Slap up?

Posted by James Briggs on May 06, 2000

In Reply to: Slap up? posted by ESC on May 04, 2000

: : : The UK newspaper The Guardian has a queries column which sometimes includes questions about phrase origins. There was one today that I couldn't resolve. 'Why slap up meals?'

: : : Gary

: : I've never heard that one. In the U.S., cooks "whip up meals." Then there's the expression that a dish is so good that it makes you want to "slap your mama."

: And now that I've thought about it, we do say we are going to "slap something together" when a task is done in a hurry.

: "British English A to Zed" (HarperCollins, New York, 1991)by Norman W. Schur says: "slap-up, adj. (informal) First rate, great, terrific. The British once used both slap-up and bang-up commonly; both would be considered old-fashioned now. A 'slap-up do' meant a 'bang-up job,' a first rate piece of work, and especially a splendid party with no expense spared."

: Maybe there's an answer in there somewhere.

I've done some research into this. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable gives an origin and a Dickens quote. I've adde a little to it.

Slap up. To have a slap up meal means to eat well. The expression goes back to the time of Charles Dickens, when it was a "slap-bang" meal, derived from cheap eating houses, where one slapped one's money down as the food was banged on the table. Why "down" has turned to "up" is probably another example of language evolution, in much the same way as "to be sold a pig in a poke" has come to mean that one has been cheated, whereas, in reality, the reason for going to a medieval market was often to buy the pig and not to be "sold a pup"!
Quote: Dickens, Sketches by Boz, 3, 36. "They lived in the same street, walked to town every morning at the same hour, dined at the same slap-bang every day."