20 thoughts on “Words of wisdom?

  1. Dear readers of this blog, don’t follow this word of advice or else you risk to be sued for bribery.

  2. That’s funny – we just watched an episode of the 1990-ish television series.

  3. It is interesting (to me) to see how the utterance starts with slang that is probably familiar to most, but ends with a phrase with which I at least was completely unfamiliar. “It’s crackers to slip a rozzer” was all transparent to me, “the dropsy” I was able to guess, but “in snide” conveyed nothing until I researched the whole utterance. Did others, I wonder, find the same ?

  4. Philip,

    I was totally bemused by dropsy and in snide when I first came across this. Strange how some slang words persist and others die out.

  5. And yet I was familiar with other uses of “snide”, all (it would seem) with a common origin. The OED says “Etymology: Of obscure origin. colloq. (orig. Cant).” and then goes on to list :

    A. adj.

    1. Counterfeit, sham, bogus. Also (more widely): inferior, worthless.
    2. Of a person: cunning, sharp.
    3. Insinuating, sneering, slyly derogatory.

    B. n.

    1. Counterfeit jewellery; base coin.
    2. A base, contemptible person; a swindler, cheat, liar.
    3. Hypocrisy, pretence; malicious gossip.

    and then, under “Snidey, adj.” (a separate entry)

    Etymology: < snide adj. + -y suffix.

    a. Bad, contemptible.
    b. Insinuating, cutting.


    ˈsnidiness n

    and of these I recognised (and use) “snide” as an adjective with sense A.3. “Insinuating, sneering, slyly derogatory.” (“Fond of making snide remarks”), “snidey” in sense b. “Insinuating, cutting.” (“Don’t be so snidey”) and “snideyness” (“I don’t like your snideyness”). Yet of the the fake/sham/counterfeit meaning I was completely ignorant.

  6. Snide in the sense ‘counterfeit’ is still found in the speech of parts of London, Essex and presumably other areas, e.g. “I bought a snide Rolex at Dagenham Sunday market”. Dropsy= ‘money, bribe’ was the sense completely new to me in this sentence; I wonder if it is still current in the speech of some other place or social group?

  7. Mark,

    Thanks for that. There is a word snided , for which The Urban Dictionary has this entry:

    A place that is busy or crowded often used in the North and Midlands of England
    Jeez, I’m never gonna get a pint in here it’s snided at the bar!

    It is my memory that at least in Derbyshire the word usually meant infested with some sort of insect, for example:

    The pantry is snided out with ants.

    It’s hard to see a connection between the “counterfeit” meaning and this however.

  8. Motivated by this, I asked Google Books to report all instances of which it knew of “snided”, and whilst the majority were of the form ‘”<utterance>”, X snided’, and a good few were simply instances of poor OCR, one at least was interesting in that it suggests that “snided” is (or was) occasionally used for “sneaked”/”snuck”, with apparently obligatory “-off” :


    in % Postmaster, by Thomas R. St. George (1943)

  9. Interesting that John knows “snide(d)” from Derbyshire. I have never heard it in Staffordshire – but I’ll check with a few other Potters to make sure.

  10. And now Google books has come up with an instance of “snided” in the Derbyshire sense : “snided with magpies” :


    It is not clear to me from where the speaker, Horace White, came, but he also uses “thee” and “thou”. In The Magpies: the Ecology and Behaviour of Black-Billed and Yellow-Billed Magpies, Tim Birkhead

  11. Philip,

    Thank you. Very interesting. The “do-a-bunk” meaning is not one I have ever come across, but the magpie one is exactly what I was talking about. From the rest of the text shown of the magpie book it seems very likely that Horace White was from the area west of Sheffield, doesn’t it? That’s pretty close to north Derbyshire.

  12. I have just checked with my one of my few remaining Derbyshire informants (Ilkeston-born), and she recognised “snided out” immediately but says that it transcends both insects specifically and pests generally. In her view, “snided out” is dialect for “crowded out”, so the very first example she gave was “snided out with work” (i.e., so much work to do that there is no time for anything else).

  13. @Philip:

    The OED has the following entry:

    sny, v.² Now dial.
    Forms: 7 snithe, 9 snive; 7, 9 snie, 8–9 sny, 9 snye; 7, 9 snee.
    [Of obscure origin.]
    intr. To abound, swarm, teem, be infested, with something.

    I think that snided out “crowded out” might be related to this verb sny and its 17th c. form snithe.

  14. Excellent find, Charlie, and the second sense :

    † sny, v.1

    Forms: In ME snyȝe.
    Etymology: Of obscure origin.

    intr. To move, proceed.
    a1400–50 Alexander 4095 Þan snyȝes þar, out of þat snyth hill.., A burly best.

    may well explain “snided” as a synonym for “sneaked”, in the sense of “sneaked off”/”snuck off”.

  15. My friend JDL has just made me aware of this:

    “An’ what dost think, my darlin’? When I went to put my coat on at snap-time, what should go runnin’ up my arm but a mouse.
    “‘Hey up, theer!’ I shouts.
    “An’ I wor just in time ter get ‘im by th’ tail.”
    “And did you kill it?”
    “I did, for they’re a nuisance. The place is fair snied wi’ ’em.”

    from Sons and Lovers by D.H.Lawrence.

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