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WAG also Wag

noun [countable] informal

the wife or girlfriend of a famous professional footballer

'England's superstar striker tied the knot at the Wag wedding of the year in a 20-minute civil ceremony in Santa Margherita Ligure on the Italian Riviera.'

The Mirror 13th June 2008

'WAGs are a big hit in Euro … Continental WAGs (wives and girlfriends) are making up for the absence of English roses.'

Howrah News Service, India 17th June 2008

The Euro 2008 football tournament is in full swing, but for the England team, who didn't qualify for the championship, the 'match' of the year is taking place off the pitch. On 12th June 2008, top England striker Wayne Rooney married childhood sweetheart Coleen McLoughlin, in a multi-million pound ceremony described as the WAG wedding of the year.

the term WAG usually has derogatory overtones, used mainly in the context of sarcastic scrutiny of the extravagant lifestyles afforded by amazingly large footballer salaries

WAG is an acronym of Wife and Girlfriend. During the last couple of years, this rather unfortunate-sounding term has gained currency, seized upon by the tabloids as a deliciously-memorable way of referring to the partners of famous footballers. WAG usually has derogatory overtones, used mainly in the context of sarcastic scrutiny of the extravagant lifestyles afforded by amazingly large footballer salaries. Epitomized by celebrity icon Victoria Beckham and caricatured in the UK television drama series Footballers' Wives, WAGs are beautifully made-up women, typically wearing designer sunglasses and carrying Gucci handbags as they smile for the paparazzi. Their archetypal activities include shopping (preferably at leading designer boutiques), sunbathing, sipping champagne and partying the night away at post-match celebrations.

Though WAG (also often decapitalised to Wag) hit the spotlight with the partners of the England footballers, there is now some evidence to show it being used to refer to the partners of other famous players (with spouses referred to as Euro WAGs), a trend galvanised during recent coverage of Euro 2008. It is also increasingly being used to describe the partners of other kinds of sportsmen (e.g. cricketers – CWAGs), the only criterion being that their menfolk earn a salary of jaw-dropping size.

Redressing the gender balance, a less frequently-used spin-off term is HAB (also Hab), an acronym of Husband and Boyfriend, which is used to refer to the partners of highly-paid sportswomen, especially tennis players. Another related spin-off likely to bubble up in the UK media during coming weeks is WOW, an acronym of Wives of Wimbledon, which is pronounced like the exclamation 'Wow!' and refers to the female partners of top-ranking players taking part in the Wimbledon Tennis Championships.

Background – WAG

The earliest use of WAG as an acronym of wife and girlfriend dates back to 2004, though it was in reference to partners of England players during media coverage of the 2006 World Cup that the expression entered the mainstream. It has since steadily gained currency, and its potential for manipulation has spawned a number of tongue-in-cheek derivatives. Two such examples are Waglash, a blend of Wag and backlash used in the headlines of scornful tabloid articles, and SWAGs, an acronym of Summit Wives and Girlfriends, referring to the partners of leaders participating in the G8 summit.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 18th June 2008.

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