Sunday, June 12, 2005


In partnership with the Oxford English Dictionary, the BBC is launching a new attempt to find the origin of 50 words and phrases. The results will form a new series on BBC Two, Wordhunt.
To join the word hunt, you might find an earlier appearance of the word in a book or a magazine, in a movie script, a fanzine, or even in a private letter. The most important thing is that it can be dated.

Sometimes the OED can't tell how a word was invented - so if you can fill us in, so much the better. We've indicated next to these words that they are 'origin uncertain'. If you have a convincing theory, we'd like to hear from you. If you can prove you're right, you might help in rewriting the dictionary.

Words and phrases under investigation (their earliest known usage is in brackets), include:

  • back to square one (1960)
  • balti (1984)
  • Beeb (1967)
  • boffin (1941)
  • bog-standard (1983)
  • bomber jacket (1973)
  • bonk (sexual intercourse) (1975)
  • bouncy castle (1986)

And that's just the b's!

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