Posted by Lewis on September 05, 2003
In Reply to: Mindless toe rags posted by ESC on September 04, 2003
: MINDLESS TOE RAGS -- "LONDON, England -- The steam train used in the Harry Potter films has been damaged by paint-wielding vandals, police said . . . James Shuttleworth, from the West Coast Railway Company which operates the train, said the graffiti was 'heartbreaking.' 'The people who did this are mindless toe rags,' he said. 'This will horrify the millions of Harry Potter fans.'" From "Vandals damage Hogwarts Express," Thursday, September 4, 2003.
: TOERAG - noun, British. "a contemptible person, a scrounger, ne'er-do-well, tramp or thief. Toe-rags were the bindings wound around the feet of convicts or tramps in the 19th century. The word had taken on its present meaning by early in the 20th century in both Britain and Australia. During the 1950s and 1960s toerag was an obscure cockney term; it was given wider currency in the 1970s by TV programmes such as 'The Sweeney' and the pop songs of Ian Dury. From the mid-1980s it has been revived by working-class Londoners. In Britain toerag is often used factiously or slightly dismissively, in Australia it can sometimes indicate approval of one who acts like a (natural, rather than social) gentlemen." From the "Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990).
Not quite an anagram of Socrates, "scrotes" can be used somewhat interchangeably with "toerags" - obviously it refers to scrotum - and it has a dismissive nuance about it that makes it entirely suitable to refer to petty criminals, vandals and ne'er-do-well's. Perhaps it's origin lies in the undropped testicles of a male adolescent, but in the same way that a "toe-rag" is a worthless individual, a "scrote" is an annoying and immature male of the same ilk.