“Top-Hole” English.


The Argus (Melbourne, Victoria), Australia. 28 March 1925, page 9



[Editor's Note: Thanks go to Raja Srinivasan for sharing the online trove for Australian newspaper items, Anita Avery for discovering this particular item (among many others) and to John Dawson for transcribing the text. Thanks also go to Tony Ring for getting the approval of the Estate for publishing this post 1922 item.]


Mr. P.G. Wodehouse, who has made his home in the United States, and is a professional student of both English and American slang, explains in the “Evening News” some of the niceties of the English Tongue.

“The reason,” he says, “why we Englishmen use the expression ‘silly old ass’ is that we know there is no other phrase that gives just the fine shade of meaning which we require. If it were simply a question of substituting for ‘silly old ass’ some other and legitimate phrase such as ‘poor goop’ or ‘poor fish,’ we would do it like a shot. But the one thing that we would rather do than eat is to sink the harpoon into the ‘mot juste.’ I go into the Drones Club of an afternoon and look round me. What do I see? In one chair there reclines a Silly Old Ass, while beside him, sucking down a mixture-as-before, is a Priceless Old Egg. Close by I perceive a couple of Genial Old Crumpets in conversation with a Jolly Old Pieface. To the untutored eye of a professor of rhetoric there would probably be absolutely no difference between these widely different species. He would be perfectly content to rank them all as Silly Old Asses. Which, of course, is where he drops his brick.

“Let me mention a few of the more obvious outstanding points which differentiate these asses, eggs, crumpets and pie faces. As every school boy knows, The Silly Old Ass has a small chin, which recedes, and wears a monocle. His clothes cut snugly to his figure, which is slim, consist of the conventional morning coat, sponge-bag trousers, and spats. His shoes are black, and his hat is a silk hat carefully brushed. What of the Priceless Egg? He is entirely different. In the first place he is burlier. He probably plays hockey for his college. He wears suede shoes, a jazz sweater, and trousers cut like a sailor’s, with room enough for three more legs. When he walks in the street he puts on a soft hat, which looks like part of an Irish terrier. This he wears with the brim turned well down over his eyes. The Genial Old Crumpet, though distinct from the Silly Old Ass and the Priceless Old Egg, does bear a certain superficial resemblance to the Jolly Old Pieface, and a professor of rhetoric might be excused for mixing them up. But we who know are aware that there is an infallible means of distinguishing them. The Crumpet’s cigarette-holder is seldom more than 8in. long, while that of the Pieface at least 13.”