Offensive as the title of this post probably sounds to most American ears, the word fag, in at least some of its meanings and variations, is alive and well — and for the most part benign — in the mouths of Brits. This is one of those Yanks vs. Brits subjects that I’ve been reluctant to discuss on Glossophilia because of the word’s shameful meaning on one side of the Atlantic; however, it seems a pity not to take a look at this quirky piece of vocabulary that is so versatile, evocative and mostly innocent on British shores, where its only real shame is in its reference to a long and very un-PC tradition — now thankfully obsolete — in British public schools. Continue reading
Can’t be fagged.
“Let’s be clear: Le Coq is not promising gastronomic fireworks. It’s an upmarket Nando’s. I mean that in a good way. It’s dinner out for those who can’t be fagged to cook and can afford this as an alternative. Yes, I know. Remember, this is Islington.” — review of the new restaurant Le Coq in The Guardian, 9 Nov 2014
“If you can’t be fagged to lug it all with you, there is now a company called HQhair.” — Sunday Times, 2002
Here are the Oxford English Dictionary‘s many definitions of fag, the first few of which presumably account for the meaning of fagged above: 1) v.i. grow weary or less eager, flag; 2) v.i. work until one is exhausted; toil, exert oneself; 3) v.t. make thoroughly weary; tire out, exhaust. 4) v.t. in a public school, of a senior boy: use the services of (a junior) for menial tasks 5. v.i. in a public school, of a junior boy: perform menial tasks for a senior. Also, formerly, in cricket: act as a fieldsman to a senior boy (usually followed by out) 6. v.t. naut. unravel the ends of a rope. As a noun, the OED defines it as 1) something that hangs loose, a flap; 2) a last remnant, a fag-end; 3) a leftover strip of land, tufts of last year’s grass not grazed down; 4) a cigarette.
For more on the now obsolete tradition of fags and fagging in British public schools, see this article on Wikipedia.
Can’t be arsed: “Brand, 38, told Paxman, 63, that he had never voted because of ‘absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class’. Paxman responded: “If you can’t be arsed to vote, why should we be arsed to listen to your political point of view?”” — reporting on Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Russell Brand, Daily Telegraph, 5 Nov 2014
The Brits’ way of saying “can’t be effing bothered”.