Down in the Bull & Bush - idiom

James Brandon

Senior Member
English + French - UK
Some months ago, Michael (Lord) Heseltine, Conservative politician and former minister, used the expression "down in the Bull & Bush", meaning: "Down in your average pub" (and the "Bull & Bush" is found as a pub name across England and does sound typically English). In other words, he meant: "As far as ordinary people are concerned (as opposed to the elite, the Establishment, the political class, etc.)".

The origin of the phrase is explained in great detail below, linked to a song and...a non-existent tube station in London:

http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/b/bull_and_bush/index.html

If you do a Google search, hardly any mentions of the idiom "Down in the Bull & Bush" come up; the music-hall song was "Down at the Bull & Bush".

I had never heard the expression until Lord H used it on BBC. How common would you say it is?

Thanks
 
  • DavyBCN

    Senior Member
    UK - English
    James Brandon said:
    Some months ago, Michael (Lord) Heseltine, Conservative politician and former minister, used the expression "down in the Bull & Bush", meaning: "Down in your average pub" (and the "Bull & Bush" is found as a pub name across England and does sound typically English). In other words, he meant: "As far as ordinary people are concerned (as opposed to the elite, the Establishment, the political class, etc.)".

    The origin of the phrase is explained in great detail below, linked to a song and...a non-existent tube station in London:

    http://www.subbrit.org.uk/rsg/sites/b/bull_and_bush/index.html

    If you do a Google search, hardly any mentions of the idiom "Down in the Bull & Bush" come up; the music-hall song was "Down at the Bull & Bush".

    I had never heard the expression until Lord H used it on BBC. How common would you say it is?

    Thanks
    I have never heard it used as an idiom, and as far as I am concerned Heseltine's use of it in this way is very individual. I have to say that it is also very old-fashioned, because the song is very old. I doubt there are many pubs with this name any more, except perhaps in the type of "quaint" village which Conservatives seem to believe still represent the "real" England.

    It is common to hear "the average man in the street" to mean the same sort of thing, and "the silent majority" - all of whom seem to agree with whatever politician is using the phrases.:)
     

    loladamore

    Senior Member
    English UK
    maxiogee said:
    Wasn't it "Come, come, come and make eyes at me down at the Old Bull & Bush"?
    Da, da, da, da, da,
    Come, come, drink some port wine with me, Down at the Old Bull and Bush..

    And you can buy the sheet music on ebay for £1.80. Yes, the song is old (from 1904) but still part of popular culture (?). I have never heard "down in the Bull & Bush" used in the way Hezza used it. Maybe it's a special Tory idiom.
     

    James Brandon

    Senior Member
    English + French - UK
    Yes, Heseltine used "in" whereas the song uses "at" - grammatically, I feel both are correct. It must be a Tory re-interpretation of British history - among others. (Not that New Labour is short of that either.) :D

    There is no doubt that the expression is old-fashioned and not particularly common today, as I thought and as confirmed by various contributors.
     
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