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Natural gentleman?

Posted by Lotg on October 10, 2003

In Reply to: Touareg/Toerag in U.S. VW Commercial posted by Brian from Shawnee on September 16, 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.

: : : : The word is virtually unknown here in the U.S., so Volkswagen has confidently called their new sport utility vehicle the Tuareg in this country. I associated Tuareg with Toerag the first time I heard it, even though I had no clear definition for Toerag, but I knew it wasn't good. What do they call it in the U.K., I wonder?

: : : My post about the Tuaregs (sp.?) being a tribe from Saharan Africa got lost. I believe that they are hardy nomads from somewhere near Timbuktu and make journeys through the desert.

: : : I think it was intended as a compliment to them for the car to be named after them. I had not thought of them as the Toerag tribe.

: : Silly me, I thought Tuareg was a German name.

: : But do they call the vehicle Tuareg in England? I know marketing people use different names in different places. Don't know if it's true, but I once heard that Chevrolet had to rename the Nova in South America because "no va" means "doesn't go" in Spanish. And VW called the same car the Rabbit in the U.S., but it was the Golf in the U.K.

: Just when I thought I was silly to associate "toerag" with the VW "Touareg", along comes a commercial, seen by me during Monday Night Football, where actors humorously mispronounce the name of the vehicle. The first two guys say "uh, Toerag?".

: I found out that the vehicle is called the Touareg in the U.K., so apparently the advertisers foresaw no problems with the name.

: Touareg is apparently the name of a place in northern Africa that is associated with a long-distance car rally. I believe VW chose it to echo the old Scirocco of the 1970's.

::: ESC, was it you who said that "in Australia toerag can sometimes indicate approval of one who acts like a (natural, rather than social) gentlemen."? That's a new one on me. I used the term myself the other day to the amazement of my friends, because a) it's not a particularly polite term, and b) I'm Victorian originally, they're New South Welshmen, and they'd never heard the term.

But it's a term that was frequently used when I was growing up in Victoria, and was NEVER used to suggest anyone was a natural gentleman. It was always extremely derogatory. In fact so much so, it often had a greater insulting effect than profanity.

So I'm wondering what part of Australia would have used it the way you've described?

Also they sell Touaregs here too. Not being a VW fanatic, I've only just discovered that as a result of this forum, and having done so, am curious to know how it's supposed to be pronounced.

And now I could never buy one, because now that you've put this idea in my head, I'll never be able to look at a Touareg seriously without snickering.