Words in the News

bake off

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Written by Liz Potter

The popular baking competition Great British Bake Off returned to our screens this week, but with a difference. After seven very successful seasons on the BBC the show has moved to a rival terrestrial channel, Channel 4, with an almost new lineup of presenters and judges – just one of the original judges, baker Paul Hollywood, stayed with the show when it moved.

Despite fears that the successful formula would not survive the move to a more commercial setting (Channel 4 receives public funding but also has ad breaks, unlike the BBC) initial reports were mostly favourable. The programme’s cosy charm seems to have survived intact. The amateur bakers still do their stuff in a setting reminiscent of a village fete, in a giant tent decorated with rustic furniture and bunting, and surrounded by lush countryside, while the constant stream of banter and innuendo-filled comments from the presenters enlivens the spectacle of what is essentially a bunch of people making cakes and bakes against the clock.



The concept of the bake off (or bake-off, or bakeoff) comes from the US, and is a form of cook-offa cooking competition usually between amateurs. Cook-off was coined in the 1930s, by analogy with playoff, a series of games played between the best teams to decide on a final winner, while bake off came along slightly later, being used from 1949 as the name for a cooking contest run by the Pillsbury Company. Other terms such as dance-off have been coined along similar lines. Bake-off itself has an additional meaning, referring to a competition for business between different companies. That one is not in Macmillan Dictionary yet, but soon will be.

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Liz Potter

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