|I know this should have been Posh Spice. Couldn't face it.|
The last post brought up some reflections about the word 'posh'. This one isn't so much about what the word means, since we all probably have an idea of that, but more where it comes from. In England and the greater British Isles it definitely seems to have an echo of class consciousness in it. In America, I think it's more known than used, at least in a serious way. So what did it originally mean? I'm sure it's obvious, but somehow I can't quite put my finger on it.
Apparently, there is no evidence to support this theory. Another, supposedly better conjecture is that the word posh originally meant 'dandy' round about 1890, and this in turn came from thieves' slang for money. Then the claim is that this hails back to the Romany or Gypsy language, with 'pash' meaning half, and pashera, 'half penny'. Slang seems more likely in this case, as there always seems to be a faintly derogatory whiff to the word, do what you will.
It seems this word and its derivations is one of those things people do often ask about, at least so they think here. I was glad to find this very appropriate quote from Anatoly Liberman:
"Another post suggested that I temper my enthusiasm, because people are allegedly interested not in etymology, but in "words and slang; they ask about posh or the whole nine yards. They'd see no point in asking for etymologies of water, wind, wool, winter, well, [and] wine," unless those "could be illustrated with lantern slides of Life in Roman times." I've been taught never to assume anything and not to generalize in a hurry. This advice I'll pass on to anyone who will take it. Queries reflect the sophistication of the questioners. The more people know, the less trivial their questions become. If they realized how interesting the etymology of water, wind, wool, and the rest is, they would have asked about it."
No post about the word posh would be complete without a nod to the fabulous 'Posh Nosh'. If you've never heard of it, here is the first episode. It's not long.