Tuesday, October 12, 2010

bags, dibs, shotgun

So, you're 10 years old, playing with your best friend.  Simultaneously you both spot a single gorilla mask abandoned on a park bench. Running toward(s) it, you shout the recogni(s/z)ed word for signal(l)ing a claim on desired objects. What is that word?

Chances are that there are dozens and dozens of ways to answer that question. The thing about childhood rituals is that they are passed among children, who tend to operate very locally--with their siblings, their schoolmates, their neighbo(u)rs.  Words are invented, misheard, re-invented, borrowed and those changes don't travel far, but may be passed down to the children who are just a little younger, who later pass it down to the ones who are just a little younger, and so on.


Which is all to say, in the American idiom: Your mileage may vary when it comes to the playground terminology I'm discussing today.

But with that feat of (AmE) ass-covering out of the way, here's how you might have answered the question.  In AmE, you'd probably shout dibs.  In BrE, at least down here in the South, bagsy would do, though it might just be bags.  (To get a feel for possible dialectal boundaries of this, see this thread at Wordwizard.) To put this in the verbal form, you can bags or bagsy something, but, as you can see from the OED examples, the spelling is hard to pin down:
[1946 B. MARSHALL George Brown's Schooldays xxi. 89 ‘What about you doing the gassing instead of me?’ ‘But I bagsed-I I didn't’, Abinger protested. 1950 B. SUTTON-SMITH Our Street i. 25 [They] would all sit..‘bagzing’. I bagz we go to the zoo.] 1979 I. OPIE Jrnl. 28 Mar. in People in Playground (1993) 129 I'm second, I just baggsied it! 1995 New Musical Express 28 Oct. 28 (caption) Mark Sutherland baggsys a window seat. 1998 C. AHERNE et al. Royle Family Scripts: Ser. 1 (1999) Episode 2. 52 Mam. I think I'll do chicken. Antony. Bagsey me breast.
A verbal form of dibs is also widely reported (I dibsed it!), but I'd be much more likely to say I've got dibs on it or I called dibs on that


But when I posted dibs/bagsy as the 'Difference of the Day' on Twitter, some BrE speakers questioned my translation, as they had understood (AmE) shotgun to mean the same as bags(y). But just as happens when words are borrowed from another language, the non-native users of the word have changed the meaning when they've adopted the word.  And they have adopted the word, to some extent.  Here's an example from a Twitter feed I follow:
timeshighered We hereby shotgun the rights to the phrase "I survived Twitocalypse 2010" - this time next year, we'll be millionaires!
In fact, if I had read this tweet without already having had the discussion with BrE speakers about dibs and bagsy, I doubt I would have been able to make sense of it.  What's happened? The BrE speakers have heard Americans say shotgun in a place in a situation in which they would have said bags(y), and didn't reali{z/s}e that there's more meaning to shotgun than just 'I stake a claim on something'.   Shotgun very specifically means: 'I claim the right to sit in the front passenger seat of a vehicle.'

You can see this in another tweet:
 I bet Zombies don't call shotgun on road trips.
An AmE speaker immediately knows which valuable commodity the Zombies are not interested in.  In fact, because the claimed thing is understood, it would be redundant (not to mention ambiguous) to say call shotgun on the front seat. Note also that it's not a verb.  To me, to shotgun something would be like to machine-gun something.  One calls shotgun. And once one gets the seat, one rides shotgun, which originally meant (and still can mean) 'To travel as a (usually armed) guard next to the driver of a vehicle; (in extended use) to act as a protector' (OED).

Calling shotgun could be extended and used metaphorically, as in this Canadian tweet:
Can I call shotgun on the yoga cd pls?
...but this usually is done as a sly reference to the childhood car-seat experience.

Or, at least, that's how it is for an AmE speaker of my generation.  We have a special word for that sweet seat, with its status and its anti-emetic properties, because it was a central part of our lives in childhood.  With the exception of a few urban cent{er/re}s, you'd expect any family to have a car--and more than one child to fight over the best seat.  Americans can also get a (AmE) driver's license/(BrE) driving licence by age 16 in most states (as compared to 18 17 at the earliest [see comments] in the UK). So, gangs of teenagers also need ways to establish pecking orders.  But I have to wonder whether shotgun will go the way of the library card catalog(ue), since riding in a car is a completely different experience for children today than it was for children in my day.  No more cramming ten kids into the back of a (AmE) station wagon/(BrE) estate car; everyone's in car seats now, and the law determines which of those are allowed in the front seat.  While I think that's a good thing safety-wise, I'm getting rather nostalgic thinking about, for example, climbing in and out of the back seat of a moving car or cramming myself down in the foot-well when I felt like it.  So maybe the kids in America have lost or are losing the true meaning of shotgun.  *sob* You in the States can let me know whether this is the case.

