Michael Quinion wordseditor at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Mon Apr 12 10:27:43 UTC 2010

> The leader of the Conservative Party, David Cameron (Eton and Oxford),
> was visiting a big bakery in Bolton last week. He made a joke about his
> failure to make his own bread: "So it'll be back to boughten loaves in
> future." This adjective (meaning shop-bought) isn't known in standard
> British English, though it was once in the dialects of southern England
> (almost completely defunct now, I believe). I'm wondering if Cameron
> might have picked it up in the US. Some newspaper comments I've read
> suggest that, though it's known, it's deprecated as dialectal or
> regional. What do you say about its US distribution and status?

Many thanks to everyone who replied.

I've now heard from the journalist, Jon Henley, who wrote the piece for
the Guardian. He admitted that Mr Cameron hadn't actually said it; Jon had
included "boughten" in his paraphrase because he liked the sound of it and
because for him it had a flavour of "up north". He knew of it because his
granny in Folkstone, Kent, used to say it.

I have this vision of lexicographers a century hence finding the piece and
concluding from it that if an upper-middle-class Englishman such as David
Cameron used the word it must have still been extant in 2010. I wonder how
many of our current conclusions, based on newspaper reports of a century
ago, are similarly biased?

Michael Quinion
Editor, World Wide Words

The American Dialect Society -

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