Thursday, 18 March 2010

Don't Forget to Flush Your Teeth

I need to be a little honest here. I may have gotten a little over-excited about the OED update. Maybe. That, though, was because they've been really good in the past. This time, however, it was all a little bit bland. By all means, have a look for yourself, but there was little of interest I could find.

The best of the lot was "generation Y", the kids born after so-called "generation X", which doubles up in meaning as "generation why", the ones who've got answers at their fingertips. Naturally, this lead me to ask what happens after "generation Z"... Do we start again? Do we use numbers? I say we should find a sponsor for each. We could start, in an age of sugary foods and obesity, with "generation M&M". Or not...

In order to clear this gloom and doom, I say we throw some light insults. More to the point, I say we clear up the strange and interesting background behind some. Ever heard someone described as "po-faced"? I have. Any idea what that actually means? Neither do I. Let's take a quick look...

There's a couple of explanations (as usual) various people have put forward to explain the origin of the puzzling bit here: "po". The first of these is the archaic little number "poh", pronounced how it looks. It means to reject something contemptuously, in other words telling someone to shove it with a look. Later in its life, it came to have the spelling "pooh", but I assure you it's got nothing to do with the bear, unless he finds anything particularly contemptible...

Alternatively, Lady Gaga could be onto something. There's every chance that "po" could simply be a contraction of "poker". Then again, there's a bit of a difference between a look of hatred and a blank expression, in my experience, so how could the two explain the same word? I'd say it all boils down to personal use of "po-faced" at this stage. Which ever face you consider to be "po" will determine its origin for you.

There is another option, though. Yes, history really has spoiled us this time. Perhaps the most logical root is the mediaeval word "po". It's the same spelling, and its meaning fits perfectly. What is it? Chamber pot. To be "po-faced", then, is to have a mug like a bog. It's plain, it's simple, and it's a damn fine insult. What's not to like?

I may be a tad biased here. Don't let my preferences stop you choosing any backstory you think best fitting. Even now, when you next call someone "po-faced", it could be the greatest testament to their stoic visage, or a bash at their potty-shaped ears. The choice, dear reader, is entirely yours. Stay po-faced when confronting the sceptics, and they'll run away pretty quickly.


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