"S.A.," said Lady Patricia faintly, "or B.O."

Discussion in 'English Only' started by LVRBC, Jul 6, 2013.

  1. LVRBC Senior Member

    English-US, standard and medical
    This is from Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, published in 1949 but set in the 1930s in England. Polly's mother, a very upper class Mrs. Malaprop, is complaining about her daughter, who does not attract men.
    "What can be the matter with Polly? So beautiful and no B.A. at all."
    "S.A.," said Lady Patricia faintly, "or B.O."
    Clearly Lady P. is correcting Lady Montdore's wrong expression.

    I can see that S.A. must be sex appeal, but B.O. is beyond me. I have seen it used for body odor, which would be absurd in this context; I suspect it may be "body ______" though. Does anyone have an idea?
  2. Giorgio Spizzi Senior Member

    And what about B.A.?

    GS :)
  3. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm sure the B.O. is "body odour", LVRBC:D.

    Lady Patricia's saying the equivalent of "People can have 'S.A.' or 'B.O.' - but not 'B.A.'!"
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Erm ... so what's B.A., Mrs L?:confused::confused::confused:
  5. Bevj

    Bevj Allegra Moderata

    Girona, Spain
    English (U.K.)
    Presumably Lady Patricia is telling her friend that she has got the two expressions mixed up and that B.A. does not exist.
  6. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    "B.O." seems to be a suggestion in response to "What can be the matter with Polly?", i.e. "Why doesn't she attract men?" If Mrs L is right in her contention that "B.O." means "body odour" here, and I am sure that she is (since it would make sense as an answer to the question), then given that "S.A." is suggested as an alternative explanation, "S.A." must stand for something similarly offputting, and that rules out "sex appeal" in my book.

    Goodness knows what "B.A." stands for, though. Is Mrs Malaprop given to coarse language? If so, "B.A." could be "bloody attachments", but that's just speculation. We've got some Mitfords up the road here, at Chatsworth. I could go and ask.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  7. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I agree with Bevj - B.A.'s just a malapropism. Lady M presumably meant S.A., but got it mixed up with B.O.
  8. RM1(SS)

    RM1(SS) Senior Member

    English - US (Midwest)
    I agree with Loob - "BA" is a mistake.
  9. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    Saggy arse.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  10. LVRBC Senior Member

    English-US, standard and medical
    Right, it's clear from the context that BA is a mistake and that Lady Patricia is correcting it, as I said in the original post. I appreciate Loob's kind interpretation. It's clear though that this was a period and group with a lot of now obsolete jargon among the youth and that Lady Montdore has picked up something and got it wrong. Unfortunately this particular abbreviation occurs nowhere else in Miss Mitford's books or published letters.
    The next lines are spoken by Lady Montdore - are they helpful to anyone? They do seem to imply that B.O. is something desirable. Of course she could still be getting it all wrong.
    "When we were young none of that existed, thank goodness. S.A. and B.O., perfect rubbish and bosh - one was a beauty or a jolie-laide and that was that. All the same, now that they have been invented I suppose it is better if the girls have them, their partners seem to like it and Polly hasn't a vestige, you can see that."
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2013
  11. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Ah - thanks for that, LVRBC!

    Then can I change my vote? Google Books threw up a book called The State of the Language, which, in talking about the early days of Variety magazine, says that Variety introduced many abbreviations to the language including s.a. (sex appeal) and b.o. (box office) (click).

    Maybe that would fit?:)
  12. LVRBC Senior Member

    English-US, standard and medical
    Wow! Thank you! I feel sure you have it right. This has been bothering me for years and I have attempted to find it in British slang sites and to google it but without result. You are amazing.

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