[This following text serves as an annotation to the author's "Mr Pooter: an Alternative Point of View."]
By the late 1880s posh had two meanings. The older one was money (originally a ha'penny or halfpenny, possibly from the Roma for half. It was probably thieves' argot.) The newer meaning was dandy. At one point Lupin calls Murray a 'swell', a word used since 1810 to mean stylishly dressed or of good social standing. Posh in its modern sense of upper class was first recorded in Punch in 1918. It was used by an RAF officer.
Dosh — also meaning money — is still very widely used, in London at least. The OED hasn't found a written example before 1953 but might it be a mutated version of posh which survived underground?
[Another possibility: I have always heard from Brits and Victorianists that posh, which means classy and luxurious, derives from the British colonial experience, particularly the voyages to and from India. According to this interpretation, posh comes from "Port Out Starbord Home," supposedly the preferred locations for one's cabin on the long voyages because they receive less sun. I may be misremembering, but I think someone from Cunard told me this forty years ago; I should add that this origin of posh is supposed to have been customer's coinage, not something from the shipping line. — GPL].
- Posh, Toff, and the Victorians (Dick Sullivan's essay on Victorian and contemporary British uses of the word as an index to social change)
Farmer, John S. and Henley. W E Slang and its Analogues (Printed for subscribers only). 1902.
Hotten, John Camden. A Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant and Vulgar Words. London, 1859.
Oxford English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001.
Last modified 23 August 2006