Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Day eightysix.....

Oh That's The Stilton!

A Dictionary of Modern Slang, by John Camden Hotten. Not to be mixed up with Grose's "The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue", which I have mentioned a few times on previous days. Hotten used Vulgar tongue as a reference point and it is quite the treat. Hotten was quite the bibliophile. He wrote and published many books. He wasn't the most pleasant of men and was quite often surrounded in scandal. He also owned a bookshop. Reminiscent of anyone?

But between his blackmailing and fornicating, Hotton was quite the compiler of slang. And it was in publication that many of the great cheese saying come from. "That's the cheese", "That's the Stilton", but one significant one was "cheese" referring to something being good. In today's modern world something being "cheesy" is a slight on it. But in 1863 it was seen as...

"Anything good, first rate in quality, genuine, pleasant or advantageous"

But it was the Americans who first coined the phrase the "Big cheese". It came in a piece in a New York major in 1922.

"Foley, say there, Foley, with your hair of reddish hue
And your Irish smile, begorra!
Blarneyed them into meeting you.
The big mayor of Olean fair,
You're the big cheese on the scene.
Foley, tell us, Foley, is your city song
The Wearin of the Green?"

And soon it would become something everyone despised. Here's to you, you BIG CHEESE.

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