He played it close to the waistcoast - Expression

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Jan 5, 2007.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    In Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep", one character is described as follows: "He played it close to the waistcoat." I believe it is a variation on the expression that goes: "He played his cards close to his chest," as explained here:

    http://www.answers.com/topic/play-it-close-to-one-s-chest

    I have a feeling Chandler made up this expression - a case of poetic variation, so to speak.

    Confirmation and comments will be welcome.

    Thanks
     
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    I'm guessing that you have it right, James. The most common form of that expression in my part of the country is, "played it close to the vest".
     
  3. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    I had always heard "close to one's vest," not 'chest,' which would explain the step to 'waistcoat.'

    Sounds like standard Chandler fun.
     
  4. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I believe "vest", as a word, is used far more in AE than BE. In BE, it means a sleeveless undergarment worn on upper part of body (typically, by your chain-smoking hairy-chested lorry driver of Latin descent...:D ). In AE, it means a "waistcoat" or "sleeveless jacket", I believe, and also in Australian English apparently.

    You could imagine someone wearing a vest while playing poker in a hot and smoky room, in fact - I mean a vest in the BE sense.

    What do Americans call a vest in the BE sense?
     
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    BE vest~AE tank top/sleeveless undershirt/"wifebeater"

    The last is offensive. Probably comes from Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire, in which Marlon Brando wore one.

    I believe we have had threads on that word.
     
  6. dutchy79

    dutchy79 New Member

    Italy
    Netherlands
    Ah yes, someone was ahead of me, anyway, I also believed it was undershirt, I didn't know tank top could also be used, I only know that one as a 'normal' piece of clothing (i.e. to be worn 'on top') Thanks
     
  7. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I was interested in the Chandler phrase, I must say, primarily... "Tank top", in the UK, seems to be used mostly for girls' sleeveless tops, usually of the fairly revealing kind. No pun on "tank" intended here by me. :)
     
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
  9. mgarizona

    mgarizona Senior Member

    Phoenix, AZ
    US - American English
    I seem to recall Chandler had a British wife. A careful study of his prose might reveal more such amusing manipulations of the vagaries between BE/AE usage.
     
  10. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    He even had British nationality, until he gave it up further to running into tax problems, from what I have read!... And he fought in the... Canadian Army during WWI.
     

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