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

Garson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon Sep 12 09:17:23 UTC 2011

Thanks for the comments and responses. I apologize for the lack of
clarity in my post. In the subject line I used the word "etymythology"
instead of the word "etymology" because the post concerned the popular
false etymology of the word posh. The false etymology is intriguing
and funny in my opinion. The fanciful acronymic origin is a separate
topic from the real etymology, and it is, I think, worth
investigating. Perhaps this is an eccentric opinion. The citations in
the post were intended to be helpful to people interested in tracing
this pseudo etymology.

Of course the real etymology of posh is an important topic that is
fascinating and controversial, and I was happy to see responses on
that theme.

Michael Quinion: Your point is an excellent one. Because I did not
properly mark excerpts it turns out that you are responding to a
sentence that was written in 1937. Sorry. Below is part of my previous
post with markers around the excerpted text.

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.

<Begin excerpt>
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.
<End excerpt>

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)

< Begin excerpt of 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, ...
<End excerpt>

On Mon, Sep 12, 2011 at 4:15 AM, Michael Quinion
<wordseditor at> wrote:
> Garson O'Toole wrote:
>> 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.
> If I may correct you on this point. "Posh" remains a common British
> English word today and appears in most British dictionaries, including the
> Concise Oxford, Chambers and Collins.
> --
> Michael Quinion
> Editor, World Wide Words
> Web:

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