Posted by James Briggs on August 02, 2006
In Reply to: Up the pole posted by ESC on August 01, 2006
: : : : : I've never really found a satisfactory origin of this mainly UK, Oz and NZ expression. It implies that someone is a bit mad/eccentric.
: : : : : Personally, I feel it comes from the 1920s fashion of pole sitting; those that undertook this 'pastime' must have been a bit weird. However I've just been sent a 'I was told' type origin suggesting that it came from old fashioned mental institutions. I'm not convinced.
: : : : : I can't find anything really reliable on the Net. Any ideas? - it's not in our archive.
: : : : UP THE POKE/POLE/SPOUT/STICK -- "adj., British. pregnant. These expressions are in mainly working-class use. They are all vulgar, simultaneously evoking the male and female sex organs and the idea of a baby being lodged or jammed. They can describe either the act of conception, as in 'he's put her up the stick' or the condition, as in 'she's up the stick again.'" From "Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (Pantheon Books, New York, 1990).
: : : : I think that's pretty clear. (Smile.)
: : : I can confirm that "up the pole" is listed in the Collins Ausralian dictionary as meaning slightly mad. Baker (the Australian Language, 1945) lists it as: "Up to putty, up to mud, up to tripe, up the pole, up the chute, onkus (or honkus) and tatty describe things that are bad disliked or out of order." Perhaps the "out of order" (i.e. not working properly) use relates to its meaning of slightly mad? The phrase occured in the book Fact'ry 'Ands Edward Dyson: "Yar, go'n chase yerself, why don't yeh" said Miss Gleeson, pleasantly confused. Then, as a bright afterthought, she added, "Yer fair up the pole!" (http://whitewolf.newcastle.edu.au/words/authors/D/DysonEdward/prose/factryhands/factryhands010.html). Pamela
: : Pamela,
: : Thanks for that 1906 useage, and the 'mad' confimation. However, still no origin. I guess it's lost.
: Maybe this new book will have it: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/49/messages/1076.html
Thanks for that. I'll try to follow it up.
See also: the meaning and origin of 'up the pole'.