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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

- the acronym POSH and its etymology

Dear Friends,

For a change this has nothing to do with Marine Or Insurance for that matter.  Something to do with the English language.

POSH -  All of us know that this means  “ Elegant, Swanky, Rich – something sumptuously furnished, ornate, say luxurious.  This is an acronym - A word formed from the initial letters  or groups of letters or words in a set phrase or a series of words.

In some other languages

nóbl, prima
duur, chic
elegáns, puccos
fínn, flottur
kelas tinggi
smalks; lepns; grezns
aukštuomenės, prašmatnus
fjong, overklasse-
Portuguese (Brazil):
Portuguese (Portugal):

Etymology is the study of word origins.   The English language has developed from an Anglo-Saxon base of common words: household words, parts of the body, common animals, natural elements, most pronouns, prepositions, conjunctions and auxiliary verbs. Other modern words in English have developed from various other  sources. Sometimes from the foreign languages as well.  Many words of Indian languages origin have slipped into accepted English usage.  This is not anything about katamarans & other words.

Legend has it that the word “ POSH “  derives from the 'port out, starboard home' legend {for the very few uninformed – the Port side is the lefthand  side of the vessel; while the starboard side is the right hand side} supposedly printed on tickets of passengers on P&O (Peninsula and Orient) passenger vessels that travelled between UK and India in the days of the Raj. Britain and India are both in the northern hemisphere so the port (left-hand side) berths were mostly in the shade when travelling out (easterly) and the starboard ones when coming back. So the best and most expensive berths were POSH,…………… hence the term !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

A very plausible and attractive explanation and it would be nice to be able to confirm it. The belief was widespread enough in 1968 for it to have been included in the lyrics of the song 'Posh' in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
There is no evidence to confirm this story though and it appears to have been dreamed up retrospectively to match an existing meaning. Whoever thought it up must have been quite pleased with it, and it appeals to enough people to get repeated endlessly. It also panders to the popular craving for the employment of acronyms.  Researchers are hard pressed to find any examples before the 1920s. The word acronym itself wasn't coined until the 1940s. Any such explanation of older words, like 'golf', or indeed 'posh', is sure to be false.
P&O say they have never issued such tickets and, although many tickets from that era still exist, no 'POSH' ones have been found. These have the status of an etymological Holy Grail and occasionally someone claims to have seen one. Needless to say that hasn't yet been backed up with any evidence. Mind you, even if this mode of travel were the source of the phrase, there's no particular reason that tickets would have been stamped with POSH, so the absence of such tickets doesn't prove anything. The lack of any citation of 'port out, starboard home' in any of the numerous letters and literary works that remain from the British Raj is a more convincing argument against that origin.
The true origin of 'posh' is uncertain. The term was used from the 1890s onward to mean a dandy. The first recording of 'posh' in print that seems to fit the current meaning of the word is a cartoon which contains this dialogue between an RAF officer and his mother, in Punch magazine, September 1918. In his 1903 Tales of St. Austin's, P. G. Wodehouse used the word 'push' to mean much the same as we now use 'posh'. Posh is also the Romany word for money and this was current throughout the 19th century. This originally meant halfpenny though and it's a long way from there to poshness.
The English gentlemen poet Edward Fitzgerald is another possible source of the word. He had what newspapers of the day described as 'most unaccountable admiration and friendship' for his boatman Joseph Fletcher, who was known as 'Posh'.

Whatever the origin is, it isn't likely to match the appeal of the P&O story and, although it is evidently wrong, that's the one that people prefer to repeat. Finally, I make aware that I am not the author of this article, the bodyline begotten from a source with some flavouring from my side.

Hopefully, it makes some interesting reading !!!!!

With regards
S Sampathkumar.

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