Posted by Garry Smith on May 07, 2011 at 09:44
I am amazed that the origin of 'posh' is still not acknowledged because the evidence is overwhelming and conclusive. 'Posh' is a contraction of 'polish' or 'polished'. The historical setting should be obvious to any historian. The nineteenth century was the first age of consumerism - furniture was french polished, it was sold as well polished and had to be kept well polished; brass, copper, silver plate etc. were increasingly available and had to be kept polished. A well-to-do home had many material possessions and was a polished home or a posh home.
Around the late nineteenth century 'polish(ed)' began to describe human qualities – a play was a polished performance, a written work was a polished work; a person was a polished person and then a posh person. "posh' for a dandy or homosexual man is a use of the term in this latter sense, it is not the origin.
Older dictionaries even give ‘polish(ed)’ as being the origin of ‘posh’. I have seen ‘polish’ abbreviated to 'posh' in copies of old household instructions.
Where are all the historian? Why is the obvious not seen? There are many other words and terms that are incorrectly attributed but I select this as the most glaringly, over-the-top obvious.
(ps. Please don’t cite the Concise Oxford Dictionary – it’s gone all light and frothy and has lost its way).