Posted by Lap of the Goddess on November 04, 2004
In Reply to: How's yer father? posted by ESC on November 01, 2004
: : : Hi,
: : : Could anyone please tell me the origin of 'How's yer father? I understand it's British for 'sex'?
: : : Thanks in advance,
: : : Torsten
: : This is well-established in use, but I think it goes back to the tendency of young couples snatching a moment of lust to leap apart when interrupted and pretend to be talking - in such a scenario the boy asking "...and how is your father?" would be entirely appropriate. I think a music-hall act popularised the particular expression used.
: From the archives:
: how's your father? catchphrase associated with the British music-hall comedian Harry Tate (1872-1940). Apparently, he would exclaim it as a way of changing the subject and in order to get out of a difficult situation. The phrase either subsequently or simultaneously took on a life of its own meaning the same as a 'thingummy' or anything the speaker did not wish to name. From that, in phrases like 'indulging in a spot of how's-your-father', it became a euphemism for sexual activity.
: From _Dictionary of Catchphrases_ by Nigel Rees
: [See http://www.rfwilmut.clara.net/musichll/xtate.html]
: how's your father casual copulation.
: A male expression, perhaps from an opening conversational gambit. Also used of unmarried pregnancy:
: The girl was in the club, knocked up, a bun in the oven -- 'ow's yer father. [Gavin Lyall, _The Conduct of Major Maxim_, 1982]
: Frequently as 'a bit of how's your father'.
: From _A Dictionary of Euphemisms_ by R.W. Holder
It's used a bit more broadly down here. ie. describing something as being a bit 'ows yer father' is to say it's a bit dodgy, risky, etc. No doubt evolved from the previous descriptions.