Edwardian Catchphrases


Inger Sheil

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Wonder if someone more versed in Edwardian popular slang could help me with this one? I don't know if its use was widespread or confined to the merchant service, but I'd like a more precise definition of a phrase used by one of the Titanic's officers in his pre-WSL days. He mentioned that as the ship carried passengers they had a bit of a 'doodle dash' (and his clothes weren't quite up to scratch). From the context, it appears as if a 'doodle dash' is a bit of rivalry in the fashion stakes. Does anyone have any similar examples or the origins of the term? A corruption of 'dandy dash' or something similar?
 

Dave Gittins

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Deep research on the Internet reveals three meanings. Probably they are not relevant, but they may suggest a lead.

1. A modern True Type font, in which the letters have little ornamental slashes through them.

2. As "Yankee Doodle Dash", a foot race sometimes held by American athletic clubs to mark July 4th.

3. In the 19th century, wanking.

Any better ideas, anyone?
 

Inger Sheil

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LoL! Yah, I did that one myself, Dave...and turned up the same equally unsatisfactory answers, save for 3., which is a new one to me (suspect it rather unlikely in the circumstances, given the gender and relationship of the recipient to the writer!).

Is it perhaps endemic to the merchant service of the turn of last Century? It seems to refer to clothes, and fashion (or lack thereof). I've found 'Doojie's joy' (defined as 'a poor specimen'), but not this particular usage.
 

Bob Godfrey

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A doodle was an idiot - the kind that doesn't have sense enough to know he's an idiot. (Provide your own examples!)
 
May 12, 2005
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A little late maybe for this to be of help but I wonder if "doodle dash" refers to the strolling around the promenade deck in fine clothes that went on among passengers on the bigger ships. There are several references in Titanic survivors’ letters to the "peacock alley" atmosphere on board, everyone strutting their stuff. Helen Churchill Candee also mentioned this in her "Sealed Orders" article.
 

Inger Sheil

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That would fit in with the context, Randy - although this was on a smaller ship (not one of the North Atlantic liners), the term might have been borrowed from the more prestigous vessels (or possibly a phrase used ashore?). I'll recheck the passage, but the impression I gained was of the sort of "see and be seen" promenading that took place on land or at sea, whether it be the gentry riding/driving around Bucks' Row or the domestics on their half day off gathering and eyeing off each other's attire.
 
Aug 15, 2005
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Brilliant. I was just about to create a similar thread as I am in the 'ripping to pieces & tarting up' stages.
That being said, I've forgotten exactly what I was going to open with, and so merely must ask the simple question thus:

Does anyone know of any really brilliant examples of catchphrases/slang from the era?
Not W*nking, but thanks Dave (you can pretend it's an 'I' if you want).
It would go much appreciated. Ta.
 

Bob Godfrey

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In the UK the catchphrases of the time came mostly from popular songs and comedy routines heard at the music hall and variety shows. A lot of them sound naff by modern standards, but if you want authenticity here's a few things to shout (generally preceded by "Oi!"): "Ginger, you're barmy!"; "Keep yer 'air on!" (or conversely) "Git yer 'air cut!". Some for passing motorists: "Get out an' get under!" "What-ho, she bumps!" "Any old iron!". A couple for the ladies: "Chase me, Charlie!"; "'old yer 'and out, naughty boy". And general exchanges might be peppered with song phrases like: "'Ow much? Who d'ya think I am, the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo?" and "You're asking for two lovely black eyes!" etc etc.
.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Spot on, Ryan. The 'Carry On' humour and innuendo is rooted in the style of the Edwardian music hall. As were, like it or not, the catchphrases and street humour of the time. No snappy Quentin Tarantino dialogue to inspire them back in 1912, I'm afraid. As for the stuff that wouldn't get past the moderators here, the Edwardians used the same range of four-letter words that we do, but for anything more exotic the problem is that the modern reader wouldn't make sense of it.

Yer man, for instance, is from Croakumshire, right? You can spot his sort easy when they come down south on account of having their brains in their ballocks. He'll take one step down the Dock Road and likely eye a bunch of Covent Garden nuns sporting their commodities. Will he be sensible and just dangle? No, he'll be ready to come down with the derbies. There he'll be, lining up for buttock and twang, and won't know enough even to get there early so he won't get served with a buttered bun. Next thing you know the whole caravan's gone in socket money. Either that or he'll fall in with some choice spirits and be cup-shot half the time and shooting the cat, while some napper has it away with his blunt. Circumbendibus, ain't it?
.
 
