Etymythology of posh, P. O. S. H.

Spanbock/Svoboda-Spanbock spanbocks at VERIZON.NET
Sun Sep 11 22:05:05 UTC 2011

What I have never quite bought about the 'portside' explanation is
that, while, yes, it would allow you to see land from your cabin, it
seemed to me that it would require that your room faced north, and
therefore would get very little sunlight?

On Sep 11, 2011, at 2:55 PM, Garson O'Toole wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Garson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Etymythology of posh, P. O. S. H.
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> The etymythology of the word "posh" (port outbound; starboard home) is
> a very popular example of a false etymology. OED has a 1914 citation
> for the adjective posh, but the earliest cite for the  etymythological
> explanation is much later in 1935.
> OED (December 2006 online) posh, adj.
> Smart, stylish, splendid, luxurious. Also (chiefly Brit.): typical of
> or belonging to the upper class; (affecting to be) superior or
> genteel; ‘snooty’, pretentious.
> 1914    E. C. Vivian Brit. Army from Within v. 86   The cavalryman,
> far more than the infantryman, makes a point of wearing ‘posh’
> clothing on every possible occasion--‘posh’ being a term used to
> designate superior clothing, or articles of attire other than those
> issued by and strictly conforming to regulations.
> The Merriam Webster online FAQ has a discussion of the earliest known
> publication of the fanciful etymology:
> The first appearance of the acronymic origin in print that we know of
> was a letter to the editor of the London Times Literary Supplement of
> 17 October 1935. The writer, an Englishman, wanted to enlighten the
> editors of the Oxford English Dictionary Supplement, who had marked
> its origin obscure; he identified port out, starboard home as "an
> American shipping term describing the best cabins."
> I have located a 1937 citation that prints a slightly different
> version of the tale and refers to an earlier publication in a
> periodical called "Saint Martin's Review". I do not know when the
> article in "Saint Martin's Review" appeared. Perhaps this information
> might interest list members who have investigated this etymythology.
> Cite: 1937 December 21, The (Daily) Gleaner, Between You & Me:
> Tit-bits Of Current Happenings Reviewed In Daily Sketch by Meddler,
> (NA Page 25),Column 2, December 21, 1937 Kingston, Jamaica.
> (NewspaperArchive)
> I don't think the word "posh" has yet found its way into any standard
> English dictionary, even though it is pretty general use over there.
> The "Saint Martin's Review" is responsible for the following
> derivation of it. "It is said to have come from the custom of opulent
> East Indian Nabobs who, content with nothing but the best, engage
> cabins Port Outside Starboard Homewards." The derivation of a good
> many other words in our language is quite as fantastic.
> I also located a match in a volume that Google Books assigns a 1936
> date. GB in its inscrutable wisdom now claims that there is no match.
> The following information is from electronic records created in July
> 2010. This citation is unverified because the volume was too difficult
> to access on paper or microfilm.
> Title: The Army quarterly, Volumes 33-34
> Authors: Guy Payan Dawnay, Sir Cuthbert Morley Headlam (bart.)
> Publisher: William Clowes & Sons, Ltd., 1936
> Page: 358 (page number from GB snippet display)
> Extracted text:
> ... cushy " from Hindustani is surely well established, and
> conjectures of a Romany source must arise from the similarity of many
> Hindustani and Romany words; while to connect it with " cushion "
> sounds suspiciously like pure fancy. But these derivations are elusive
> things: thus " posh " (stylish, smart) has lately been claimed in the
> Sunday Press both for Suffolk dialect and for Romany, while a third
> correspondent suggests that it is simply the initials of "Port Out
> Starboard Home," indicating the most favoured and expensive side for
> cabins on the way to and from India ; Mr. Partridge adds yet another
> conjecture, a corruption of the Scottish " tosh." Again, "to get his
> goat " may come, ...
> Additional background on this topic is provided at these links:
> Michael Quinion discusses the word posh at World Wide Words here:
> Dave Wilton discusses posh at Word Origins here:
> Merriam Webster has information in its FAQ:
> The Phrase Finder website discusses posh here:
> Garson
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