Clem - carnie talk

Posted by ESC on April 26, 2002

In Reply to: Clem - Blank Look posted by TheFallen on April 25, 2002

: : : : I was recently sent something that said "you are a clem." The person who said it was from England. I was wondering if anyone out there knew what this word means?

: : : I'm not British so I have to rely on my references. There must be another meaning because the following doesn't seem to fit the term as used above. The British among us will have to help out on this one.

: : : CLEMMED -- adj. British. starving, hungry. An old word which is a survival of northern dialect (from Middle English 'clemmen,' to pinch). It is still heard occasionally among older speakers (and, incidentally, in the TV soap opera 'Coronation Street.')" From "The Dictionary of Contemporary Slang" by Tony Thorne (1999, Pantheon Books, New York)

: : : CLEM -- "(U.S. equivalent) starve. As in clemmed for a snack. Dialect, favored by hoboes; common in rustic novels. Its use is considered by some to be chic." From "British English A to Zed" by Norman W. Schur (HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, HarperPerrennial edition, 1991)

: : Klem Kadiddlehopper was a character created by the genius clown Red Skelton.
: : Klem was a very funny but slow-witted character and was part of Mr. Skelton's repertoire including "Gertrude & Heathcliffe" (the cross-eyed sea gulls), the "Mean Widdle Kid" ("I dood it!"), and the inebriated "Cauliflower McPugg" and "Willie Lump-Lump".

: "Clem" is a new one on this Brit, so I'm no help at all. British slang often remains very regional though, and since I'm from the South-East, and given that ESC's reference sources are, I am sure, right in attributing it to the North of England, it's no surprise that I've never heard of it.

"Clem" - American version. According to this reference, "clem" in American English is carnival talk for a rustic.

clem -- noun (origin unknown; perhaps for the given name Clem, taken as characteristic of rural people) Carnival, a brawl, especially with townspeople. Also (representing a dialect pronunciation) clim. 1891 De Vere "Tramp Poems" 88: "Gawks,' "guys" and "rubes," another day,/ When e'er a circus comes your way,'/ And you are spileing' for a 'clim,' Be sure they haven't learned to sing.From Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Volume 1, A-G by J.E. Lighter, Random House, New York, 1994.