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Re: Ps & Qs and folk etymology
- To: BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU
- Subject: Re: Ps & Qs and folk etymology
- From: Jane Conneen <LFarmPress@AOL.COM>
- Date: Tue, 3 Feb 1998 09:42:05 EST
- Message-Id: <199802031444.GAA15967@lindy.stanford.edu>
- Sender: "Book_Arts-L: The list for all the book arts!" <BOOK_ARTS-L@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU>
I became interested with the Ps and Qs thread because I had always heard it
was the P & O Steamship Line (not the Peninsula and Eastern) However,
wondering which was right sent me searching through some long-forgotten books,
and this is what I found in "Word Mysteries and their Histories" edited by
Robert Claiborne, with illustrations by Barry Moser.
"Oh yes, Mater, we had a posh time of it down there." So in Punch for
September 1918, do we find the first recorded instance of that mysterious word
posh, meaning "smart and fashionable," although in a 1903 book by P. G.
Wodehouse, Tales of St. Austin's, there is a mention of a waistcoat that was
'push". The latter may be a different word, but in either case, the dates of
occurrence are important because they are part of the objection to deriving
posh from the initials of "Port Out, Starboard Home". this was the cooler, and
thus more expensive, side of ships traveling between England and India in the
mid-nineteenth century, and the acronym POSH was supposedly stamped on the
tickets of first-class passengers traveling on that side of ships owned by the
Peninsular and Oriental* Steam Navigation Company. No evidence whatever exists
for this theory."
"The "Oxford English Dictionary Supplement" may have found a possible source
or sources of posh, Another word posh was nineteenth and early twentieth-
century British slang for "money", specifically "a half-penny, cash of small
value." this word is borrowed from the common Romany word pash, "half", which
was used in combinations such as pashera, "halfpenny." Posh, also meaning "a
dandy", is recorded in two dictionaries of slang published in 1890 and 1902,
although this particular posh may be still another word. This word, or these
words, however, are much more likely to be the source of posh than "Port Out,
Starboard Home", although the latter certainly caught the public's
etymological fancy and has endured to this day."
*According to this book, P & O WAS RIGHT but it still doesn't give a
definitive answer as to where this word came from.
Best wishes to all.............Jane Conneen