[Ads-l] "sheeny" in the TLS, and other odds and ends

Michael Quinion michael.quinion at WORLDWIDEWORDS.ORG
Thu Dec 10 10:28:02 UTC 2015

George Thompson wrote of text in TLS:

> "Her press secretary, Bernard Ingham, in the argot and spirit of the
> time, is quoted as saying that "he always seemed as quaint as a coot
> to me"." I suppose that this is the limey equivalent of "queerer
> than a three dollar bill", but I don't see "quaint" in Green's
> dictionary.

"Quaint" was once British slang for a gay person, presumably derived
from the more mainstream sense of being old-fashioned and perhaps a
little odd or peculiar. I'm no expert on the argot, but I think it has
vanished from everyday use. Mr Ingham's comment blends that with the
expression "bald as a coot" and he may also have had in mind "coot"
meaning a person, often an old man, who is stupid or eccentric.

> "Nosiness is all that keeps a teacher reading: the unguarded child
> might let a variety of cats out of family bags, revealing Dad as an
> alcoholic, Mum as a nag, or little brother as a swank." Green's
> Dictionary has "swank" as a verb meaning to work hard, but not as a
> noun.  Somehow, it seems that here "swank" should mean something
> more scandalous -- or is that my dirty mind working? 

"Swank" as a noun has a long history (the OED has examples from 1854)
and is colloquial rather than slangy. It means a person who exhibits
behaviour intended to impress others but who overdoes it and is mocked
for it. It is intended in context as an uncomplimentary reference to
Sir Mark Thatcher.

> "Dibbly-dobbly bowlers are not going to win you test matches." This
> expression is not in Green's Dictionary of Slang.  

"Dibbly-dobbly" is recorded as derogatory cricketing slang for
medium-pace bowlers. I've never before encountered it, but then I
never read the sporting columns.

Michael Quinion
World Wide Words
Web: http://www.worldwidewords.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list