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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 12:38 GMT 13:38 UK
Bargepole: Touching the bog standard?
bargepole n, the thing with which one wouldn't touch something deeply unpleasant.

SUCH AS: some state secondary schools, according to Estelle Morris, Education Secretary. Quoth she: "I know that all secondary schools are not identical. As a teacher, I go into some schools and think 'I would like to work here' but there are some I wouldn't touch with a bargepole."

AKA: bog standard comprehensives, which Tony Blair's spokesman Alistair Campbell said (before the 2001 general election) would be ditched if the party won a second term.

NOT AKA: David Blunkett, then education secretary, disowned the phrase, possibly because teachers working in "failing" schools were annoyed. "I don't use or recognise the term 'bog standard'," he said.

RELATED TERM: the comprehensive ideal was supposed to give everyone access to quality education (see related E-cyclopedia entry)

STREET USAGE: Ali G, asked which woman he wouldn't touch with a bargepole, said: "Dat expresshun usually describes when you don't fancy someone - but when I touch someone wiv a bargepole, it mean da opposite."

LITERARY CITATION: Writer Michael Bywater used to fulminate in a deeply unpleasant nature under the nom de plume Bargepole. Quoth he: ''We live in filthy times, and if you find yourself in tune with the Zeitgeist, you know you are doing something wrong.''

IBID: Bargepole on education: "Let's all agree to say: to hell with the common children. To hell with the idea of a true meritocratic elite. To hell with trying to distinguish between randomness and fairness, between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Let's all just accept that we've buggered things up, that we can do nothing about it, that this is Britain 2000 and there is no possibility of starting again, and then sit back with our mouths open to read about Posh Spice and concentrate on cultivating our forelocks."


Unpleasant items which you would not touch with any implement at all (and other comments) can be submitted to the E-cyclopedia by clicking here.



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