Pish posh.

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14 comments on this post.
  1. Stuart Land:

    Hi. Great site. As a writer, I often (mostly) look for words used within a certain time frame (like civil war era) so that I know I’m being authentic. How can I make searches that will turn up words like these? Also, I may know a word or phrase in the modern context, like “Holy cow!”, but how do I find its equivalent in say, 1790? thanks for any advice.

  2. Frank:

    My grandparents used the phrase pish ‘n tosh to mean something that was silly or not true

  3. roland delicio:

    re: Pish posh, pishposh
    I am currently reading H.L.Mencken’s ‘Prejudices’ in the Library of America edition. Pishposh is used by Mencken as a dismissive on every third page, it seems.

  4. Jon:

    POSH, or reference for things “fancy” comes from a statement of preference in ocean-going travel from England to India a century ago. POSH is an acronym for “Portside Out, Starboard Home”. POSH accommodations meant a change of cabins so that the guest would have shady, cooler(north-facing, portside) accommodations for the eastbound trip to India and then switch to starboard for a shady ride home…

  5. John:

    It seems pish-tosh is actually better–a more gentile way of saying BS; and, Jon, yes, posh is an acronym for Port Out-Starboard Home.

  6. John:

    It seems pish-tosh is actually better–a more gentile way of saying Balderdash; and, Jon, yes, posh is an acronym for Port Out-Starboard Home. Okay. Maybe no longer BS, but rather “hogwash.”

  7. MARK BARKER:

    Stuart Land
    March 15th, 2009 at 1:16 pm · Reply
    Hi. Great site. As a writer, I often (mostly) look for words used within a certain time frame (like civil war era) so that I know I’m being authentic. How can I make searches that will turn up words like these? Also, I may know a word or phrase in the modern context, like “Holy cow!”, but how do I find its equivalent in say, 1790? thanks for any advice.

    I found Stuard’s query rather intriging – “It has been left unanswered – I hope someone will address it DIRECTLY and with factual or plausable authority!”

  8. Larkin Vonalt:

    Stuart Land– I suggest that in order to find colloquialisms and idiosyncratic speech particular to a certain time or place that you spend some time browsing in popular literature from the same period. Moliere can give you a certain sense of 17th c. France, or Jane Austen for late 18th c. England. For the civil war period, you might look into Harriet Beecher Stowe, or Nathaniel Hawthorne– but be sure not to overlook dime novels and domestic fiction, both of which were extremely popular at the time and may have more “popular language” usage than the work of what we now consider “great writers.” Here’s a link that might be helpful http://public.wsu.edu/~campbelld/amlit/domestic.htm

  9. Charlie:

    Moliere really pumps my nads.

  10. Jake Miller:

    Dear Folks,

    Happily, I recently made the call, took a deep breath and ordered all twenty glorious Volumes of the OED, which now are just behind me and with one 180-degree spin of my swiveling desk chair, are before me, and thus I’m able to merrily seek all adjectives and adverbs that adequately describe them.

    “Pish” was used as early as 1592 an exclamation for contempt and also as a form of “piss”. “Tosh” meant neat and tidy in 1776, but later meant rubbish and twaddle in 1892, and was used as a school slang verb for splashing. Thus there were, no doubt, young lads who used combined the two to mean a “piss bath.”

    Ain’t Language Grand?

    Pax et Spes, john

  11. Igor Minar:

    Have you tried Google Ngram Viewer to search for word occurrence frequency in all books published within the last few hundred words?

    http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=pish+posh%2CPish+posh%2Cpish-posh%2CPish-posh&year_start=1600&year_end=2000&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=

  12. James Donnelley:

    The “old chestnut” referred to above about the professor of language actually isn’t apocryphal. It’s such a fun story that I try to spread the word about it’s authorship whenever I get a chance. The response was from a well known philosopher professor, Dr. Sidney Morgenbesser from NYU – who sadly died in 2004. The event happened during the 1950s when British philosopher J. L. Austin visited Columbia to present a paper about the close analysis of language. He pointed out that although two negatives make a positive, nowhere is it the case that two positives make a negative. “Yeah, yeah,” Dr. Morgenbesser said. (Note, not “Yeah, right” as above).

    One can read about this anecdote and others in this obituary from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/04/obituaries/04morgenbesser.html

  13. James Donnelley:

    Perhaps I should clarify a bit more than in the obituary. Dr.
    Austin actually noted that in some languages, such as English, a double negative is a positive. In some other languages, such as Russian, a double negative is more negative. Dr. Austin stated that from his research he had found no language where a double positive is anything but positive. That is when Dr. Sidney Morgenbesser made his quip from the audience which was later shared and ultimately morphed into this delightful story. I think it’s important to clarify that professor Austin was contrasting between the ambiguous state of double negatives verses the seemingly single interpretation of double positives. Little did he know…

  14. Aline:

    An scottish friend of mine used to say all time “pish-pash-posh” telling us to hurry up. Just as we say “chop-chop”.

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