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Re: POSH

Posted by Gary Martin on May 09, 2011 at 07:35

In Reply to: Re: POSH posted by David FG on May 08, 2011 at 11:24:

: : 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).

: OK, you MIGHT be right, and 'posh' could indeed well be a corruption of 'polish', but there is a bit of a gap between 'might' and 'is'. Where is the evidence that this is indeed the case?

: From a purely logical approach (leaving aside any linguistic considerations) why should the word 'polish' become 'posh'? I am not aware of any other word that lost its middle in the Victorian period - though I am quite happy to be proven wrong on this - so why just this one? Why didn't 'varnish' become 'vash', for example?

: DFG

The argument presented here seems to centre around the "historical setting", i.e. the assertion that "Around the late nineteenth century 'polish(ed)' began to describe human qualities". That's not correct - 'polished' has been used figuratively as an adjective since at least the 15th century. An example is Hoccleve's De Regimine Principum, circa 1450:

Weyue fauel with his polysshid speche

"Why is the obvious not seen?" - because it isn't obvious.

Verifiable facts welcome here; unverified option presented as though it were fact, less so.