swell (n) --mocking the establishment swells

bennymix

Senior Member
I haven't heard this.

Yesterday's New York Times:

Grandpa [Donald Trump] spent the duration of his campaign mocking the establishment swells who migrate to enclaves like Davos, Switzerland, and Sun Valley, Idaho, for high-altitude, highfalutin conferences on the conundrums of modern life. That didn’t stop KushnerGrandpa spent the duration of his campaign mocking the establishment swells who migrate to enclaves like Davos, Switzerland, and Sun Valley, Idaho, for high-altitude, highfalutin conferences on the conundrums of modern life. That didn’t stop Kushner and Ivanka from joining those very swells in Sun Valley a week and a half ago for precisely such a symposium-on-the-slopes. and Ivanka from joining those very swells in Sun Valley a week and a half ago for precisely such a symposium-on-the-slopes.

It's way down in the definitions (stylish, wealthy person).

dated, informal
A fashionable or stylish person of wealth or high social position
. (Oxford)

Is it more BE? Have other Americans heard it?
 
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  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    There was a song in the movie Easter Parade, sung by Fred Astaire and Judy Garland: "We're just a Couple of Swells."
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I always thought it was pre-war/early 50s AE*.
    "We're a couple of swells
    We stop at the best hotels
    But we prefer the country
    Far away from the city smells"
    (Fred Astaire and Judy Garland in "Easter Parade" (1948))
    (crossposted)

    *Edit to add: How wrong can you be?

    The OED examples (last updated 1919) are entirely BE and the word is first recorded at the end of the 18th century:

    1786 Sessions Papers 13 Dec. 92/2 Here is a swell a coming. What is the meaning of that?—I do not know what meaning they give to it, without it is a gentleman.
     
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