an old <shag> said

bloomcountry

Senior Member
Russian, Spanish
What is the meaning of 'shag'? Thanks:

"Look thy last on all things lovely
Every hour, an old shag said,
Meaning they turn lovelier if thou
Thinkst about soon being dead."

(Kingsley Amis's "Lovely")
 
  • Enquiring Mind

    Senior Member
    English - the Queen's
    Hello bc, according to this site (johnderbyshire.com) it's a reference to Walter de la Mare. It wouldn't otherwise be understood in this context, it seems to me.
    [Ed: it seems to be a phrase peculiar to Kingsley Amis; in a short space of time I have found "an old shag" used in four different pieces by him.]
     
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    diego707

    Senior Member
    portuguese
    for me it means sex, for example:
    How many women have you shagged?

    More common in British language
     

    Bevj

    Allegra Moderata (Sp/Eng, Cat)
    English (U.K.)
    for me it means sex, for example:
    How many women have you shagged?

    More common in British language
    The verb 'to shag' does indeed refer to having sex.
    However here 'shag' is used as a noun and as Enquiring Mind points out, it obviously has nothing to do with sex.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Maybe it would help to point out that Amis is actually quoting de la Mare, so read the poem as
    "Look thy last on all things lovely
    Every hour", an old poet called Walter de la Mare said,

    It's also worth noting that Amis is cited twice in the OED using 'shag' to mean
    One who copulates. rare.
    and is the only writer so cited. Thus, I think that diego is partly right - Amis is using it as a disparaging term in much the same way as others use 'old bugger'. It has the advantage that 'old shag' fits the metre, whereas 'old bugger' does not.
     
    I agree with pan; 'rascals' or 'lowlifes' would seem to be the meaning.

    I really doubt the sexual meaning, except in the extended sense of "Don't listen to the old fuckers." The term really has virtually no sexual meaning in some contexts, and I suspect that's true of 'shag,' here.
     
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    diego707

    Senior Member
    portuguese
    I think that he's probably referring "old shag" to some kind of bird, and this bird "a shag" was old, weird because birds don't talk. i don't know how long is the lifetime of shags though
     
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    That is quite an odd suggestion, diego. de la Mare did not use the term 'old shag.'

    Pan and Andy have correctly explained it, in my opinion. 'old fuckers' or 'old lowlifes' [=men] appears to be the meaning.

    ADDED: "old fucks" has a similar meaning, as well.

    M-W unabr has entries for both 'fuck' and 'fucker' meaning

    2 usually vulgar : an offensive or disagreeable person
     
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    diego707

    Senior Member
    portuguese
    ok, I'll guess again.
    since "Walter de la Mare" is the "old shag" of the story, it sounds like "old shag" is some kind of expression referring to old people, like an old and used shag carpet
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    diego, please stop guessing. There are several different meanings of the noun 'shag', of which two, either alone or combined, provide an appropriate meaning here. The author is Kingsley Amis, and this is a disrespectful reference to a dead poet which can be taken to mean 'old bugger', 'old goat', 'old bloke', 'old fool' or any other typically British expression of disparagement. There's no need to start searching through adjectival meanings of 'shag'.
     
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