February 20, 2017

"As a trader in this village it's hard enough to earn a living without a prat like this sticking his fat nose where it['s] not wanted."

"You know who you are, u prat."

That made me look up "prat." It's English slang, going back to the 1500s, meaning "a buttock." Later, it came to mean both buttocks, i.e., a "bottom." (Source: OED.)

"Why, she's getting groggy on her pins, and if you don't pipe rumbo, she'll go prat over nut." That's from 1846. 

By 1955, it was slang for "An idiot, a fool; an ineffectual or contemptible person." Joe Orton used it in 1964 in "Entertaining Mr Sloane": "Go on, you superannuated old prat!"

I must say that before looking it up, I pictured it as a fish. I was thinking: sprat.

ADDED: This planted it in my head that Brits insult each other with fish:



IN THE COMMENTS: Laslo Spatula said: "I'm surprised Althouse din't also link o this Monty Python fish skit:"



The answer (to quell your surprise (I'm always alarmed at what surprises people around here)) is that — although I've had the DVD on my shelf for years — I've never gotten very far into "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life." There's only so much of this sort of foolery I can take in one sitting. A half hour is best for comedy. In the early days of movies, that was well understood. For example, this half hour of Chaplin from 1918:



That's all you need and all you want.

25 comments:

Oso Negro said...

The English have all sorts of swell insults that are interesting to American ears. It goes the other way round also. Apparently we unload quite a lot of them on the people who manage the queue (note the Anglicism) for entry at Heathrow Airport. Given the typical state of affairs there, it is easy enough to understand.

Charlie Currie said...

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean

Bob said...

Thus: pratfall.

Humperdink said...

Heck, it took me awhile to figure what a trader was.

Rae said...

I still haven't figured out what traders are. I first thought stock traders, then I thought drug dealers. I don't think I'm right. That said, change the law or follow it.

MaxedOutMama said...

"Pratfall," Ann. From British vaudeville.

rhhardin said...

Danny Deckchair (2003) is a harmless romcom with a meter maid female lead.

Edge of Seventeen (2016) by the way is also entertaining, among recent orders of dreck.

AllenS said...

Bloody right you are.

Laslo Spatula said...

I'm surprised Althouse din't also link o this Monty Python fish skit:

”Where is the fishie fishie fishie?

I am Laslo.

tcrosse said...

Boris Karloff's real name was William Henry Pratt.

exiledonmainstreet said...

As I said in a thread last week, I was startled to find out that cunt is a common insult directed at both men and women. And it's used by pretty "respectable" people.

When a Brit says "I felt a great tit," he's not talking about a sexual experience with a well-endowed woman, but describing a situation which embarrassed him.

And the word fanny, considered a rather fussy old lady word for ass here, refers to female genitalia there. I don't know if that predates the naughty 18th century novel "Fanny Hill" or if the novel created the association. The Brits were quite amused by American "fanny packs."

The Python fish slapping scene always makes me laugh.

traditionalguy said...

Lots of prattering comments this morning.

Sean Gleeson said...

The math in this story is interesting, in that it instantly renders the story itself uninteresting.

From the seventh paragraph¹ we learn that over the past six months, calls to the hotline have resulted in issuing 18 tickets.

But from the last paragraph² we see that 162 tickets were issued over six months.

So this village tickets 27 cars a month, only three of which are from tips called in to their hotline. That is all calls to their hotline, not necessarily from this lone prat.

If there even is a lone prat; he might just be a legend invented by drivers or parking wardens to divert blame for their own actions.

¹Since August last year, 77 calls requesting enforcement in Rottingdean have been received on the NSL's hotline, with 18 tickets issued.

²Parking compliance in the village is considered by Brighton and Hove City Council, East Sussex, to be 'quite good', with just 162 tickets issued in six months.

Laslo Spatula said...

If enforcing the Parking Laws is a detriment to the economic health of the Village perhaps they should look at changing those laws.

Nah. Easier to blame the Prat.

I'm sure the Village still cashes the Violation checks.

I am Laslo.

John said...

"Pipe rumbo"? What is that?

I thought it might be rhyming slang "She took a pratfall on her Khyber" where Khyber >Khyber Pass > ass.

I've always loved the Cockney rhyming slang since reading about it in one of Orwell's books.

John Henry

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for the sledgehammer on "pratfall." I did see that on my own, just thought it was a tad boring to point out!

Ann Althouse said...

As for "pipe rumbo"... I got as far as learning that "rumbo" — which Blogger really wants to correct to "gumbo"! — is a defunct word that refers to some sort of rum punch. But I can't understand "pipe rumbo" in that context. It doesn't sound as though the lady would be helped by having more rum punch piped into her!

rehajm said...

Susie Dent Often assists Americans with British idioms and slang.

Laslo Spatula said...

"IN THE COMMENTS: Laslo Spatula said: "I'm surprised Althouse din't also link o this Monty Python fish skit:"

I'm surprised Althouse responded to a comment in the "I'm surprised..." format.

Meta upon Meta?

I am Laslo.

Marc Puckett said...

'To pipe rumbo' derives from nautical jargon, I hazard, based on the Spanish definition of rumbo, course, heading, direction.

LakeLevel said...

"The Meaning of Life" was an utterly un-funny disjointed mess. Especially coming after the Hilarious "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and the brilliant "Life of Brian"

rehajm said...

"The Meaning of Life" was an utterly un-funny disjointed mess.

Obsessed with all things Python I asked permission to see an R rated movie at the time. My mother asked me what the movie was about. I gave up.

Fernandinande said...

"Monty Python's The Meaning of Life."

Sad. Hugely sad.

dave1310 said...

I'd guess this is the source for the term "pratfall."
Fortunately for my guess, Mariam-Webster on-line and dictionary.com specifically defines pratfall as "a fall in which one lands on the buttocks."
We've so much to thank the British for.

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