A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Eric Partridge; Paul Beale | Go to book overview

R

R.C.s, Parsees, Pharisees and Buckshees

indicates 'the Sergeant-Major's view of all those religious sects and oddities who do not conform to the Established Church and who can refuse to attend church parades, or could, when there were such things' (P.B., 1974); army: since c. 1945.

An anon, correspondent, 1978, expands and varies: Chinese, Japanese; R.C.s, Parsees; Standatease and OneTwo-Threes, which arose in the Regular Army during the 1930s, or perhaps during the 1920s. Cf Sudanese, Siamese…


R.S.V.P.

Ribbons showing very plainly-e.g., of lingerie: UK Society girls' c.p. of c. 1920-60. (Mrs David Hardman, 1977.)


rabbit(s)

. See: does your mother want; hope your r.; let the dog; little rabbits; may your r.; quick as; thank your mother; white rabbits.


rabbits out of the wood

(-it's). It's splendid-sheer profit or a wonderful windfall: racing c.p., dating since c. 1920. Such rabbits cost nothing, whereas those in a butcher's shop do. P.B.: perhaps a poachers' memory.


racket

. See: wrong business.


radiation

. See: pretend.


Radmillovic

. See: more strokes.


Rafferty

(or Rafferty's) rules. Either no rules whatsoever, or rules applied haphazardly and arbitrarily: Aus.: I seem to remember hearing it 1915-18. Wilkes's citations in Dict. Aus. Coll. range from The Bulletin of 5 Jan. 1928 (the former) to The Bulletin of 18 May 1974 (the latter). Orig. obscure; Wilkes very ingeniously proposes the English dialectal reffatory, refractory [P.B.: cf obstreporous to obstropolous to stroppy]; I suggest some forgotten boxing referee named Rafferty, just poss. influenced by reffatory and by the (Marquess of) Queensberry Rules (1867) of boxing. rag. See: takes the rag.


rag on every bush-(oh,) he has a

. He is (or he's in the habit of) courting or 'chasing' more than one girl at a time: c. 1860-1914. Cf takes the rag


rags on-she has

(or she's got) the; and she's got the painters in or the painters are in. She is having her period: mid C19-20; the painters versions ob. by 1950. None could be called cultured or even tactful. Lovett, 1978, adds the Aus. var. the painters haven't turned up (when expected). Cf red sails in the sunset.


railroad

. See: what a way.


railroadin'

. See: now you're r.


rain

. See: I think it's; if it was raining; it ain't gonna; it's raining; looks like rain; when it don't; you win.


raincheck

. See: I'll take a r.


raining cats and dogs-it

carries the c.p. 'gag' addition and there are poodles in the road 'to mock the cliché' (Ashley, 1984): US: later C20.


raining palaces or pea-soup

. See: if it was raining…


raised on prunes and proverbs

. 'A cowboys' expression describing a fastidious and religiously inclined person' (Adams): hardly before late C19. It strikes me as being rather too literary, and too polite, for the average cowboy; indeed, it evokes the idea of Bostonian wit or perhaps of academics at their ease in the Senior Common Room.


rake

. See: no matter for.


ran (or run) away with another man's wife

. See fine night… and you know what thought did.


ranch

. See: meanwhile.


rang a (or the) bell

. See: does that ring…


rank

. See: what is rank.


raptures

. See: roses.


rarest thing in India: Guardsmen's shit-the

. Orig., what is the rarest thing in India?-Guardsmen's shit, shouted by Regular Soldiers not Guardsmen at a Guards unit or section as it passed: late C19-earlier 20. In ref. to the fact that Guards regiments never served in India in, at least, peacetime. (With thanks to Mr Y. Mindel.)


rarin' to go

is a prob. late C19-20, certainly C20, c.p.-US, of course, and orig. Western-but only when it is used joc. or ironically. It indicates an impatient eagerness to get started and, when used lit. and therefore not as a c.p., it was applied to a high-spirited horse: dialectal for rearing to go.

'Current in the US and kept so by a [diminutive, mustachio'd] cartoon character named “Yosemite Sam” on the Warner Brothers' show. Bugs Bunny. Sam is a Westerner, although not all the cartoons in which he appears are necessarily Westerns' (A.B., 1978). rat(s). See: bangs like; no rats; not enough; rough on; this is rat; you dirty rat.


rat shit, cat shit, and several kinds of bat shit

. A nonsense response evoked by any mention of a 'ratchet' e.g. a ratchet screwdriver: Army (though very parochially): 1960s. (P.B.: with retrospective thanks to Capt. Peter Goonan.)


rather

. See: oh, I say, I r.; oh, rather; or would you; would you r.


rather keep you for a week than a fortnight

, the for often omitted. See: I'd rather keep you….


rather you than me

! Dating from c. 1930, it predicts-as and the best of British luck! predicts-the possibility-even the probability-of failure. US version: better you…(R.C., 1978). Also sooner you


rations

. See: came up with; only eating.


rattle

. See: standing; that really rattled.


rave

. See: what's the r.


rave on

! Just go on talking nonsense! A US students' c.p. of the early 1920s (McKnight) Cf the coll. raving mad, very crazy indeed.


raven

. See: quoth.


raw prawn

. See: don't come the raw.


razor. See: I cut

.


razzle-dazzle

. See: give 'em.

-253-

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A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Introduction to the First Edition x
  • Modifications of the Original Introduction xii
  • Acknowledgments to the First Edition xiv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvi
  • Acknowledgments to the Second Edition xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • A 1
  • B 25
  • C 42
  • D 60
  • E 79
  • F 85
  • G 96
  • H 114
  • I 136
  • J 178
  • K 181
  • L 186
  • M 200
  • N 212
  • O 228
  • P 240
  • Q 251
  • R 253
  • S 261
  • T 289
  • U 323
  • V 326
  • W 328
  • X 360
  • Y 361
  • Z 384
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