Posh: meaning and usage

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Tormenta

Senior Member
Argentina-Español
<< Moderator's note: A more recent and focused discussion of the origin is now in the Etymology and History of Language forum: posh (origin) >>

“port out starboard home" (posh).
It's a reference to the days when ships sailed from England to India via the Suez Canal in Egypt and which links the Mediterranean Sea with the Indian
Ocean.
On the outward journey, wealthy passengers occupied cabins on
the left (port) side of the ship to avoid the sun, and on the
homeward journey from India to England, they occupied the right
(starboard) side cabins, thus again avoiding the sun. Therefore port
out, starboard home - posh - and only well-off people could afford
these cabins, so they're known as posh people.

So far so good…….

Ok, the dictionary gives me the definition of “posh” . Who can explain
What it really means in Britain, today.

People seem to interpret this word in different ways. I thought “posh”
Means “elegant” ……I guess it does not.
Some people take this word as a compliment, others feel offended by it.
Does it mean to be elegant, Wealthy, Arrogant, a combination of some of them?

Who can explain me what “posh” means in every day British English?

Thank you



PS. Hope is does not mean arrogant :eek: :)
 
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  • butterfly

    New Member
    english
    :) In England posh usually means that you speak well, have GOOD clothes, live in a nice area and go to the right places. As far as I'm aware, elegant means that you look and behave well no matter whether you do any of the above!
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    butterfly said:
    :) In England posh usually means that you speak well, have GOOD clothes, live in a nice area and go to the right places. As far as I'm aware, elegant means that you look and behave well no matter whether you do any of the above!
    "Well, good, nice, right." Hmm, yes -- if you're posh.

    If you're not, then posh means people who talk posh, wear posh clothes, live in a posh area and go to posh places.

    To me, "posh" (referring to people) means: wealthy, upper-class (and usually, snobbish, or at least "swanky"). Referring to objects and places it means expensive and exclusive.

    By the way, Tormenta, the "port out starboard home" story is a myth.
    Posh
    Supposedly, this acronym was printed on first-class tickets issued by the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company going from England to India. ... Unfortunately for this excellent story, no tickets with Posh stamped on them have been found and company records reveal no sign of the phrase.

    Posh dates back to at least 1867 in the sense of meaning a dandy or fop. The best guess as to its origin is that it derives from Romani, the language of the Rom (commonly known as Gypsies).
    (source: wordorigins.org)

    F
     
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    rfpcarpenter

    Member
    UK, English
    In my experience, "posh" is never used without a sarcastic tinge. Nobody would say "I am posh" or "my family are posh" unless they were joking or self-deprecating. This is (in British terminology) a lower middle-class term to describe people who act "above their station". People who actually are "posh" (upper-class people etc.) would not use the word. This is why Victoria Beckham's nickname of "Posh" is such a joke -everyone knows she is not "posh" at all.
     

    Tormenta

    Senior Member
    Argentina-Español
    Butterfly, Focalist, and RFP,

    Thank you so much for you comments.

    I think I am starting to get an idea of what the word actually means. Being posh is a good thing, IF you are posh.

    Somebody was ordering Haagen Dasz ice cream. She spoke English with Spanish accent and somebody commented: "Well, that's posh" .

    I am not sure if it was meant in a positive or negative way. Either way, I do not understand how ice cream and Spanish accent can make anyone sound posh.

    Again, thank you for helping me with this. In a few months I will talk "British" myself.
    ;)
     

    Focalist

    Senior Member
    European Union, English
    Tormenta said:
    Somebody was ordering Haagen Dasz ice cream. She spoke English with Spanish accent and somebody commented: "Well, that's posh" .

    I am not sure if it was meant in a positive or negative way. Either way, I do not understand how ice cream and Spanish accent can make anyone sound posh.
    I think it was probably because Haagen Dasz is a very expensive brand of ice cream. It wasn't that she sounded posh, but that she was demonstrating a very expensive taste. Haagen Dasz Belgian Chocolate ice cream (£4.20 for 500ml) is ultra-posh. "Costcutters' own-brand amazing-bargain super-saver economy-value" ice cream (£0.99 per litre) is not -- though it tastes like cack.

    F
     

    Tormenta

    Senior Member
    Argentina-Español
    Focalist said:
    I think it was probably because Haagen Dasz is a very expensive brand of ice cream. It wasn't that she sounded posh, but that she was demonstrating a very expensive taste. Haagen Dasz Belgian Chocolate ice cream (£4.20 for 500ml) is ultra-posh. "Costcutters' own-brand amazing-bargain super-saver economy-value" ice cream (£0.99 per litre) is not -- though it tastes like cack.

    F

    It is VERY expensive, but it tastes so good :p

    Thank you, Focalist, for explaining this. I thought they were being sarcastic about the Spanish accent, but I guess you are right, it was the ice cream , no the accent.

    You are very kind , thank you! :)
     

    guzhi

    Senior Member
    Thailand
    Hello,

    I need help with this word posh. It has several meanings, such as posh (trendy) restaurant, posh (fashionable) clothes, posh (luxurious) apartment and posh mother. Is posh a popular word? If it is, I’d like to know more about it. Also, what is posh mother?

    Your help is appreciated.
    Guzhi
     

    Janka

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I'd say it is a popular word. I heard it often when I lived in London. If somebody wanted to talk about high society stuff, they used this word for it.
     

    Blue Pencil

    New Member
    English; U.S.
    "Posh," at least in the U.S., is not so common, but neither is it so uncommon that you will get strange looks if you say it. It strongly implies "expensive and luxurious."

