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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: September ::
Re: Things British
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0819  Wednesday, 9 September 1998.

[1]     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 12:15:41 -0400
        Subj:   Re: Things British

[2]     From:   Patricia Cooke <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Sep 1998 07:50:57 +1200
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0816  Q: Things British

[3]     From:   Peter Groves <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 09 Sep 1998 08:43:29 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 9.0816  Q: Things British

[4]     From:   Terence Hawkes <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 9 Sep 1998 05:38:41 -0400
        Subj:   SHK 9.0816  Things British


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 12:15:41 -0400
Subject:        Re: Things British

Tom Berger asks

> 1. What's does the expression "How's your father?" mean.  I could tie
> this to all the "Here comes . . . " entry warnings in the plays, but I
> think I would be way off track.

A bit of "how's your father" means a bit of sex. I think it comes from
the farce cocktail-party motif of a middle-aged man 'chatting up'
(=hitting on) a woman young enough to be his daughter. Just as he's
getting particularly specific, someone who mustn't hear him (wife, boss,
etc) comes within earshot and he changes from a low conspiratorial tone
to a loud, for-everyone's-ears, "so, how's your father?" So, what he
ends up saying is something like "how about you and me go back to my
place for a little...HOW'S YOUR FATHER?"

Gabriel Egan

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Patricia Cooke <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Sep 1998 07:50:57 +1200
Subject: 9.0816  Q: Things British
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0816  Q: Things British

For T Berger

Sorry I can't help with QEII.

I expect you will get lots of replies to your inquiry about "How's your
father?" but here's another.

It has two meanings that I know of.  One is as a euphemism for sexual
activity as in "there was some how's your father going on in the back
seat of the car" or wherever.  This probably derives from the other
usage, as a stand in for something you've forgotten like
"whatchermaycallit" or "thingamajig", or to fill in an awkward gap in
conversation.  Don't know what you mean by ' "Here comes'" entry
warnings', unless we're being VERY bawdy.

You could of course say it to someone you met whose father had been ill,
as a perfectly sincere inquiry.  The difference is in the intonation-
and the context.

Pat

Patricia Cooke, Secretary & Editor
Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand Inc
97 Elizabeth Street Wellington 6001 New Zealand PH/FAX 64 4 3856743

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Groves <
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Date:           Wednesday, 09 Sep 1998 08:43:29 +1000
Subject: 9.0816  Q: Things British
Comment:        Re: SHK 9.0816  Q: Things British

In C20 slang, it means "hanky-panky", as in "A bit of
how's-your-father"

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University,
Melbourne

[4]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Terence Hawkes <
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Date:           Wednesday, 9 Sep 1998 05:38:41 -0400
Subject: Things British
Comment:        SHK 9.0816  Things British

Dear Tom Berger: The answers to your queries are as follows:

1. 'How's your father?' is a corruption of 'Hal's your father', a
street-cry common amongst the lower orders in London during
Shakespeare's lifetime. It refers to the legendary sexual appetite said
to be visited upon all heirs to the British throne, a myth on which
Shakespeare evidently draws quite freely. In Scotland a similar legend
attaches to the figure of Robert the Bruce (Brute?) generating the
phrase 'Bob's your uncle'. Neither is to be confused with the phrase
'How's your mother off for dripping?' with which the cockney residents
of London traditionally greet police officers. American visitors to the
capital are urged to try this salutation. The officer will normally
respond with a centuries-old English gesture of good fellowship, by
placing his hand firmly on your right or left shoulder. 'Dripping', as
you may know, refers to the liquid fat obtained from roasted beef.
Spread thinly on toast, this used to be regarded as a great delicacy,
slyly urged upon the working class by its masters, until its high
cholesterol content became public knowledge.

2. Queen Elizabeth 11's true name is Brenda. She was never Princess of
Wales. However, when she was heir to the throne there was a rumour
amongst the Welsh that she was a man. Scholars believe this has
something to do with the institution of the title 'Prince of Wales' (the
Welsh were promised a 'man' who could speak no English), and the
regretable surgical procedures undertaken by Welsh women after Owain
Glyn Dwr's victory at the battle of Bryn Glas (recorded by Shakespeare
in 1 H1V). Her Majesty prefers to be known by her true name, and will
graciously wave to those who use it, as many newsreels show.  Welsh
citizens are permitted to call her 'Arthur'.

That'll be five pounds, please.

T. Hawkes
Cultural Materialist to the Court of St. James.
 

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