By the way, I've left the Twitter window with the 'shotgun' search going. In the last hour, 50 people have used the word shotgun, often prefaced by I wish I had a.  I'll sleep less well tonight.

69 comments:

Naima said...

I'm 20 years old (raised in MA, NC, and AZ) and I definitely used "shotgun" as a child. In fact, I would probably use it still now: "Mind if I take shotgun?"

Mysticeti said...

In my neighborhood (New England) the term was "hi hosey" (but it may have been spelled "high hosey".

Weird!

awindram said...

Having originally only ever heard "shotgun" used in American films or on American TV, I've always thought it was quite clear that it referred to who gets to sit in the front passanger seat. I guess it's my generation that have allowed it to seep into BrE usage, but still I've always only ever heard it in terms of who gets the front seat. Indeed, it was referenced in a recent episode of The Inbetweeners in precisely these terms. If someone in BrE called "shotgun" over the last chocolate-chip muffin it would certainly strike me as sounding "off".

Janibach said...

Growing up in Kent I heard "bagsy" which sometimes sounded like "begsy", but there was also "bags I". Since neither of my parents were Kentish, I had to figure out which was right - and it varied according to the group I was with. For the record, I preferred "bags I" because I thought it sounded better. My Massachusetts-born children give me one of those looks if I try to say it to them.

Shannon said...
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Shannon said...

Thanks for this post! I enjoyed learning the British translation of dibs. Also, I'm 19 and obviously American, and I wouldn't be surprised if the word shotgun caught on to being used for more than calling the front passenger seat. Just reading the incorrect example you provided, it sounded to me like the start of a new trend. Of course it would be in reference to its original meaning, but who knows, maybe 10 years from now it will be the equivalent of calling dibs on something. Such is the way slang forms, right?

Brenda said...

"Calling shotgun" is just for the front seat. "Calling dibs" is for everything else! :-) Don't forget, you can also "shotgun" a beer, by punching a hole in the can and drinking from that hole. (I'm from Minnesota)

Mantolwen said...

You can actually get a driving licence at age 17 in the UK. Once you've passed your 17th birthday you can apply for a provisional licence, and if you are fast enough taking lessons and your test (and don't fail) then you can have a full licence at age 17.

a.d. pask-hughes said...

I agree with awindram, although I'd add that the term is/can be being used in other situations. Your example of someone calling the last chocolate-chip muffin is exactly the kind of linguistic play people (especially teenagers) engage in all the time. Whether that broadens the meaning of the term on a larger scale is a different question.

cleefa said...

Where does (the rules of) yoink fit into all this? It seems to be as popular as bags here (Ireland).

Anonymous said...

Yoink, at least here (S England), is used to legalise stealing something, rather than bagsying it in advance. You need to have a hand on it, really - as you grab it, saying 'yoink' makes it yours. I think it probably comes from The Simpsons.

Lazygal said...

My mother and her family (in Boston) use "hosey/hosie" rather than "bags"... and shotgun was only ever for the seat next to the driver.

Anonymous said...

This is curious... I'm 60, grew up in the U.S. Midwest, where I live again after periods in New England and Europe when I didn't have (or ride in) a car. I'd swear that I never heard "shotgun" until I was in my 40s.

I wonder if it's a (half) generation younger than me, or if the kids in my neighborhood just didn't use the term.

"Dibs," though, was ubiquitous.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...
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Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I see someone else has already said that driving age in the UK is 17, not 18. We did enjoy the Christmas my daughter had passed her driving-test but was not yet old enough (legally) to drink alcohol.... guess who was "Des" that year!

We grew up saying "Bags I", and the opposite, which I heard as "Veins I". I think it is sometimes spelt "Fains"; what other words are current?

crypticpuzzler said...

My children have said "shotgun" for years (they're in their 20s), but it was usually shortened to "shotty," pronounced "shoddy." Now that they're all driving, I get to ride shotty.

When I was a child in the late '50s and '60s, we'd "call" the thing we wanted, as in "I call the front seat!"

crypticpuzzler said...

PS: Forgot to say I grew up on Long Island, N.Y.

Carin said...