Aug 15, 2005
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Would I be correct in presuming Croakumshire is Cumbria?
As for the rest, I shall be requiring translation - nat ballocks, though. I ken a bit of Cumbrian twang from watching Never Mind The Full Stops on BBC Four, such as 'He went Yam' and some other stuff that I have written down in one of my many elusive notebooks, though I shall only be peppering that about if I use it at all.
Yer man has a lovely stereotypical English Brogue, by the way.
"I say, chaps. Hark at the bloody big boat down yon!"
I only need some basic slang/catchphrases for authenticity. And I have no idea what any of your examples mean.

Overdo it, Ms. Hall? Since when did I overdo it?
 
Jul 11, 2010
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Oh, btw, when I googled "doodle dash", according to Gallop Your Maggot: The Ultimate Book of Sexual Slang by Jeremy Holford, "DOODLE-DASH. In the C19 a vice indulged in by a doodle-dasher. The word pops up in Walter's My Secret Life on many occasions;" and "doodle-dasher" is a British term for a male masturbator. "Doodle" is the penis.

lol

[Moderator's Note: A prior message, apparently copied an Edwardian slang dictionary from another web site, has been removed for copyright reasons. MAB]
 

Inger Sheil

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Thanks Evangeline - that fits well into the 19th Century definition Dave Gittins mentions above (and sounds like a fascinating book - as an aside, does it have much on period-specific British Edwardian terms for prostitutes?).

Doodle-Dash seems to have had a more innocuous meaning by the early 20th Century - the merchant marine officer was writing the letter to a genteel female relation, and a lapse into risque slang would be highly uncharacterstic. As I mention above, the context seems to suggest some sort of (informal) competition in the matter of clothing, although Bob's definition of Doodle might also be relevant.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Having read Evangeline's Edwardian slang glossary in my email before it was removed for copyright reasons, I now feel even more ancient than before, if that is possible. I recognised quite a few, not that I have used them myself. This 'doodle-dash' debate seems to illustrate how rather coy upper-class slang might have been - I can't see the working classes using this phrase. Of course, meanings mutate over time. My religious maiden aunts used to urge me to 'keep my pecker up' in gloomy times, which they obviously thought referred to birds' beaks, but I don't think it did.

Any embryo novelist wanting to get young upper-class slang right for the Titanic period could do worse than read Billy Bunter. The problem is that, in the context of a modern novel, it would probably prompt rather derisory smiles rather than an acknowledgement of authenticity.

I mean, consider the following:
"Go and eat coke!" (1912, authentic for public schoolboys no doubt, but inexplicable)
"****** off!" (2008 and unsuitable)
"Go away!" (Safe, but weak).
 

Bob Godfrey

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Meanings do indeed mutate over time. If you'd been 'gay' in your youth, Mon, you would of course have been just having a good time. 50 years earlier you'd have been earning your living on the streets. Which leads me to Inger's curiosity about (other) slang terms for prostitutes. In the Edwardian period there would be older men still using older terms like doxy or dolly, but at that time most I think would have used the ever-popular 'tart' or 'whore' and (especially in the south of England) 'tail' or the rhyming slang version 'brass' (nail). For use within the trade and by regular customers there was also a whole range of specialist terms relating to the lady's age, ethnicity and services rendered.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Tell me more, Bob, tell me more. I am rather curious about an epithet once applied by one of my most elderly relatives in my childhood (overheard of course) to a not-very-well-regarded distant female relative (1880s I'd guess) which has always puzzled me. She was, apparently, a 'Tom' - which I thought was a rather contemporary word for a prostitute.
 

Inger Sheil

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Yes, I'd also like to hear more on the terminology used for prostitutes in the Edwardian period! There is actually a research angle to my interest, of course. I'm familiar with terms like "dollymops" (shortened to "dollys") but am rather concerned they might have been considered a bit archaic? Although my brother, walking home late through the East End when we shared a flat in Spitalfields, did sometimes confide that when he was propositioned by the working girls with "Wont a bit o' bizness, Guvnor?" was tempted to ask "Are we in a Dickensian novel?" - suggesting that language in this area might evolve more slowly!

If it's a bit indelicate for the board, I'd be happy to receive suggestions through PM - and, just this once, it really *is* purely for research purposes.
 

Bob Godfrey

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The origin of 'Tom' for a prostitute is hotly debated and most theories involves rhyming slang, but in my youth I remember 'tom' being used only to mean jewelry (tomfoolery) or as short for tom-tit (signifying a certain bodily function). As the term is used in the other sense today mainly by the police I favour the theory that it's a survival from the terms used by officers of the Met in the 19th century to designate ladies who traded in specific areas of the capital. 'Toms' were to be found in Mayfair.

OK, girls, I'll put you both on my mailing list!
 
Nov 22, 2000
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Hi Inger,

According to "Harris's List of Covent Garden Ladies" a Bunter was a destiture prostitute, a Panderer was a high ranking "Madam" who worked indoors and a "Rose Never Blown Upon" a young girl awaiting her first client!

Geoff
 

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