Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

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Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Fri Mar 17, 2006 9:19 pm

Watching an old Poirot dramatisation on the box the other day, I was as intrigued as David Suchet appeared to be when DCI Japp chided him, "Don't come the old acid, Poirot!"
This expression is variously explained:

a) Royal Navy Diction and Slang... ACID Sailors' slang for sarcasm used in the phrase "Don't come the old acid".

b) E-lusion - Words - Page 2 come the old acid - pretend to have authority, 'try it on' (As in 'don't come the old acid wiv me')

The second meaning fits better in the Poirot context, but is less self-explanatory.

There are quite a few similar constructions which use "come" informally as a transitive verb. Here are a few, mainly from Google:

(Don't) come/play the old soldier (perhaps the most famous, with at least three related meanings)(appears in "Tom Brown at Oxford")

Don't come the raw prawn (Aus; "don't play the innocent")

Don't come the old codger

Don't come the cowboy with me, Sonny Jim

Don't come the high and mighty (becoming more general)

Don't come the Brigadier bit with us, dear

and, from a film: Don't come the Old Lady Windermere

I wonder if there is more detail on the development of these sayings?

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Shelley » Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:42 am

I don't know about the development of these sayings (I love the raw prawn!), but in the U.S. (like in Aus.), it's always, "don't PLAY the innocent with me, Missy", etc. Correct me if I'm wrong, of course.

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Mar 18, 2006 10:48 am

A few times, it's "come on as". It looks like the term is always couched in advice on what not to do.

"But don't come on as threatening." -from the Texas School for the Blind website

"Please don't come on as protecting the Church" -from a LDSCN website

"Don't come on as Johnny Spiritual." -from, another Texas website

It's Missy Shelley, then?

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Shelley » Sat Mar 18, 2006 2:21 pm

Of course. You're right, gdwdwrkr: I'd forgotten about "come on as . . ."

(Actually, it's Missy Solemnis, and you shouldn't joke about it.)

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun Mar 19, 2006 2:09 am

.. isn't it great to see an Aussie expression get a jumper .. come the raw prawn is Services slang from WW II and generally translates as don't try to fool me, don't antagonise me, don't give me any trouble, don't try to impose your ideas on me and is used as a warning, either playful or genuine, when in conversation .. for the official version ..
Source: Macquarie Dictionary: Book of Slang
come the raw prawn , to try to deceive; delude: Don't come the raw prawn with me.

Source: Australian National Dictionary Centre, ANU.
In contemporary Australian English, however, the combination raw prawn is more likely to be heard in the idiom to come the raw prawn (on, over, with, etc.) meaning 'to attempt to deceive (a person); to misrepresent a situation'. The idiom is typically used in negative constructions – don't come the raw prawn with me. According to G.A. Wilkes, this expression originated in WW2 Services slang (A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms 1978)
.. it is worth noting that Roy Rene (1892 - 1954), one of Aus's most loved comedians, used the catchphrase don't come the raw prawn and it is probably through him that it has such an iconic place in Aussie slang ..
1942 - A.J. McIntyre, Putting over Burst : They start at early morn; Till a loud disgusted voice drawls out, `don't come the old raw prawn'.

1942 - Salt 25 May 8: Don’t come the raw prawn Don’t try to put one over me.

1948 – Sumner Locke Elliott Rusty Bugles in Khaki, Bush and Bigotry. ed Eunice Hanger (1968) 36: “The filthy rotten Crab, he’d better not come the raw prawn on us.”

1959 – Eric Lambert Glory Thrown In 41-2: “Don’t come the raw prawn with Doc, mate. He knows all the lurks.”

1968 – Rodney Milgate A refined Look At Existence 28: “Don’t come the raw prawn, you know there’s no such thing. Things don’t happen just like that.”

1975 – Les Ryan The Shearers 85: “What do you think I am, a drongo? I take hundreds of bets, and we get blokes here who try to come the raw prawn.”

1983 Canberra Times 17 Nov.: “Sceptical groans which were, if I translate them correctly, requests for Mr Hawke to stop coming the raw prawn.”
.. at the same time as I was researching the full phrase it seems that prawn and raw prawn pre-date come the raw prawn as Aussie coloquialisms ..
The literal definition of prawn (a word which appears in the Middle English period, but whose origin is unknown) as an edible shellfish is obviously part of standard English.

It is, however, the figurative use of the word to describe 'a fool or someone deserving of contempt' that seems to be predominantly Australian. As early as 1893 it is used to described the hapless worker:

"Well boys, the 'Worker' is a prawn - a fool for all his pains. He has the muscle and the brawn. The 'Fat Man' has the brains." D. Healey, Cornstalk (1893).

It is used in this sense through the twentieth century:

1944 L. Glassop, We were Rats: What an odious prawn this Anderson is, I thought.

1977 C. McCullough, Thorn Birds: 'Jussy, this is Cardinal de Bricassart! .. Kiss his ring, quickly.' The blind-looking eyes flashed scorn. 'You're a real prawn about religion ... Kissing a ring is unhygienic.

