The august experts who constitute the Oxford English Dictionary's advisory panel have spoken.
Bovvered is the UK's 2006 Word of the Year.
Yes, "bovvered," the Cockney pronunciation of "bothered," is the official selection for the centenary of Word of the Year, joining more-familiar words (to North American ears, anyway) such as muckraking (1906), camouflage (1917), F-word (1973), blogger (1999), and biosecurity (2005).
You'd have had to be following lowbrow British TV to grasp the full impact of "bovvered." "Am I bovvered?" and "Is my face bovvered?" are the signature catchphrases of a character portrayed by actress Catherine Tate on the BBC's Catherine Tate Show. Approximate, non-scatalogical translation: "Have you perhaps mistaken me for someone who cares?"
You can watch Tate be un-bovvered here, although if you're not British you may wish the BBC had provided subtitles.
According to the Daily Mail, "Usage of the word is said to have taken off following Tate’s appearance at the Royal Variety Performance in November 2005, when her surly teenager character Lauren asked the Queen: ‘Is one bothered?’"
One was not amused, according to BBC News UK. Prince Phillip, on the other hand, "chuckled at the joke."
The Daily Mail continues:
A spokesman for the OED said: “Am I bovvered?” had already come to be seen as the perfect expression of a generation of teenagers and their speaking style.
Now in 2006 “bovvered” has taken over from “whatever” as the signature phrase of teenagers, and to challenge the Little Britain catchphrase “yeah-but-no-but” as the embodiment of couldn't-care-less adolescence.
"Little Britain" is another BBC sitcom, starring two of the least attractive actors ever to appear on the small screen.
"Bovver" for "bother" has been around at least since the 1960s. "Bovver boots" was a nickname for the steel-toed Doc Martens worn by skinheads whose idea of "bothering" was "violently kicking anyone we don't like, especially immigrants from the Indian subcontinent." Ah, the British: always with the tasteful euphemisms.
"Bother" itself made first appeared in English surprisingly recently: the first written record of its use is 1718. The Online Etymology Dictionary says it "probably" came from the Anglo-Irish word "pother," which "perhaps" derives from Irish bodhairim, "I deafen."
Susie Dent, author of The Language Report (Oxford University Press), told the Daily Mail:
Bovvered ... neatly reflects our culture and its linguistic influences. It is also arguably an extension of 'chav,' which caused something of a stir when it was named word of the year in 2004.
Both words illustrate the power of language to divide opinion and excite debate by evoking a whole social milieu.
The key difference is in their register - while one is a derogatory label, the other is a TV comic's catchphrase which has caught the public imagination and packs its punch differently, as a summary of a mindset recognisable to most of us.
Thanks to its Word-of-the-Year status, "bovvered" is now among a group of new words being considered for inclusion in the next edition of the OED, to be published in December.
Anyone want to nominate the 2006 Word of the Year from our side of the pond?