phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|


Posted by David FG on May 08, 2011 at 11:24

In Reply to: POSH posted by Garry Smith on May 07, 2011 at 09:44:

: 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?