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"Snowing down south"

Posted by Pamela on April 07, 2006

In Reply to: "Snowing down south" posted by R. Berg on April 07, 2006

: : : "Snowing down south" - I understand this to be a polite way of saying "you are showing your petticoat below your skirt". Does anyone know the origin?

: : Petticoat? If so, it's probably a pretty old phrase. I'm no expert on women's undergarments, but I think that for quite a number of years the word slip has been used more commonly than petticoat. What's the difference? Depends on who's been doing the defining. The word slip came into use in the 18th century, first applied to a garment with sleeves. One dictionary records the slip as being a dress-length undergarment suspended from narrow shoulder straps--as I have always been led to believe. The OED, however, says that in the 20th century the word slip was applied to an underskirt (sc., by implication, rather than the full-length garment). In the U.S. I'm pretty sure that women would have described this garment as a half-slip, although "you're slip is showing" still applied. But since a slip was women's underwear, ergo unmentionable (during a certain past era), "snowing down south" was a genteel way around mentioning the unmentionable. Comments, anyone? SS

: SS, I've long wondered what the OED means by "sc."

: Yes, "slip" is what we call the garment now, and one that hangs from the waist is a half-slip.

: "It's snowing down south" is listed in Eric Partridge's "Dictionary of Catch Phrases American and British." Partridge says it's Australian, current during the late 1940s and the 1950s "but rapidly less since then," and it may have reached Australia from the U.S. It was known in the U.S. as early as the 1930s, Partridge says.

No, I don't know the origin and can't find any references to it in any of the books I have about Australian sayings. In fact the only reference I can find at all is to the writer Judith Clark who included it in "Kalpana's Dream" as a "phrase my grandmother used to use". By the way a "slip" in Australia is an undergarment that includes a bodice and a skirt - I've never heard anyone use the expression "half-slip" to mean an underskirt, and would have thought that a half-slip was the bodice or top-half of a slip. Mind you, it's very hot in the part of Autralia where I live, so slips of any description would only be "special occasion" garments and so don't come up in conversation very often. Certainly, if I saw someone with an underskirt hanging out of the bottom of their skirt I would be more likely to say "aren't you hot in that?" rather than "Your slip is showing". In this post-Madonna world, I can't imagine anyone would actually care that much. Pamela