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Listen to Professor Crystal

WAG. W-A-G. WAGs. When the English football team was in Germany in 2006, they were accompanied by their wives and girlfriends and it was their lifestyle that attracted the attention of the tabloid press, and people started calling them 'wives and girlfriends' - W-A-Gs. Now, the acronym had been around for a couple of years, but it wasn't much used until then, and what was interesting is that it very quickly generated this singular form, 'she's a WAG' - well, that's wrong! You can't be a wife and a girlfriend, really! I mean, it would have to be wife or girlfriend, but that didn't seem to make any difference - people talked about a WAG, and lots of WAGs.

Anyway, it was usually capitalised, it was in the newspapers more than anything else. I've hardly ever heard it as a spoken form, actually, probably because of ambiguity with the older word 'wag' - meaning, you know, a person who makes facetious jokes.

Well, it soon went well beyond football. Other sports stars got involved and then, other kinds of male personalities. I've heard all sorts of usages since. Wimbledon wives and girlfriends have been called 'W-WAGs'; cricket wives and girlfriends have been called 'C-WAGs'; many members of the British royal family are called 'RAGs' - that's 'royals and girlfriends', you see; and even mothers aren't exempt - I once actually heard the mother of a WAG called 'a MAG'.


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