The Top 10: Phrases from Adverts

Always the bridesmaid never the bride, diamonds are forever, lovely jubbly and other phrases that gained currency as advertising slogans

John Rentoul@JohnRentoul
Saturday 19 November 2016 12:25
Frankie Howerd in Fresh Cream cakes advert, 1980s
Frankie Howerd in Fresh Cream cakes advert, 1980s

Richard Tolbart suggested this list of advertising phrases that have entered the language. He kicked it off with “does what it says on the tin”, from Ronseal TV commercials, since 1994 (“It does exactly what it says on the tin”), and “Simples”, catchphrase of Orlov the meerkat in TV adverts for Compare the Market insurance quotation website since 2009. Here are 10 more.

1. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Sam Freedman nominated this variant of the slogan from a 1925 Listerine advertisement: “Often a bridesmaid but never a bride.” Itself possibly inspired by the music-hall song, “Why Am I Always a Bridesmaid,” by Miss Lily Morris, according to William Hale and Judi Jackson.

2. Diamonds are forever. Ian Leslie and Allan Holloway. “A diamond is forever” has appeared in every De Beers engagement advertisement since 1948 (below). Before then, a diamond solitaire was not the standard engagement ring. By 1956 it was already commonplace enough for Ian Fleming to use it as the title of the fourth James Bond book.

3. Lovely jubbly. From “Lubbly Jubbly”, slogan for Jubbly, an orange-flavoured soft drink in the 1950s, the adapted version popularised by Only Fools and Horses. Thanks to David Artley.

4. When you got it – flaunt it. Braniff Airlines 1967. Brilliant contribution from Allan Holloway.

5. Nice one, Cyril! Jonathan Calder knew it was a Wonderloaf TV advert in the 1970s. Allan Holloway added that it was also a No 14 UK single in March 1973: the Tottenham Hotspur song (Cyril Knowles was a star player).

6. Naughty but nice. James Morris, Colin Gumbrell and Steven Evans suggested Salman Rushdie’s work for Ogilvy & Mather, a slogan for fresh cream cakes in the 1970s and 1980s (above).

7. Hope it’s chips, it’s chips. Sung by Adrian McMenamin. The advert was actually for beefburgers, Bird’s Eye Steakhouse Grills, 1982, and the song was about what would be served with them: “We hope it’s chips, it’s chips.”

8. Where’s the beef? From Mr Memory and Sam Freedman: Wendy’s US television commercial, 1984. Walter Mondale used the phrase to accuse his opponent Gary Hart of lacking policy substance in a televised debate during the Democratic primaries in March 1984.

9. Good things come to those who wait. Guinness, 1996, nominated by Adam Behr, though “The best things…” was the catchline for Heinz ketchup adverts in the 1980s (featuring a young Matt LeBlanc), and the similar “All things…” was a common phrase previously, possibly derived from “The Lord is good unto them that wait for him” (Lamentations, 3:25).

10. Calm down dear. Michael Winner's catchphrase in TV adverts for insurance company esure from 2002: “Calm down, dear! It's just a commercial!” Nominated by Anna Rhodes, Jim Parr and Daniel Forman. It made it into Prime Minister’s Questions five years ago when David Cameron urged restraint on Angela Eagle.

Did you know that “catchphrase” is the only common word with six consecutive consonants (lengthsman doesn’t count, I think).

Finally, an honourable mention for Dan Fox who nominated “It is. Are you?”

Next week: Cues to disregard an opinion (such as “Bilderberg”)

Coming soon: British towns known worldwide for just one thing (such as Rugby, Stratford)

Listellany: A Miscellany of Very British Top Tens, From Politics to Pop, is available as an e-book for £3.79. Your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, in the comments please, or to me on Twitter, or by email to

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