Her indoors

Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Fri Nov 6 14:35:46 UTC 2009

'Her indoors' is a common expression in British English, I've seen it a lot
since moving here.  There were a pair of columns in the Independent when I
first moved here, I think (that's 2000), that played on it: Her
Outdoors/Him Indoors.  One also sees 'him indoors' for
househusbands/stay-at-home dads.

I wouldn't have associated it with Asia--I've seen no connections between
the expression and that continent myself, but would be suspicious of
Ireland--since for some reason it reminds me of the Irish non-reflexive use
of 'him/herself'.  Various websites claim it came from/was popularized by a
comedy series, Minder (1979-1994), set among London gangsters (for which
one usually reads 'East End').



--On 05 November 2009 01:13 -0500 "Douglas G. Wilson" <douglas at NB.NET>

> I see the OED Wordhunt shows "her indoors" = "[my] wife" etc. First
> citation: 1979. Supposedly an expression adopted from a taxi driver ....
> I have never heard this "her indoors" myself, but my first thought is
> that it looks like a calque from Chinese. I suppose it's old-fashioned
> now, but a conventional Chinese expression meaning "my wife" is "nei
> ren", which I would gloss syllable-for-syllable "inside person", close
> enough to "her indoors" since it would only apply to a woman and since
> (I think) it is generally reckoned that the "nei" here means "inside the
> house/home". Note that it's "my wife", not just "[some] wife".
> Similarly, Japanese "kanai" means "my wife". I think the kanji can be
> glossed "house-inside".
> Of course I'm not the first to notice the parallel: e.g., one can see
> the English and Japanese terms opposed by Googling <<"her indoors"
> kanai>>.
> Apparently (no surprise) there are Korean equivalents too.
> Maybe this expression came from Chinese-influenced English (e.g., that
> of Singapore)? Or from a cabby from (say) Taiwan? Or one who's studied
> Chinese or Japanese? Or maybe it's a calque from some other language, of
> (say) India? Given the late date of "her indoors", I doubt parallel
> evolution in English.
> -- Doug Wilson

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics
Arts B357
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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