I grew up in the Mid-Atlantic and while I definitely would have understood "call dibs on" or "call shotgun", what we actually said was simply "call [noun]" for all such situations, including car seats, as in: "I call the non-driver's side," or "I call the blue one," or "I call the last piece of cake."

Lydia said...

I was going to say, when I was a kid (in Maine) we said "hosey." We used it as a verb, e.g. "I hosey the swing." I don't remember hearing "hi[gh] hosey" like mysticeti reports. But definitely "hosey."

It sometimes slips out now, and I get strange looks from my midwestern friends.

nic said...

Growing up in Aus, in the 80s, we'd always 'bars' something, ("I bars the swings!") although I think 'bags' would have been understood. 'Shotgun' came into play from my late teens onwards, but only in the front-seat sense, and to my ears still retains the feel of an american borrowing.

Anonymous said...

In the 1960s in the English Midlands we said "bags" or "baggy".
My aunt, who was a student nurse in the 1930s, once told me how they had a comfy wicker chair in their common room. Her friend once made an accidental Spoonerism; "Wicks the bagger chair!"
I'm familiar with the concept of "riding shotgun" on a stagecoach, but I've never heard it used in the context of a car.

Kate (Derby, UK)

hober said...

Another New Englander who grew up hoseying things here. (I'm from eastern Massachusetts.)

Ed Cormany said...

and of course, if you're riding in a full car and missed out on shotgun, your next best bet is to call "no bitch" to anti-dibs (yeah, i just made that one up, but why not?) the middle back seat.

Kel said...

Don't worry-- the (American) kids I babysit still call shotgun properly. It hasn't been lost :)

Terry said...

Mrs Redboots: 'We grew up saying "Bags I", and the opposite, which I heard as "Veins I". I think it is sometimes spelt "Fains"'

Are you thinking of the "truce term" fainites, sometimes "vainites" or "vains"?

flatlander said...

Agree with Brenda on the beer-related transitive use of "shotgun" (the hole goes in the lower part of the can and then you pop the top). I'm sure I learned that in college (in Pennsylvania).

We called "dibs" on something in New England. Now we (in mid-Atlantic) just "call" something, as in "Honey do you want to bathe the kids or wash the dishes?" "I call dishes."

lynneguist said...

If it is 'fainites' that Mrs Redboot is thinking of, I've discussed it some at the snap/jinx post.

I've made a correction re driving ages in the post-thanks. I'd understood that one could get a permit to learn at that point, but that one couldn't drive on one's own till 18, but I admit that since I (not to mention Grover) am far from that age, I was probably not paying enough attention!

ros said...

Can't speak for Mrs Redboots, but when I was at school (UK, 1980's) we said fains/vains not as a term of truce but as the opposite of 'bags' - in other words to refuse an unpleasant choice.

townmouse said...

Regarding seats in the car - and this was back in the seventies when we were just thrown in anyhow - the back of a hatchback (or an estate car) was known as the 'doggy seat' although that may have been because my aunt, who did most of the multi-kid ferrying - also had a dog which rode in there. As we weren't allowed to sit in the front till we were 12 that was the most prized seat for some reason.

My (American) husband introduced me to the correct use of shotgun, along with some very elaborate rules as to when and under what circumstances it can be called to be valid.

Julie said...

I'm a 22 year old Canadian, and I definitely would agree with both your definition of "dibs" and of "shotgun." (Coincidentally, when playing scrabble with my family this weekend, we had a whole debate about whether "dibs" is a word. It is not in the dictionary.)I still use "shotgun"--and have since I was old enough to ride in the front seat, although there is a pecking order other than the calling! However, I'm also a lifeguard, and before we got on the pool deck, we call lifeguard positions (all of which have been abbreviated to one word), and we use "shotty" for that, i.e., "shotty swirl," "shotty chair," or "shotty sauna." I would assume that "shotty" descends etymologically from "shotgun."

lynneguist said...

Julie, you're clearly not using the right dictionary for Scrabble! :)

See: http://www.wolfberg.net/scrabble/wordlists/threes-to-fours/

mollymooly said...

I don't see how "fainites" can be specific to "jinx" as opposed to being a more generic truce term. My first truce term with my siblings was "pax", learnt from my genteel parents or books I suppose. When I started school in Cork the word was "bars".

While "bags" is a fully inflectable verb (...,"it will have been being bagsed",...) usually it's just "Bags the X" rather than "I bags the X". The opposite is "bags not", but that requires a VP complement, "bags not have/take/get the [yoke]".

