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Last updated at 17:15 BST, Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Series 5: Bogof


This week, Jim Pettiward explains the origin, meaning and use of the expression 'bogof'. Click below to listen:

Buy one get one free


BOGOF – Buy one get one free! It's used as a noun as in 'There are some great bogofs on at the supermarket' or an adjective, usually with a word such as 'offer' or 'deal' - 'there are some great bogof offers in store'.

When you combine the first letters of the words in a phrase or the name of an organisation, you have an acronym. There are many well known acronyms such as NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) or Scuba (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus). That last one's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it? It takes a long time to say, which is why we often use acronyms.

Acronyms are spoken as a word so NATO is not pronounced N-A-T-O. We say NATO. You might remember an example of this from an earlier series, WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get).
Bogof, when said out loud, is quite comical for a native speaker, as it sounds like an insult, 'Bog off!' meaning go away, leave me alone, slightly childish and a little old-fashioned.

Bogof (Buy one get one free) is the best-known of the supermarket marketing strategies. The concept was first imported from the USA during the 1970s recession, when food prices were very high. It came back into fashion in the late 1990s, led by big supermarket chains trying to gain a competitive advantage over each other. Consumers were attracted by the idea that they could get something for nothing. Get an extra one? For free? Who could possibly say 'no'?

The credit crunch has perhaps focused attention more on this kind of promotion, as people look for ways to reduce their weekly shopping bills. It is not without controversy though, as supermarkets are often accused of encouraging consumers to waste food by buying items which they don’t need, just because they think they’re good value for money. It's argued that the extra product is often simply thrown away.

But the trend for BOGOF deals may be under threat. In 2008 there was talk of the EU banning the term as the 'get one free' part was not always strictly true (the price for one item may not always be the real price…) A replacement acronym was suggested, but it wasn’t exactly catchy and I can’t really see it entering the language in the way that BOGOF has. The suggested term? TFTPOO – Two for the price of one. Hmm… maybe not.

About Jim Pettiward

Jim Pettiward

Jim Pettiward has a BA (hons) in French and Spanish, CTEFLA and Trinity TESOL Diploma. He has taught EFL, EAP, ESP and Business English in Ecuador, Venezuela, Hungary and the UK. He has also worked as an ICT trainer for the British Council and the University of the Arts, London. He is currently teaching English for Academic Purposes in the Department of Humanities, Arts, Languages and Education at London Metropolitan University.


Series 5

13 talks about new and changing words and expressions by Jim Pettiward