And the rich were so mean...

Leon_Izquierdo

Moderator
Español Rioplatense
Hello, good evening.
I was just listening to the famous song "Victoria" by The Kinks, which describes in such a brilliant way how life was in the Victorian era.
It begins saying: "Long ago life was clean / Sex was bad and obscene / And the rich were so mean / Stately homes for the Lords... etc.".
The adjective "mean", as we all know, has a lot of (quite) different meanings. My doubt is: were those rich ones mezquinos, tacaños? Or maybe they were (in ironical terms, of course) simples, sencillos? I don't think it should be understood as crueles or something like that.
I'd really like to know what you think about it.
Thanks a lot!

León
 
  • gengo

    Senior Member
    American English
    I think it is used in its meaning of "stingy." I believe it still has that meaning in BrEn,* while in
    AmEn that meaning has almost completely died out.

    * There was a Beatles song titled Mean Mr Mustard, and although it meant "stingy" or "miserly," many American listeners thought it meant "cruel."
     
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