a big girl's blouse

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a big girl's blouse

Post by Archived Topic » Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:27 pm

Why do we use this derogative expression for a male 'nose of wax'?
Submitted by Julie Kay (Bronnitsy - Russia)
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a big girl's blouse

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:41 pm

Julie, That’s a beauty and it is the first I’ve heard of it and don’t believe that it is used much in the U.S. And for those unfamiliar with the expression ‘nose of wax’ see the posting wax nose. The only source I found that discussed “big girl’s blouse” was Michael Quinion’s Word Wide Words, which I reproduce below:
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World Wide Words

BIG GIRL’S BLOUSE: For those in other parts of the English-speaking world who have never heard of this astonishing idiom, let me explain that it is heard now quite widely in Britain (and elsewhere, too, it seems), though it originated in the North of England.

I’ve been vaguely dreading somebody asking this question, because it is one of a set of Northern idioms that are quite impenetrable in their origins. Others are the exclamation of surprise, “well, I’ll go to the foot of our stairs!” and the dismissive “all mouth and trousers.”

People do indeed use it to mean an ineffectual or effeminate male, a weakling, though it is often used in a bantering or teasing way rather than as an out-and-out insult (“You can’t drink Coke in a pub, you big girl’s blouse!”; “Blokes who don’t take on dares are big girl’s blouses”). The American milquetoast isn’t quite equivalent (since it has a greater emphasis on meekness rather than on an unmanly nature), but it’s close.

It seems to have been first noticed in the 1960s. The first example in print we know of is from 1969, in a script of the British ITV network sitcom Nearest and Dearest (which ran from 1969 to 1972). This starred Jimmy Jewel as Eli Pledge and Hylda Baker as his spinster sister Nellie, who inherit a pickle-bottling factory in Colne, Lancashire. It was rough-and-ready northern humour, of the type conventionalised as gritty, and full of innuendo (plus malapropisms from Nellie).

It has been suggested that Hylda Baker invented the phrase in her stage act. If she didn’t, where big girl’s blouse came from is likely to remain a mystery. Coincidentally, Brian Edmondson e-mailed me to comment that his Liverpudlian father, who died in 1979, always said “he’s flapping like a big girl’s blouse”. This conjures up an image of ineffectualness that is plausible as a extended idea from which the current version could have derived.

Other than that, your guess is as good as mine ...
________________________

Ken G – November 28, 2004
Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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a big girl's blouse

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:54 pm

I'd say that the nearest US equivalent of "big girl's blouse" is the simple word "sissy". But is it a large blouse or the blouse of a large girl? I always suspected the latter...
Reply from Simon Beck (London - England)
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Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by tony h » Sat May 26, 2012 7:49 pm

Big Girl's Blouse.

To understand this expression, and to know when to use it, you must first recognise its literal meaning. In this case you need to imagine a naturally amply chested woman with a not overly ample body. Her assets kept in place by some feminine decorative material called a blouse. A true picture of homely femininity. As can often be seen in summer months a blouse will struggle to fully achieve the task required of it.
Describing someone as a big girl’s blouse is to say they are not behaving as a man. Not the macho man but just an ordinary everyday sort of man.
Suitable uses may occur when:
1. A group of chaps goes to the pub and orders beer, steak and chips. The BGB orders a feta salad and a white wine.
2. You find a man standing on a chair whilst a mouse sits calmly on floor looking at him.

It can only really be used by a man to a man.
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With the right context almost anything can sound appropriate.

Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat May 26, 2012 8:11 pm

Pass the cheese.
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Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sun May 27, 2012 4:23 am

.. well described tony .. it is a difficult idiom to explain outside of the culture within which it is used ..

.. Simon (who doesn't visit anymore) asked >> But is it a large blouse or the blouse of a large girl? I always suspected the latter... .. the answer is neither .. the big is the adjective describing the magnitude of the offence not the size of the blouse or the girl ..

WoZ who is lots of things but never a BGB
Last edited by Wizard of Oz on Mon Dec 15, 2014 2:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by diocon » Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:07 am

I always thought it had something to do with the fact that shirts in England when I was young had only three buttons at the top and blouses had buttons all the way down. Men's shirts on the continent had buttons all the way down and these were known as big girl's blouses
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Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by Edwin F Ashworth » Sat Dec 20, 2014 7:15 am

diocon wrote:I always thought it had something to do with the fact that shirts in England when I was young had only three buttons at the top and blouses had buttons all the way down. Men's shirts on the continent had buttons all the way down and these were known as big girl's blouses
That's fascinating, makes sense of a tricky-to-explain phrase, and would make my day were it proved to be true. Of course, you're only talking about half-buttoned English sports shirts; I had to wear the fully buttoned ones over 50 years ago. Do you know of any authority or even general source agreeing with this explanation?
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Re: a big girl's blouse

Post by Bobinwales » Sat Dec 20, 2014 7:41 am

I remember shirts which had to be put on over the head. They buttoned to just about waist level and had tails which were long enough for decency if you were caught without your trousers, I was still in shorts when such shirts went out of fashion.

I always thought that the Big Girl was a grown-up, rather than a little girl.
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Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

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