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dressed up like a pox doctor's clerk (BE) Options
Mnemon
Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2020 7:46:33 PM

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Have you ever heard or used the idiom (or probably the slang term) dressed up/got up like a pox doctor's clerk ?
Is there any difference between "dressed up like a dog's dinner" and "dressed up like a pox doctor's clerk"? I'm interested to know the situations in which one might be more suitable than or preferable to the other.

Quote:

(all) dressed up like a pox doctor's clerk
Dressed in a showy, flashy, or excessively fancy manner; overdressed. Said especially of a man. (The meaning of "pox doctor" in this context is not known.) Primarily heard in UK, Australia.

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/(all)+dressed+up+like+a+pox+doctor%27s+clerk

Thanks.
Sarrriesfan
Posted: Tuesday, December 29, 2020 8:37:13 PM

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I have never heard that one before myself, although British slang is highly regionalised so I won't say it's not used.

I think though everyone understands "dressed up like a dog's dinner" though.
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2020 4:10:30 AM
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I've actually posted that one on this forum before - but to my knowledge it's not a British saying at all, it's Australian.

That might be why Sarrie's not heard of it before - I've not heard it said here, but on an Aussie programme I was watching recently it it was part of the dialogue.

Strange: - that's the 2nd time this week that two very well-known Aussie sayings have apparently been listed as British English.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2020 5:55:21 AM

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My guess is that it may have been current in the UK and Antipodes at the same time back then in the nineteenth century - but in speech only, not printed. Then died out in the UK and was re-imported through the armed forces from the ANZACs.

I've never heard it before, and it sounds archaic to me - along with the basic "pox-doctor".

"Pox" has not really been a popular word in my lifetime (there are more specific medical terms in use, and more popular slang terms).

Partridge has it as 'current in the UK since 1780' - but the Google Books corpus only shows "pox-doctor's clerk" as appearing in the 1930s - and MOST of the citations are books by Eric Partridge (besides a couple of lesser-known novels by Australians). Partridge seems to have used it in every book he's written.

Between 1930 and 1950, the pox-doctor's clerk appeared in phrases "lucky as a pox-doctor's clerk", "smelling like a pox-doctor's clerk" and "acting like a pox-doctor's clerk".
Judging by the books it appears in, it's a UK military phrase - for very officious or arrogant or "posh-acting" junior officers - maybe originally a Medical Orderly or Medical Officer's Batman.

Jackspeak: A guide to British Naval slang & usage - Rick Jolly - 2012
pox doctor's clerk The figurative lowest of the low in the Medical Branch: "How do they expect me to run a Follow-up Clinic with just two sprog scab-lifters and a pox-doctor's clerk?"

The same book also notes that "In older times, there was an expression referring to someone having all the luck of a pox-doctor's clerk since he had immediate access to all the cures for venerial diseases."
Romany
Posted: Wednesday, December 30, 2020 9:33:25 AM
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Oh yes, it's not a current usage by any means: but what makes Aussie English so...Aussie...is that people - ordinary people; not writers or tv 'personalities' - do speak very colourfully. They make up similies on the spot; or repeat those their grandparents had used because they like the sound of them; or adapt quite serious ones that are hilarious.

One of the variations on "pox-doctors clerk" is "pox-doctor's dog.". The average bushman thought more of their dogs than they did of clerks!

And don't forget Australia started out as a convict settlement - 'the pox' can still be used instead of saying 'S.T.D' by Aussies of any age: part of their Heritage-talk.Whistle
Mnemon
Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2020 10:07:20 AM

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Thank you folks for the time you spent so as to answer my questions. It was nice knowing your ideas, I mean that.

Sarrriesfan wrote:
I have never heard that one before myself, although British slang is highly regionalised so I won't say it's not used.

I think though everyone understands "dressed up like a dog's dinner" though.


Unfortunately, a friend of mine who is from southern part of England mistook "dog's dinner" for "a mess", "a jumble" or probably "a dog's breakfast". For that reason, I'd avoid it partly from expecting it to be unfamiliar to the listener.

Sarrriesfan
Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2020 11:48:53 AM

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Location: Luton, England, United Kingdom
Mnemon wrote:
Thank you folks for the time you spent so as to answer my questions. It was nice knowing your ideas, I mean that.

Sarrriesfan wrote:
I have never heard that one before myself, although British slang is highly regionalised so I won't say it's not used.

I think though everyone understands "dressed up like a dog's dinner" though.


Unfortunately, a friend of mine who is from southern part of England mistook "dog's dinner" for "a mess", "a jumble" or probably "a dog's breakfast". For that reason, I'd avoid it partly from expecting it to be unfamiliar to the listener.



Yes well a “dogs dinner” by itself is a mess.
https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/a-dogs-dinner

So the confusion is understandable.
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