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flyboarding also fly-boarding

noun [uncountable] British

the activity of putting 'For Sale' or 'Sold' signs outside properties which are not for sale, as a way of generating publicity for an estate agent


noun [countable] British


verb [transitive] British

'At the other end of the spectrum are less heinous, but still intensely irritating, practices such as "flyboarding", where agents put up "for sale" boards where they shouldn't or don't take them down when asked to.'

The Guardian 15th June 2002

'The placing of For Sale and Sold boards on property with which the agent has no connection is very common, especially in central London where there is intense competition between agents and "flyboards", as they are known, are considered a cheap and effective way of advertising.'

Evening Standard 18th April 2001

'Trading standards officers estimate that the company "flyboarded" more than 100 homes in the area, putting up the signs in gardens, on fences and on land outside blocks of flats.'

Evening Standard 16th April 2003

During the past three or four years, Trading Standards officers in the UK have had to investigate an increasing number of complaints about illegal estate agent boards. In February 2004, the Office of Fair Trading took action against the British estate agency Bairstow Eves Countrywide, which had been erecting 'For Sale' boards in the New Cross area of London shortly after a local office had just opened, when it could only have had a very few properties on its books. This illegal practice has become known as flyboarding, and the 'For Sale' signs themselves are referred to as flyboards. The word flyboard has also become established as a transitive verb.

the practice of flyboarding is intended to affect the choices of potential sellers when selecting an agent to market their property

The practice of flyboarding gives a misleading impression of the amount of business an agent is doing in an area, and it is intended to affect the choices of potential sellers when selecting an agent to market their property. A famous flyboarding case occurred in June 2000, when Prime Minister Tony Blair's former communications director Alastair Campbell woke up to find a 'Sold' sign outside his three-storey terraced house in Hampstead. The agents responsible, Foxtons, claimed that this was an innocent mistake and sent flowers to apologise, though flyboarding is in fact an offence under the Trades Description Act, carrying hefty fines.

Background – flyboarding

The term flyboarding was coined by analogy with the word fly-tipping, which refers to the illegal dumping of waste. Earlier variations on fly-tipping are the terms fly-pitching and fly-posting. Fly-pitching refers to illegal street trading, and the traders themselves are described as fly-pitchers. Fly-posting is the practice of putting up advertising posters in unauthorised places, with fly-post as a transitive verb. The countable noun fly-poster can refer to both the illegal posters themselves, or the people who put them up.

The origins of the use of the word fly in all these coinings is uncertain, but it is thought that it possibly relates to early 19th-century British slang usage as an adjective meaning 'clever'. Fly in this sense has connotations of being sneaky or dishonest, hence the idea of sneakily placing something where it shouldn't be.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 16th April 2004.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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