right-down bad 'un

Discussion in 'English Only' started by sami33, Jun 29, 2012.

  1. sami33

    sami33 Senior Member

    Hi every body

    Please, what does " right-down bad 'un" mean in this context?:

    'Yer know, Work'us,' continued Noah, emboldened by Oliver's silence, and speaking in a jeering tone of affected pity: of all tones the most annoying: 'Yer know, Work'us, it can't be helped now; and of course yer couldn't help it then; and I am very sorry for it; and I'm sure we all are, and pity yer very much. But yer must know, Work'us, yer mother was a regular right-down bad 'un.'

    Source: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. Chapter 06.
  2. owlman5

    owlman5 Senior Member

    This should mean that the mother was a thoroughly bad person.
  3. sami33

    sami33 Senior Member

    Thank you very much owlman5.
  4. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior Member

    SE Michigan, USA
    English - American
    The current form of that phrase is downright. (Down right and down-right are also seen, but much less frequently.

    It seems to have followed the usual progression from two words, to hyphenated, and finally a single word. <research time> The OED supports this progression, and suggests that the change from hyphenated to single word happened at about the time Dickens was writing. Noah may simply be shown saying a common phrase backwards as indication of his education or class.

    It still means thoroughly or extremely.

    Note that the down right frequency may be inflated by such sentences as "Put that down right now," where "right" is in a phrase with "now" rather than with "down". I can even imagine some sentences with the hyphenated version where the words have directional meanings rather than the phrasal meaning.

    Edit: Thanks, etb. I hadn't even thought of explaining 'un. We also hear we 'uns meaning simply "us" in certain parts of the US.
    Last edited: Jun 29, 2012
  5. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    And 'un is a form of one that was common colloquially back in his day - at least, authors like him used it a lot in the speech of people like Noah. It was used with an adjective, as in a big 'un, a little 'un. The expression little-'uns might still be heard today in a rather jokey, old-fashioned way for "children".

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