Bagsy

summer pudding“Would you like this last bit of summer pudding, Céline?” asked my mother-in-law.
“No, thank you,” said I. “However, I think I will bagsy it for tomorrow.”
Rarely had my in-laws’ dining-room witnessed such outrageous behaviour, which was swiftly condemned by all present. You can’t bagsy pudding for the day after! Was the consensus around the table.
I’ve always loved this very useful concept, which is handily conveyed by the verb “bagsy” in English. There is a French equivalent, preums, (prem’s or preumz, etc), but it is an interjection, which is not as malleable as a verb and is only really useful in the present. So you can imagine my disappointment when my clever move to secure the last bit of summer pudding was firmly denied.
The origin of the French word seems obvious (premier means “first”) and the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that bagsy comes from “bags I” and has examples from 1866 onwards.
Word detective also tells us that

A child in Southern England

[…] might exclaim “Bags it” or “Baggsy,” whereupon by the sacred code of children the prize is hers. Her London counterpart might say “Squits,” and still further north a child would say “Foggy,” “Furry” or “Firsy.” Other words which seem to work as well include “Barley,” “Bollars,” “Jigs” and, in Scotland, “Chaps” or “Chucks.” Our American friends favour “dibs”.

Summer pudding photo by moleitau.

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By | 2016-10-18T15:48:49+00:00 July 1st, 2010|Words|12 Comments

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About the Author:

Celine
I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

12 Comments

  1. Peter Garner July 1, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Well I, for one, learned something today. I’d never heard of either “bagsy” or “summer pudding.” Certainly here in North America, if you’d said “I’ll bagsy it for tomorrow,” you would have received a blank stare, not because of the (admittedly) outrageous idea of wanting to do so, but because no one would have the (ahem) foggiest idea of what you were talking about.
    No, over here, we would say, much more sensibly, “I’ll take the rest in a doggie bag.”

  2. céline July 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    You do use “shotgun” to bagsy the seat next to the driver in a car, don’t you?
    I think bagsy is slightly different from asking for a doggie bag, as it implies that there might have been competition for the coveted and object, where there is no such thing with a doggie bag. I think.

  3. Sarah V. July 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I do love the idea of “bagsy” and think it is a word we North Americans could use. It certainly is new to me as well. And it is good to know now that you cannot bagsy pudding. I’ll make a note of it. Luckily I have enough British friends to know that “pudding” is used to describe what we would just call “dessert” across the pond. It does look delicious, by the way.

  4. brian July 2, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I come from “further north” but had never heard of furry or foggy for the purpose of laying first claim on it (you’re right, it’s a different idea from the doggy-bag). We, in South Yorkshire, always used “to bag” as a verb or “bagsy” as an interjection, although maybe we were influenced by Enid Blyton books!
    You could (and we did) “bag” first go with a new toy, or “bag” the coloured balloon you prefer etc, not only food and sweets.

  5. Adrian Morgan July 6, 2010 at 6:11 am

    I don’t think we have a word for the concept in Australian English.

  6. Pop Vox September 3, 2010 at 8:23 am

    Growing up as antipodean postwar children of the empire, we said emphatically: “I bags it!” (with the “I” up front). I don’t know if the playgrounds of the 21st Century still resound with “I bags it”.
    “Doggy bag” was a US import in the late 20th century. Use of the phrase has since been curtailed by two unlinked, local government regulations: Firstly, health department regulations preventing restaurants from providing them; and, secondly, municipal authorities requiring dog owners to carry “dog bags” for the purpose of excrement disposal.
    “Barley” on the other hand (variants: “barley Charlie” or “barlies” said so as to rhyme with “lease”) was a call for a cessation of hostilities. I have since read that it apparently derives from parlez/parley.

  7. Bela September 27, 2010 at 11:22 pm

    I have lived in London for 31 years and have never heard the word ‘bagsy’. ‘Doggie bag’, yes’ ‘bagsy’, no. LOL!

  8. BlakeMB October 28, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    brian -> I’m Australian as well, and I can say for sure that I grew up “bagsing” things left, right and centre. I always thought it was unique to my family though, because our last name is Baguley and I never really heard many other kids using it. But at least now the mystery is solved…

  9. Denise January 27, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I am Australian and have always said “I bag…” the front seat of the car, the first shower etc which is the same as laying the first claim to something.
    My children however say “I shotty..etc”, My niece says “shotgun”
    as in “shotgun the first turn on the play station”.
    And I thought it was only our family who said we had dibs on something…. funny how expressions change but usually pop up somewhere again.

  10. Chris Irwin January 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    What an odd coincidence! I just happened to notice your ‘bagsy’ entry when reading the ITI post *today*. I haven’t really heard the term used since childhood e.g. “Bags I that biscuit!” http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/bagsy Would you believe that I actually used the expression *yesterday*? This was a pub review and as I know there are a few non-Brit friends who read my bizarre ramblings, I like to chuck in the odd expression that will keep them on their toes. So bugger the ITI, keep smiling and I hope you ‘bagsy loadsa business’ 😉 Chris

  11. céline January 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Ha ha! Thanks for the laugh Chris, and as I see on Twitter that you’re also partaking in a pleasant glass of wine at the moment, I shall raise mine to you.

  12. rootlesscosmo March 31, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Manhattan, late 40’s: “Dibs,” as “i got dibs on the leftovers.” No idea of the origin.

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