My experience of "yoink" matches that of Anonymous of S England and not my compatriot cleefa.

My experience of "shotgun" matches awindram's.

Sarah said...

I have definitely used shotgun for many things other than the front passenger seat of a car. Your example of the muffin sounds completely natural to me. I understand shotgun as being interchangeably with dibs, and shotgun sounds more normal to my ear than calling dibs. (I'm 27 and from Montreal, CA).

lynneguist said...

@mollymooly: I wasn't intending to claim that 'fainites' is specific to the jinx context. It's just that I was discussing 'jinx' in the 'snap'/'jinx' post and so that aspect of it was what was relevant. But what people think the word is good for seems to be a matter of some local (possibly including generational) difference.

Doug Sundseth said...

My (Western AmE) 11 y.o. son knows the real meaning of "shotgun", even though he almost never rides in the front seat. He's almost big enough that I feel comfortable with him up front now, but "Mom" or "Dad" trumps "shotgun", so it might be a while before he has much use for it.

In a related note, the opposite of "shotgun" is "the wayback", which either refers to the third row of seats in a minivan/van (BrE: usually "people carrier", IIUC, but there might be semantic peculiarities that I don't UC).

This seems to be a drift from the situation that obtained when I was a child. Then, it was the space behind the back seat in a station wagon (BrE: estate car, I think).

* I think that would be "people carrier" in BrE.

lynneguist said...

'Wayback'! Thanks, Doug! That takes me way back!

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

@ Terry, Lynneguist, Ros: We (Sussex and Hampshire, 1950s and 1960s) used "Veins" as the opposite of "Bags" - "Veins I do the washing-up" or whatever. The term for a truce was "Pax".

Actually, until I read this post, I always thought "riding shotgun" was sitting in the back seat... not an expression I would either use or expect to hear, although I'm familiar with it from American books.

Re driving, although one can drive a car in the UK as soon as one passes one's driving test, which can be within weeks of one's 17th birthday, I believe one may not drive a HGV until one is 21 and this requires a specialist driving test. And in Northern Ireland, someone who has recently passed an ordinary driving test must wear "R" plates on the car for the first year and is subject to speed restrictions. This is not so in the rest of the UK, although new drivers may, if they wish, wear "P" plates to signify a new driver.

Fern said...

I'm 17 and speak BrE. I'd 'bagsy' something, though I might also say 'you get first dibs'. I don't think I'd use 'dibs' anywhere other than that, though.

Solo said...

We have shotgun to mean calling the passenger seat in the UK. It's been around for as long as I can remember (I'm 23) with no sense of it being an AmE borrowing. You have to say it while you're in sight of the car. It was no use when we were kids though, because whoever was driving got to pick who went in the coveted front seat. (I'm old enough to remember the days when rear seats didn't have belts and the littlest ones got crammed in the rear footwell.)

It was always 'bagsy' and 'bagsy not it' when I was groeing up. (Lies- I still say both now) I've never used 'dibs' but it's familiar enough, probably from broadsheet commentary thinking about it.

This will amuse you all I suspect. At my junior school in the south of Essex, we had a very specific term along the vein of 'vainites' which was 'squitsies'. Ifyou rossed your fingers and shouted "squits" or "Squitsies" then no one could get you with the lurgy [AmE cooties] or make you It. No idea why or how this came ot pass, but there you have it.

Solo said...

Oh, and out of interest, in the UK you can apply for a Provisional Driving licence at 16yrs 9mnths but may not drive on public roads until your 17th birthday. It is perfectly legal to take and pass your test on the day you turn 17, but under current rules this will permit you to drive only a car, possibly a minivan, but nothing bigger and no towing etc.

Unlike the US however, if popular culture informs me correctly, it is not common for teenagers to own cars, SUVs, Jeeps and other improbably expensive and unnecessarily oversized gas guzzlers. Most of us walk to school here, or get the bus.

Dru said...

I'm English in my sixties. So this is the vernacular of children some time back.

Bags was normal. I think 'bagsy' is a shortening of 'bags I'. I've never heard dibs, either then or now.

I've heard the expression 'riding shotgun'. To me it means the man who rides next to the driver on a stage coach in a Western. I would assume he would carry a gun so as to shoot approaching Indians, bandits etc. The driver would have to keep his hands on the reigns.

I've never heard shotgun used on its own as a verb, and would have had difficulty before this blog guessing what it meant. I'd probably have assumed it meant 'force into marriage'.

