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Posh: Curious Words

Posted in Interesting Words, Ships on Wednesday, 30 March 2011

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This edited article about the word ‘posh’ originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 927 published on 7 October 1979.

If you have seen the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, you may remember Lionel Jefferies singing the lines, “Port Out, Starboard Home, Posh with a capital P”.

Steam ship in harbour

Steam ship in harbour

The character he was playing was a retired sailor, and in the song he was referring to the days when many people travelled between England and India by steamship. The word posh was used for first class passengers who could afford to travel “Port Outward, Starboard Home”.

This was the most desirable position of cabins in the days before air-conditioning, and was the part of the ship away from the sun when the vessel crossed the Indian Ocean. Passengers used to book POSH, and the name was soon applied to them.

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