toerag

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toerag

Post by Archived Topic » Thu Mar 11, 2004 4:51 am

Caroline UK
I am a teacher and thoughtlessly landed myself in it this week! Someone asked me the derivation of the word toerag and I replied that it came from the word Tuareg (nomad of the Sahara). I have no idea where I learned this, it just popped out! However, the pupils looked puzzled and asked that most dreaded of questions, Why? I couldn't answer! If anyone does know, please help me keep up my credibility, I'll be forever grateful!
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:05 am

Unfortunately you missed the mark entirely. The definition is as follows:

toerag noun [C] BRITISH SLANG
an extremely unpleasant person
The man's an absolute toerag, really!
Look what you've done to my book, you toerag. [as form of address]


( Cambridge International Dictionary of English )

The Taureg are indeed nomads of the Sahara, but have nothing to do with "toerags,.

Reply from Charles Becker (Murray KY - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:20 am

In earlier times, when extreme poverty in the countries of Europe was much more prevalent than it is now, those who could not afford shoes either went barefoot or improvised footwear out of rags. To the best of my knowledge, this is the origin of the term; by extension, nowadays a toerag is a human being with the same level of appeal as this mean and unattractive form of footwear.

Your predicament of explicatory insufficiency in the classroom, Caroline, reminds me of when I had the challenging job some years ago of being a tour leader to U.S. high-school students travelling in Europe with their teachers. After tearing my hair out for a few weeks as the supposed repository of knowledge of the treasures of the entire body of European culture, customs and rituals, I developed a marvellous, utterly simple defence for quelling all but the most determined seekers after facts which I did not possess: "Oh, that's for historical reasons." I became good at uttering this with a penetrating, unsmiling stare straight into the eyes of the questioner.

It almost always did the trick.

I would recommend you to spend a weekend dreaming up a few all-purpose parries for future use in similar jams (make it a game you play with your friends down the pub). It's too late in the case of the 'Tuareg' incident, but next time you could turn the question back on your pupils: "Where do YOU think it comes from?" Then, just to make sure no-one will ever know that you didn't know the answer yourself, make it part of their homework to find out and tell you.

Judging from the number of etymologically-based homework assignments presented on this site by U.S. pupils, it must be a marvellously effective tactic for THEIR teachers...

Anyhow, good luck, and please tell us what happens after your class asks you for further details about the Tuareg connection.
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:34 am

From the OED.

'toe-rag.
[f. toe n. + rag n.1]
1. A rag wrapped round the foot and worn inside a shoe, in place of a sock.
1864 J. F. Mortlock Experiences of Convict ii. ix. 80 Stockings being unknown, some luxurious men wrapped round their feet a piece of old shirting, called, in language more expressive than elegant, a ‘toe-rag’.
1932 F. Jennings Tramping with Tramps vi. 98 Socks are very seldom worn. Instead you get a winding of cotton rag round the ball and toes of the foot as a safeguard against blisters. Toe-rags, the tramp calls them.
1933 ‘G. Orwell’ Down & Out in Paris & London xxvii. 197 Less than half the tramps actually bathed.., but they all washed their faces and feet, and the horrid greasy little clouts known as toe-rags which they bind round their toes.
2. A tramp or vagrant; a despicable or worthless person. Also attrib.
1875 T. Frost Circus Life & Circus Celebrities xvi. 278 Toe rags is another expression of contempt..used..chiefly by the lower grades of circus men, and the acrobats who stroll about the country, performing at fairs.
1903 ‘T. Collins’ Such is Life (1937) v. 229 ‘Come over to the wagon, and have a drink of tea,’ says I. ‘No, no,’ says he, ‘none of your toe-rag business.’
1912 D. H. Lawrence Let. (1962) I. 154 Remember, whatever toe-rag I may be personally, I am the person she livanted with. So you be careful.
1960 H. Pinter Caretaker i. 9 All them toe-rags, mate, got the manners of pigs.
1971 ‘H. Calvin’ Poison Chasers xii. 168 Move, ya useless big toerag!
1978 M. Kenyon Deep Pocket xiii. 165 Could she have loved this toe-rag sheikh out of the desert?
1980 J. Wainwright Tainted Man 171 The Law doesn’t differentiate between you and the most miserable towrag [sic] on the face of the earth.
Hence
toe-ragger Austral. slang = sense 2 above.
1896 Truth (Sydney) 12 Jan. (Morris), The bushie’s favourite term of opprobrium ‘a toe-ragger’ is also probably from the Maori. Amongst whom the nastiest term of contempt was that of tau rika rika, or slave.
1919 V. Marshall World of Living Dead (1969) 82 Over the way a ‘trial’ man had tossed a ‘chew’ to a ‘toeragger’.
1953 E. Partridge in I. Bevan Sunburnt Country 217 Some of the gold-diggers were tramps,..and several terms connected with them are worth recording–..toe-ragger, a dead~beat wanderer.
1966 G. W. Turner Eng. Lang. Austral. & N.Z. vii. 144 The battler seems to have been the poorest itinerant. The toeragger was not much wealthier than the battler.

By the way, I absolutely adore the Australian flavor in this entry.
Reply from Doug Gilbert (Chai Yi - Taiwan)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 5:49 am

You're not sucking on toerags again, cobber? Couldn't you rather have a Foster's to get a taste of Oz? *G*
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 6:03 am

Dear Caroline UK: Interesting last name, would that be Hungarian? Anyhow, having had a little bit of experience teaching the little (and big) toerags. I suggest that you simply say that they were unclear in what they were asking and then teach them something about homonyms. Make sure you work in something about them speaking clearly and precisely when asking questions! Then give them the first one hundred lines of the Aeneid and have them translate it into Croatian. You'll get the hang of this teaching thing in no time! *G*
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 6:17 am

I didn't think teachers in the UK still had any credibility to keep... (some of my best friends are teachers, really!)
Reply from Meirav Barkan (London - England)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 6:32 am

the use of rags rather than socks is still prevalent, if the training films I used to watch about the Soviet military were at all accurate.
Reply from Shay Simmons (Colfax - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 6:46 am

Ah, but what about those notorious incidents which still happen in the U.S. military to this day? You will have guessed that I am referring to the so-called 'friendly fibre'.
Reply from Erik Kowal (Reading - England)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:01 am

Ok! Everyone stand up now stretch and breathe deeply. All right! Seats! Everyone. Now, Erik, please clarify your statement about "notorious incidents" stil happening in the U.S. military. You attribute it to "friendly fibre." Is this some kind of English reference to a product containing psyllium husks and used to promote bowel regularity? The U.S. military doesn't use this as they feel putting the troops into harms way often enough scares the crap out of 'em. Not all of them, mind you, the Marines have been constipated for years no matter where we send them! *G*
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:15 am

that's because Marines are harder to scare than the Air Force.
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:29 am

Be proud among the few (wizards, that is)! Use your name!
Reply from Leif Thorvaldson (Eatonville - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:44 am

who else would be castigating the USAF?
Reply from Shay Simmons (Colfax - U.S.A.)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 7:58 am

Are you sure 'castigating' is the word you wanted to use Shay?
Reply from Doug Gilbert (Chai Yi - Taiwan)
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toerag

Post by Archived Reply » Thu Mar 11, 2004 8:13 am

yes.
Reply from Shay Simmons (Colfax - U.S.A.)
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