I've also never heard it used generally of travelling in the passenger seat of a car. To me, it would still be a live metaphor of its use in a Western. So if one was going to use it all, one might perhaps jocularly refer to the driver's mate in a white van as 'riding shotgun'.

Does the term 'white van' mean anything to a transatlantic reader? Here it's the sort of van a builder or a self employed delivery person (a white-van-man) drives round in.

lynneguist said...

Vans and men with them are discussed back here.

Dru said...

Thinking further, it's occurred to me the derivation of 'bag' might be as follows. One can say 'can you bag me a seat?'. This implies that the expression comes from the universal practice of putting a bag or some other item on a seat so as to claim it as yours, even when you aren't sitting on it.

There's also the statement used by people who decline to recognise this custom, move someone else's bag, coat or whatever, and sit down, 'It's bums, not bags in Bolton' (or some other local place that begins with a 'b').

Anonymous said...

My children, (BrE, town just north of London) have morphed "bagsy" to "bugsy". I don't know whether their friends have too. I (AmE) only knew it from Enid Blyton books, although I'm pretty sure we could "bag" a seat. But that wouldn't be the same as calling it, which would happen as you raced to reach something first. Bagging a seat was likely to be in the context of "Could you bag a seat for me?"

Helen said...

I'm from the north of England and used bagsy as a kid as in 'turn around, touch the ground bagsy not be it' - our truce term was pax and like fern I think i would have used dibs but in an offer rather than as staking a claim e.g. 'you can have first dibs'.

Picky said...

In my youth (SLondon) the claim word was bags, or bags I. Pax was OK as an appeal for a mutual truce. But the word which gave a magical protection against capture or attack was fainlights, with an L.

Wendy said...

I've heard/used bag/bags in AmE too, at least in the midAtlantic states. Limited to the usage Dru mentions - you can "bag a seat on the train" or tell a friend "if you get to the bar first, bag us a table". Used in place of grab, mostly, and in very crowded places. I'd have grouped bag with nab or grab.

We used yoinks growing up, very much a playground word. I think it came from the Three Stooges - a nonsense noise you use to show you were stealing something from under someone else's nose, and there was nothing they could do to stop you. Example, your sister called dibs on the last muffin, but you were standing right next to it - you'd grab said muffin, say "yoinks" just to rub it in, and then take a big bite!

Anonymous said...

On the subject of pax, at prep school (BrE, private school for 8-13 year olds) in the 1960s if someone said "safety" after making a nasty smell, others could not chastise you, but if someone said "sixers" before you said safety, they could hit you 6 times.

Doug Sundseth said...

The intuition* I have is that the AmE use of "bag" as a verb comes from hunting.

One could, for instance, "bag three ducks last Saturday". Those three ducks might also be your "bag limit", or maximum number of birds allowed you by your hunting license.

Metaphorically, then, you could hunt down and take ("bag") a ticket to a sports event or a seat in a crowded restaurant.

* It might be worth what you paid for it. Beware the thickets of false etymology. 8-)

Albert Herring said...

For the same of hyperpedantry, you can in fact hold and use a driving licence in the UK from the age of 16 - however, you can only use it to ride a moped with, not a car until you hit 17.

(Just checked: at age 16 you can also drive a three-wheeler if you have a serious disability, a small agricultural tractor, a roadgoing sit-on lawnmower or a pedestrian controlled vehicle. So there you go...)

"Bags I" +verb or "Bagsy" + NP for me, in Buckinghamshire in the 1960s/70s.

empty said...

By the way, what's the story with "station wagon" and "estate car"? Is one of these expressions derived from the other? Sounds unlikely, but the two arising independently sounds unlikely, too.

Anonymous said...

I assume that a station wagon is a car for getting your stuff from the railway station to your house, while an estate car is for driving around your estate (perhaps taking your lunch to the bothy during a pheasant shoot). My mother used to call them shooting brakes which is similar to estate car. All completely off-topic, sorry Lynne.

Julie said...

My intuition matches Doug's. That's the language used in license pamphlets for those sports.

David Young said...

North of England 1960s: we used "bags I", not "bagsy". "I bag" would have been understood, but I don't think it was generally used.

Dru said...

I don't think a station wagon derives from railway stations. I'm sure it is correct that an estate car is one used on a country estate in the English sense. I think the derivation of a station wagon is basically the same, with 'station' being the Australian or somewhere else's equivalent, a large agricultural property.

Stephen Jones said...

