Posted by Gary on August 13, 2002
In Reply to: What's that when it's at home posted by Kathy on August 13, 2002
: I am interested to learn of the derivation of the phrase "what's that when it's at home", where 'that' can be a word that the speaker/writer does not understand the meaning of.
: with thanks
The 'that' could also be an event or object that is unexplained or unusual, e.g. a strange noise in the night or a bizarre haircut.
The phrase was mostly used in the English Midlands and North and probably originated there. It is rather archaic now and I wouldn't expect to hear it from anyone under sixty.