Back when Britain ruled an empire, persuading enough young men to join the navy was no easy task. Life at sea was not attractive for a simple seaman, and there were no union representatives or lawyers on board to say, “Please stop flogging that man.” So the Navy sent so-called press gangs around to dockside pubs and bought drinks (served in pewter pots) for the unwary. The trick was that at the bottom of the pot was a coin, and on finishing the drink you automatically “took the King’s shilling,” thus you agreed to join up. As people became aware of this trap, pubs began to sell alcohol in glass bottom pots to make the coin visible. If you lifted the tankard, you could see the coin on the bottom. Hence the expression bottoms up, which continues to be used as a happy exhortation to drink. We bet you didn’t know that these other words and phrases originated in the military.
Goody Two Shoes
In an anonymously authored eighteenth-century morality tale for children, The History of Little Goody Two Shoes, the heroine was a poor, ragged, orphan named Margery who only had one shoe. Upon being given a full pair she went around showing them off to everyone. With her two shoes, Margery tried to do as much good as possible, and consequently grew up to be comfortable, well off, and happy, proving her superiority over “such wicked Folks, who love nothing but Money, and are proud and despise the Poor, and never come to any good in the End.” From that time on, a Goody Two Shoes became a mocking reference to someone you think is too self-righteous and follows every rule.
POSH is an acronym for Port-Out; Starboard-Home, referring to the preferred cabins on the long sea journey to India in the days of the Raj. Those sides of the ship suffered less heat from direct sunlight, so naturally, passengers with more money and social importance booked them. Later, the term came into more general use to describe anyone with money and a certain social background. It need hardly be said that the upper classes do not use the term posh themselves. Posh was always how the lower social classes saw both the privileged and their lifestyle, thus conveying a strange mixture of resentment, envy, and admiration. Learn some more common British phrases everyone should know.