    A commonly told story about the origin of the word (which is probably not true, but suits the word well enough that it has lasted) is that it originally stood for Port Out, Starboard Home, referring to an ocean-liner ticket that would have the passenger in different cabins on the outward and return voyages such that they would be protected from the worst weather in both directions.

    As for "posh mother," I've never heard such an expression. Could you give more context?
     

    rubbershoes

    Member
    English/England
    A commonly told story about the origin of the word (which is probably not true, but suits the word well enough that it has lasted) is that it originally stood for Port Out, Starboard Home, referring to an ocean-liner ticket that would have the passenger in different cabins on the outward and return voyages such that they would be protected from the worst weather in both directions.

    It's people going out to India from the UK when India was part of the British Empire. Port on the way out and starboard back so you don't face the sun and get hot either way. No one knows whether this is the true etymology of the word though people will tell you confidently it is or it isn't.

    Up until 5 years ago anyone in the UK who used posh was (almost by definition) not posh. It was not a word used by the middle and upper classes at all. That's changed now and its use has spread throughout the social spectrum.
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    No evidence has been found to support the port out starboard home theory. The earliest recorded use of posh, adjective (smart, stylish, splendid, luxurious) is 1918. As hinted at by rubbershoes, its definition has been changing in recent years.

    Posh (noun) meaning money, is almost 100 years older.
    Posh (noun) meaning a dandy is about 30 years older.

    Posh is in regular use, with or without the tarnished image suggested above.
    Add a generous dose of pretentious to smart, stylish, splendid and luxurious.

    As for posh mother? I expect that is simply the application of posh (adjective) to mother (AE slang, noun).
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I think it refers to someone whose home-stay mother is posh.
    Where did you find the expression "posh mother"?
    Unless you provide the context, we can't tell whether this is a simple use of the adjective posh with a very normal noun, mother;
    :warning: :warning: or a possibly slang variant of posh with a definitely slang abbreviation of mother-fucker.:warning: :warning:
     

    jabogitlu

    Senior Member
    USA-English
    I think it refers to someone whose stay-at-home mother is posh.
    Perhaps, but I echo calls for context. If heard in America it would most likely mean something equivalent to "awesome thing/person," although this phrase in and of itself would never be utilized.
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    Perhaps, but I echo calls for context. If heard in America it would most likely mean something equivalent to "awesome thing/person," although this phrase in and of itself would never be utilized.
    No, jabogitlu, she definitely meant home-stay mother, as in the mother of a family a language student boards with while studying (this is a big phenomenon here in New Zealand, and for some people a big industry! )
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Online Etymology Dict.:
    1918, of uncertain origin; no evidence for the common derivation from an acronym of port outward, starboard home, supposedly the shipboard accommodations of wealthy British traveling to India on the P & O Lines (to keep their cabins out of the sun); see objections outlined in G. Chowdharay-Best, "Mariner's Mirror," Jan. 1971. More likely from slang posh "a dandy" (1890), from thieves' slang meaning "money" (1830), originally "coin of small value, halfpenny," possibly from Romany posh "half."
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This question has been popped onto the top of the previous discussion on the same topic - simply to avoid having to tell all those tales again. Please read the rest before you try out your version on us.
     

    susantash

    Senior Member
    Español de Uruguay
    Hi everyone!
    I'd like to know if this (posh) is the term you would use to describe what in "Rioplatense" Spanish we call a "cheta/o" That is, a person (generally a woman) who speaks with a higher class accent, wears expensive clothes and is a little bit conceited.
    Thaks a lot!
     

    palomnik

    Senior Member
    English
    I've often wondered about the connotations behind this word. My impression - and the impression of most Americans - is that the word is pejorative. However, when I read T.E. Lawrence's The Mint, I saw that he used the word extensively, primarily to describe the way that the other soldiers were referring to him. It didn't seem to be an insult. Maybe it wasn't, back in the twenties.
     

    chatowan

    New Member
    France, french mother tongue
    A friend of mine told me that Posh was the abbreviation of Pompous Overbearing Snooty H ???. He didn't recall what means the H.

    Couldn't it be an expression then ?
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Hello chatowan, and welcome to the forums!

    I think your friend was joking - or someone had been joking with him;)

    For the probable origin of "posh", see cuchu's post <18> in this thread.
     
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    greenheyes

    Senior Member
    British English (Cheshire)
    I´d be grateful if someone could clarify the origin of the word posh. Is it true that the best cabins on voyages from Britain to India were Port Out
    Starboard Home ? Many thanks.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    Plenty of answers on this old chestnut above, Greenheyes:)

    (Short answer: No, it isn't true.)
     
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    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    Moderator's note:

    A more recent and focused discussion of the origin is now in the Etymology and History of Language forum: posh (origin). Further comments on this topic should be added to that thread.

    Discussion of usage should be continued here.

    Cagey, moderator.


     

    Elwintee

    Senior Member
    England English
    Hi everyone!
    I'd like to know if this (posh) is the term you would use to describe what in "Rioplatense" Spanish we call a "cheta/o" That is, a person (generally a woman) who speaks with a higher class accent, wears expensive clothes and is a little bit conceited.
    Thaks a lot!
    I think that rfpcarpenter nailed the BE meaning in post #4. In my lifetime's experience the word is always used derogatorily by those who feel intimidated by people who are, apparently, more confident (= conceited in some eyes), wealthier and better spoken than they are themselves. So your 'cheta' might be described as 'posh' by someone envious of her, but it would tell us nothing about the 'cheta's' actual character. Of course it can be used ironically by people when describing themselves or their possessions: "I have bought a really posh dress for the ceremony".
     
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