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We all have our methods of marking our territory. For the wolf, it involves weeing in a circle, for office managers, it involves an ultra-violet felt-tip pen on all the laptops, and for children, it involves saying the right word before anyone else has said it.
The front seat of a car, for example. For any child blessed with siblings, it’s the source of all family rivalry. Get that front seat, and you’re the golden child, the chosen one, you’re Frodo Baggins and Gandalf has his hand on your shoulder. Fail to get the front seat, and you’re just rubbishy old Sam Gamgee, the thick one with the good heart.
And we all know how to get that front seat, don’t we? What’s the magic word?
Shotgun: based on the stagecoach drivers and their need for a defensive buddy riding on the bench next to them, shooting at bandits.
But there are other words, used in the same way, to claim ownership of anything from the best chocolate in the box to the right to first go on the family X-Box. The American one is dibs, but the British, Irish and Australasian equivalent is the mighty bagsy.
When you’re 8, and you have siblings or friends with the same magpie eyes for anything sparkling or glittery or (in my case) Star Wars-related, you need some legal muscle on your side. And this is where bagsy really comes into its own. First person to say “bagsy the walnut whip” gets the walnut whip. You cannot ignore the rule of bagsy. You cannot appeal the rule of bagsy to a jury of your peers. You cannot pull rank on the rule of bagsy. Assuming you were too slow to bagsy the walnut whip, you don’t get the walnut whip. You snooze: I win.
In fact, the only way to circumnavigate the rule of bagsy is to appeal to a grown-up. Should you have lost out, you can turn to your mum or dad and say “Mum! Jason keeps taking all the walnut whips!” in the hope that mum will either find another walnut whip or (best of all) ask which of the two of you had the walnut whip last time. And assuming it was Jason, you could still win on a technicality.
Other things that the rule of bagsy applies to include: not being the first in the bath, picking the TV channel, not being ‘it’ in a game of tag, being first in the bath (to get the clean water), McDonalds for tea, the last bar of chocolate in the cupboard, the comfiest chair in the sitting room, not my turn to take out the trash. It’s a moveable feast.
Note: bagsy not my turn to move the feast.
See more posts by Fraser McAlpine
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic