“Bespoke” is a word that I have seen and heard periodically since I have been in the UK. Initially, I ignored its occasional appearance in shop windows and advertisements. However its increasing prevalence has caused me to become more curious. I asked family here with me – both of whom I consider well read and reasonably intelligent – neither had a clue what it meant. Ok, so maybe I’m not as stupid as I initially thought.
Often it’s possible to work out the meaning of a word by examining the context in which it is used. Bespoke frames, bespoke kitchen, bespoke tailor…confused? I certainly was. Finally, I decided to look it up online. So what does it mean?…Wait for it…”made to order”, “customised”. What the…! OK , then why not use the words “made to order” or “custom made” or “customised”?
Answer: My theory is that by using a word that dates back to the 17th century (and rarely used since), users immediately add an elitist edge to their good or service. As the vast majority, like myself, have no idea what it means, it gives the impression that whatever it relates to must be good because its meaning is out of the reach of the common person.
It follows then that those that aspire to join the ranks of the elite in society (those with a decent disposable income) will be attracted by an adjective that promises a step up. The opportunity then arises to desrcibe their purchase in terms of it’s “bespokeness”…how impressed and envious their friends will be…
Well, seems like a good idea using “bespoke” instead of “custom made” right? I think WRONG. If volume of sales is the objective of a trader and the majority of consumers are “common people”, it defies logic to use an outdated, obscure word to describe your service or good. Not to mention the fact that it is such an annoying word. Worst of all, I recently did an Australian search for a product and was gutted to see it described as bespoke. Ugh!