Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!

Subscribe!

Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Love it or hate it

 http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01906/marmite_1906152b.jpg


Today I was reading a ballet review that referred to the Bolshoi's Taming of the Shrew as a "marmite production". 

This puzzled me.

What was that disgusting black sludge that the British inexplicably like to eat on toast doing in a ballet?

But it turns out that "marmite" has become an adjective in British English, meaning "eliciting extremely opposite opinions; designating something that people will either love or hate".  (Apparently some people do indeed love Marmite). 

The sludge's voyage from tradename to adjective has been quite an interesting one. In 1996, Marmite launched a very successful ad campaign "Love it or hate it", the tagline of which is still going strong. 

By the early 2000s, describing someone or something as "like Marmite -- love it or hate it"  or "the marmite of X" had become something of a cliché. 

2kg of Parma Violets - Lovehearts

shop.lovehearts.com/2kg-of-parma-violets
Jan 31, 2001 - 2kg of Parma Violets. The marmite of the sweet world - these little rolls are sure to stimulate debate!

It took less than a decade for the cliché to become an adjective, apparently first among sportswriters. The earliest I could find is this one:

pesstatsdatabase.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=8969 
Dec 9, 2008 - Possibly the most Marmite player there is, Bravo is speedy and determined, he is a fine all-round attacking force, able to penetrate on the flanks.

By 2010, "marmite" was being used in political  and entertainment contexts.


Country/date
IE 2010 (10-10-21)
Title
A chat with Mitzeee from 'Hollyoaks'
Source
http://www.digitalspy.com/soaps/hollyoaks/news/a283479/a-chat-with-mitzeee-from-hollyoaks/
  I've had such a positive reaction to the role, which I was a little bit shocked about! I wasn't quite sure how people would take her, because I thought she'd be a Marmite kind of character where you either love her or you hate her! But everyone's reactions have been so lovely, and people seem to like her!

.
Country/date
GB 2010 (10-06-14)
Title
Labour leadership: Ed Miliband picks up second preferences
Source
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/7827518/Labour-leadership-Ed-Miliband-picks-up-second-preferences.html


According to the poll, Ed Miliband, the shadow energy secretary, is emerging as a compromise candidate, with the second highest number of first preferences, and the most second and third preferences. # In contrast, David Miliband is a " Marmite candidate " -- either liked strongly or disliked -- and is struggling to pick up second and third preferences. 

Clearly this is a useful concept, as the word has definitely caught on. Although it is often still glossed with "love it or hate it", and still often written in quotation marks, we are seeing more and more unglossed examples like the one on my ballet chat site and this one a few months ago in The Guardian:
Cannes gets its first marmite sensation with Olivier Assayas’s uncategorisable – yet undeniably terrifying – drama about a fashion PA trying to exorcise herself of her dead twin
I can't think of a North American equivalent. Can you? 


COMING THIS FALL! My ever-popular Rollicking Story of the English Language course. REGISTRATION NOW OPEN AND SPACE IS LIMITED. More info here: http://katherinebarber.blogspot.ca/p/history-of-english-language-courses.html

Would you enjoy talking about words with Wordlady over many, many glasses of wine? Why not check out my trip to Bordeaux and Toulouse in July 2017. Unlike most of my Tours en l'air trips, this is more about food, wine, and sightseeing than about ballet (though there is some of that too). More info here:
http://toursenlair.blogspot.ca/2016/08/food-wine-sightseeingand-ballet-trip.html
Booking will open in the next couple of weeks.  

P.S. If you find the English language fascinating, you might enjoy regular updates about English usage and word origins from Wordlady. Receive every new post delivered right to your inbox! SUBSCRIPTION IS FREE! You can either:
use the subscribe window at the top of this page  
OR
(if you are reading this on a mobile device): send me an email with the subject line SUBSCRIBE at wordlady.barber@gmail.com

Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point. 







1 comment:

  1. "I can't think of a North American equivalent. Can you?" HOw about liver? As a liver-lover myself, I encounter the "hate it!" much more often, but cherish the lunch date I had with 3 other liver lovers, and the look on the face of the waitress when I ordered liver, and the rest of us said, "I'll have what she has." :-)

    ReplyDelete

About Me

My photo
Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.