---"I don't think a station wagon derives from railway stations. "-----

And a two-minute search on the internet proves you wrong.
Station wagon in the automobile sense is first recorded 1929, from earlier use for a horse-drawn conveyance that took passengers to and from railroad stations (1894)
http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?search=station+wagon&searchmode=none

Solo said...

Haha, I was refraining from hyperpedantry with regards driving age regulations! You win.

It occurred to me that I would use dibs bt only in a descriptive and probably historical sense, and always collocated with 'first.

To 'bag' a seat etc I would say is a different thing to bagsy, because it means you have secured a coveted thing, whereas you would shout 'bagsy' etc in instances where it was not possible for you to get the thing by fair means. The theory that it is taken from literally using a bag as a marker seems very likely, but wouoldn't make much sense with regard to the last piece of cake, say.

Eileen said...

I'm AmE, and I'd say either "dibs" or probably more frequently "I call X". Shotgun is definitely only for the front seat, and you have to be in sight of the car to say it. @Ed Cormany, definitely agree on calling "no bitch" if you can't get shotgun. That middle seat is the worst.

On a somewhat related note, we'd also call "fives" if you were sitting in a chair, and got up and wanted to make sure no one sat down before you got back.

Anonymous said...

Here's one for the young and feckless: Ever call 'mine' when you're out and someone hot walks in or you're somewhere you go often and a new person turns up?

Julie said...

I know in my family a phrase like "no bitch" would have gotten me in serious trouble.

Joeldipops said...

I'm 20 in central queensland. I can't remember what I used when I was younger, but I think it was an assortment of 'bags', 'dibs', 'call' and 'shotgun'.
Now, among my friends it's exclusively 'shotgun' or 'shotty' for everything, along with 'shotgun/shotty not'. It is most often used in the phrase 'shotty the front'
Oh, and it's labelled as 'the shotgun rule' "Oi stuff you, you can't ignore the shotgun rule!"

"On the subject of pax, at prep school (BrE, private school for 8-13 year olds) in the 1960s if someone said "safety" after making a nasty smell, others could not chastise you, but if someone said "sixers" before you said safety, they could hit you 6 times."

This came back into fashion in Queensland a few years back, with 'sixers' replaced with 'six fish', in which you need to list six types of fish, and the caller can keep punching you until you do. I'm shocked this has been around since the 60s!

Anonymous said...

I'm English and 23. As a child, bags I would have been understood but wasn't in current use (a bit too Enid Blyton). Shotgun to me sounds very very American but the sense of it being the front seat would have been understood. We said "you're it" and to stop being made it we would cross our fingers to not the the "lurgy" Pax is something my grandparents said.

Little Black Sambo said...

"I doubt I would have been able to make sense of it."
When did that come in? It always used to be "doubt whether" or "doubt if" - in England, anyway.

enitharmon said...

Definitely 'baggsy' on the Wirral in the late 50s/early 60s.

I use 'first dibs' a lot now, but I probably picked up that and other AmE expressions from 10 years marriage to (and ongoing friendship with) an American.

Anonymous said...

I don't think "shotgun" is completely ubiquitous across the US. In SoCal we would "call the front" (sometimes "front seat"), but in the Intermountain-West region and further east everyone called "shotgun". "Dibs" is common everywhere.

To "call" something, or "call dibs", is also consistent.

"Shotgun" has strong historic connotations, coming from the standard arm carried by the navigator/support person on a stagecoach, that is still implied today. That is, to call shotgun is to not only get the front passenger seat, but also to support the driver with directions, smartphone searches, texting, and food/drinks, among other things. I think the implications would be completely lost to a non-native AmE speaker, even if they knew it was a term for the front seat.

Andrew said...

I'll just reiterate nic's citing of "bars I"/"I bars" as a (Victorian, at least) Australian synonym for "bags I"/"I bags".

The "pax" word was "barley".

Iain Mac Eochagáin said...

I'm Irish and as a child with my friends I would say "I dibs it" or "I pegs it".

Joshua Graham said...

I am an American at (in? I can't remember what I use. Nothing sounds right now) University in the UK, and my British (English) mates keep calling 'shotgun not' to get out of doing things they don't want to like buying the next round of pints. I can't keep up because there is never a car in sight, plus shotgun is something I want not something I avoid.

Albert Welch said...

Massachusetts age 25-

I would use dibs, unless it's my bestie in which case it'd be "mine!"

In regard to anti-dibs for chores I learned to touch my nose with my index finger while saying "Not it!".

For "bag me a seat" I would use save me a seat.