In 1940 we have our first evidence of the combination raw prawn. This combination means 'an act of deception; a "swiftie"; an unfair action or circumstance, a "raw deal"; something which is "difficult to swallow".' [/i]Typical usages include:

1940 Any Complaints (Newcastle) 4 April: Voice .. is invariably heard muttering something about a raw prawn.

1946 R.D. Rivett, Behind Bamboo: Raw prawn, something far-fetched, difficult to swallow, absurd.

1954 Queensland Guardian (Brisbane) 20 January: Snow says he thinks that this is the raw prawn. We do all the work, the mob behind Menzies gets all the dough.

1965 E. Lambert, Long White Night: Looking like a reprimanded schoolboy, he flushed and apologised: 'Sorry, Johnny. That was a bit like the raw prawn. Seriously, what's she like?
.. so it gives a whole new meaning to toss another prawn on the barbie ..

WoZ of Aus 19/03/06
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Sun Mar 19, 2006 7:51 pm

Thankyou, Wiz. My wife, Catherine, says we get raw prawns from Iceland - and tinned crab from Tesco's.

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Erik_Kowal » Sun Mar 19, 2006 8:36 pm

Surely she means Tresco.
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Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Mon Mar 20, 2006 10:50 pm

Scilly Billy.

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Mar 21, 2006 8:00 am

Edwin, You’ve opened a whole world of COME THEs which I never knew existed. When I checked, I found that Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang lists a whopping 44 of them.

I’ll reproduce what Cassell’s had to say on the general COME THE and list a few choice beauties that haven’t already been mentioned above. I also include COME THE OLD SOLDIER – Cassell’s had a good discussion on this one.

COME (THE)—verb (also COME THE OLD—) [late 18th century and still in use]: To practice some form of dodge, to pose or act in a certain way; used in a variety of combinations always constrained by a noun, e.g. ‘come the (old) acid’ cf. ‘come it,’ verb [abbreviation Standard English come over, to become]

COME THE OLD SOLDIER verb (also COME THE TIN SOLDIER / PUT THE OLD SOLDIER ON [18th century and still in use]: To deceive another for one’s own benefit, especially to avoid an unpleasant task [‘come the’ + Standard English ‘old soldier’; the skills of a veteran who, supposedly, knows every trick when it comes to avoiding onerous duties. Ware [[in Passing English of the Victorian Era] (1909)]] also cites the rash of beggars who proliferated in London after Waterloo (1815), all claiming to have taken part in the battle. Note nautical jargon soldier, a poor or lazy seaman, a shirker]

COME THE AFTER GAME phrase [1920s and still in use] (Australia): A synonym for ‘I told you so.’ ‘come the’ + image of those who analyse a sporting fixture after the game when they naturally know better than those who actually had to play it]

COME THE LARDY-DARDY verb [mid-late 19th century]: To dress in a showy manner.

COME THE POSSUM OVER verb [mid-19th century and still in use]: 1) To pretend to be ill or even dead 2) To dissemble [‘come over,’ to act in a given manner usually defined by the missing noun + Standard English ‘possum,’ an animal perceived to be cowardly and dissembling]

COME THE TRAVIATA verb[mid-late 19th century]: For a prostitute, to pretend to be suffering from phthisis [[1) A disease characterized by the wasting away or atrophy of the body or a part of the body. 2) Tuberculosis of the lungs. No longer in scientific use.]] [‘come the’ + the Verdi opera La Traviata (1853), which was based on Dumas fils’s La Dame aux Camélias, in which the heroine dies of that disease]

Ken G – March 20, 3006

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Mar 21, 2006 8:05 am

Wiz, COME THE RAW PRAWN is pure gold and I'd give it top honors in the world of COME THE - dom. You’ve pretty well covered the subject, but I did find it listed in Oxford’s A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialism by G. A. Wilkes where he offers his guess as to its origin: “To try to impose on someone, as playing the innocent [? From the greenness of an uncooked prawn cf. greenhorn] (services slang in World War II).

Ken G – March 20, 2006

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Edwin Ashworth » Tue Mar 21, 2006 9:19 am

A real feast, Ken. Compliments to the chef.

Don't come the old ... soldier ... etc

Post by Ed Prue » Fri Mar 24, 2006 2:37 pm

related?: does anyone know the origins of london east end "can i come on the `earole/ on your `earole for a fiver/tenner... " meaning borrowing money?
I grew up with this and didnt think about it. I was on holiday with some american friends in las vegas and got short of cash and the free beers reverted me to non transatlantic mode and i asked to borrow 20 dollars as above, until I could get to a cash machine. I won 300 dollars anyway,

There was ahem! considerable misunderstandng by stacey as she thought i`d asked her to do something perverted.Her other half folded up and said thats gotta be proper english, let him translate. and all was well.
Signature: Ed

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