Sunday 14 October 2012

Shouldn't 'Bond girl' be in the dictionary?

As far as I'm aware, the term 'Bond girl' isn't in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). While I haven't checked the latest edition of the full OED, I recently looked the term up in the shorter and concise editions, but didn't see it there. Each new edition of the OED brings newspaper lists of modish, but often transitory, neologisms. Yet there's still no place for 'Bond girl', a phrase which is almost 50 years old and well established in popular culture.

I discussed the origin of the term 'Bond girl' in an article posted last year. One of the earliest uses of 'Bond girl' is in an article published in the Daily Express dating to 1st February 1963. A story about the daughter of Labour minister John Hare was headlined, 'Perfect Bond girl'. The term was used in the paper fairly regularly afterwards, but it also appeared in critical analyses of the James Bond phenomenon. For example, O F Snelling, in his 1964 book, 007 James Bond: A Report, describes Thunderball's Patricia Fearing, on the staff at Shrublands health farm, as being “rather unusual for a Bond girl.” Then, in The James Bond Dossier (1965), Kingsley Amis used the term 'Bond-girl' as a label for an essential element of the Bond novel. And in the 1966 English translation of The Bond Affair, edited by Oreste del Buono and Umberto Eco, the term is used in Furio Colombo's essay, 'Bond's Women' (“The Bond girl uses glances and looks”, to take one example).

Since then, of course, the term has become synonymous with the actresses who have appeared in the Bond films as Bond's companion or the film's femme fatale, but it has also been applied to supporting characters, such as Miss Moneypenny, and indeed any actress who has been cast in a Bond film, no matter how fleeting her role. The term 'Bond girl' is so closely associated with the actresses and female characters of the Bond films, that any book about them must inevitably incorporate the term into its title (for example, Bond Girls are Forever: the women of James Bond (2003), by Maryam d'Abo and John Cork).

More recently, 'Bond girl' has been used more loosely. For example, when Adele was confirmed as the singer/songwriter of Skyfall's theme song, she was quoted as saying, “I'll be back-combing my hair when I'm 60, telling people I was a Bond girl back in the day, I'm sure!”, while in the current series of BBC's Strictly Come Dancing, the phrase has been used to describe Kristina Rihanoff, the dancing partner of contestant Colin Salmon, who played MI6 agent Charles Robinson in Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, and Die Another Day. Even the Queen has been described as a Bond girl, thanks to her role alongside Daniel Craig's Bond in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

According to the OED online, to qualify for inclusion in the OED a word “requires several independent examples of the word being used, and also evidence that the word has been in use for a reasonable amount of time.” The word must also attain a level of currency and understanding that allows it to be used without explanation of its meaning. As we have seen from the evidence presented above, the term 'Bond girl', while by no means uncontentious, undoubtedly fulfils these criteria. If 'Bond girl' is not already in the dictionary, it certainly should be. 

Update: I've been told by the OED that 'Bond girl' is on its tracking list. 

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