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

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Mon Sep 12 02:37:30 UTC 2011

This sounds like a myth too.  Londoners don't vocalize intervocalic /l/, and if there were a pronunciation *polsh, it would come out as [pOUS], with a different vowel.  i've heard something like that as a jocular pronunciation of posh (by Scots = [poS]), but not as a general rule.

Paul Johnston
On Sep 11, 2011, at 9:51 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Etymythology of posh, P. O. S. H.
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Sep 11, 2011, at 9:55 PM, Gerald Cohen wrote:
>> Here's a bibliographical reference for the discussion
>> of P.O.S.H.:
>> J. Peter Maher: "_Posh_". In: _Studies in Slang_, part (= vol.) 1,
>> edited by Gerald Leonard Cohen. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.,
>> 1985, pp. 64-65.
>> Maher discusses and rejects the Port-Out-Starboard-Home etymology and
>> suggests instead: "Everyone familiar with London speech
>> knows that the _l_ of words like _milk_, _I'll_, _well_ and
>> such are 'gulped'... Londoners, in particular the Cockneys,
>> pronounce the verb _to polish_ as _pawsh_, to write it in an American
>> fashion, or _posh_ to give the authentic, if non-standard, British spelling.
>> The verb is fully conjugated: "I, you, we, they _posh_; he, she, it
>> _poshes_; it is, they are _poshed_ types, or live in _posh(ed)_ digs.
>> Maher goes on to derive the adjective _posh_ from this _posh(ed)_,
>> i.e.., ultimately from _polish_."
> With any direct evidence of "polish" used as an adjective, or anyone connecting "posh" with "polish"?  Is "poshed" as in "poshed types/digs" ever attested?  Does even "polished digs" occur in print?   If not, it sounds suspiciously like an alternate etymythology.  The variant-of-"push" and Romany stories sound more plausible to me, if I had to guess.
> LH
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