dodge Pompey

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Wed Jun 27 11:46:18 UTC 2012

I was attempting again to find how Portsmouth, England got the nickname Pompey (OED has it from 1899), and so far, failed again. There are many proposals. Anyway, here are some antedatings (OED has 1929) for dodging Pompey (one of which, merely coincidentally, involves the US ship Portsmouth); dodging Pompey may have played some role in the Portsmouth nickname origin--or not. (Green's, unchecked.) They may not all fit OED's dodge v 13 sense (a) to evade work (Naval slang).

1836  Ben Brace; the last of Nelson's Agamemnons. Capt. Chamier RN. v. 1 p. 295 (HT)
[in rough seas] We tried a signal or two, but it was no use--the lanterns were playing 'dodge Pompey,' and the lights were out before the signal could be made.

1838 [1853 ed.] Jack Adams, the mutineer. Capt. F. Chamier, RN. p.145 col. 1
Have I ever played dodge Pompey behind a screen when danger was near?

1841 Tom Bowling: A tale of the sea. v.3 (HT)
Smith was a regular dodge Pompey

1845-1847, published 1958. The Cruise of the Portsmouth, 1845-1847: A Sailor's View of the Naval Conquest of California. Joseph T. Downey, USN; ed. Howard Lamar. Yale UP. (paper)
I have found out that dodging Pompey is a good thing, dodging is my trade, and I am as good a dodger as any he [sic] in California, just keep your eyes on their Big Guns, and when you see the flash, fall down where you stand, and don't rose again till you hear the Ball whistle over your heads;....

1847 Cruise of the Graceful; or, The Robbers of Carracas, by Captain Barnacle, U.S.N. (C.M. Newell?) p. 5, col. 1 (HT)
....I never seed so much _dodging pompey_ in all my sailoring as I have these two weeks past.

1880 Captain Tom Drake; or, England's hearts of oak. W. L. Emmett. p. 7   col. 1
"I've put a question to you, now I wants the answer; now then, out with it, none of your tack and half tack, and dodging Pompey round the long boat, let's have it...."

1899 The log of a sea-waif... Frank T. Bullen, p.292 (GB)
They killed time in a variety of ways, making believe to do some work, but principally occupied in "dodging Pompey."

Stephen Goranson

The American Dialect Society -

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