d agree it not a term you see in official print a lot in the UK. Very rare and mostly a spoken term. It’s generally arse-ociated with ‘lower class slang’ so I’m delighted to read it getting the flush of approval in Poundland. 😀

  20. http://www.poundland.co.uk/1-novelty-toilet-paper
    Their real rolls cost a pound for two ,four or six depending on the brand and are not called “bog rolls”

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