Words-worth: Premium

Adjectives stick to the word lager like feet to a pub carpet.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

On the street, there's 'cooking', 'throwing' and the notorious 'wife-beater' lager. In the industry, though, they talk about 'premium lager'. In each case, the differentiating factors are price and alcohol content: at the risk of being controversial, that's because price and alcohol content are the only ways of telling lagers apart. As a noun, 'premium' has been around since the 17th century. It comes from the Latin praemium, meaning a payment or reward, and that's one of its meanings today, as well as the sum payable for an insurance policy and, indeed, any earnings or price above the ordinary. As an adjective, it's much more recent, and highly American. It indicates a product of higher quality that commands a higher price. Aside from alcohol, there aren't that many 'premium' products in daily use in Britain: 'premium rate' phone lines, 'premium class' air travel, 'premium unleaded' - and that's about it. As with the lager, the improved quality of these products is in the eye of the beholder; the price hike is real, however.

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