View Full Version : Origin of a derrogatory term

12th Dec 2004, 06:31
I am interested to know, being a gullible American, why the term "prat" is derrogatory. Don't ask why I want to know. Did it not used to be "Burke"? Is arsehole not enough? You feel the need to mess with some people's surnames? Do tell.
Reason I am asking, I am third generation "pratt & whitney" stock. When I first went to the UK in the early nineties, I was treated like shit. Nowadays, I bring several millon BPS to the UK. Am I still a "prat"? Help me out.

Bern Oulli
12th Dec 2004, 07:22
From an on-line dictionary of slang (http://www.peevish.co.uk/slang/) the meaning of the word "prat" is:

PRAT: Noun. A fool, idiot or objectionable person. Originally meaning the buttocks.

(To) prat about / around: Verb.
1. To idle away time.
2. To act foolishly and annoyingly.

From the same source:
BERK: Noun. Idiot, objectionable person. Derived from the rhyming slang Berkshire Hunt or Berkeley Hunt, meaning 'c*nt'. Normally Berkshire and Berkeley would be pronounced Barkshire and Barkeley. This expression is generally accepted as inoffensive despite its source. Also spelled 'burk'.
Note: no "e" at the end.

So, prat or berk, they are both idiots. However, the name Pratt is spelt with a double "t". Makes all the difference!

tony draper
12th Dec 2004, 08:05
Found this,

[Q] From Adams Douglas: “In some British magazines I have noticed the word prat, which seems in context to mean a fool or stupid person. Is this related to pratfall?”
[A] It is, yes. Prat in this sense means “backside; buttocks”, first recorded in the sixteenth century but of unknown origin. A pratfall is a comedy fall on to the buttocks. The British slang sense dates from the 1960s and means an incompetent, foolish or stupid person. It became popular in the 1980s. It isn’t obscene, but it’s a sharp expression of criticism or abuse.


12th Dec 2004, 08:10
I don't see that prat and Pratt could be easily confused but if you are unhappy with your name then you could always change it. I knew a guy whose unfortunate surname was W anker (fair dinkum!) although he did pronounce it "wonker" ... I think I would have been inclined to change it to Walker or something that was less open to ridicule.

There are probably plenty of names out there that some folk see as a bit comical but it is not reasonable to expect entire countries to abandon their well-known sayings on the grounds that there is a similarity to your name.

Am I still a "prat"?
I have no idea, but you are definitely a Pratt. ;)

12th Dec 2004, 09:35
I once knew of a guy whose name was Victor Hunt. He insisted on being called Vic.
I never knew why.

B Fraser
12th Dec 2004, 10:59
I worked in a company some years ago who had a bloke called Ewan Kerr. Poor guy.

My dad knows someone called James Riddle :}

12th Dec 2004, 11:07
Why not call yourself Mr. Whitney?

12th Dec 2004, 16:29
Roger Houston.:)

12th Dec 2004, 17:03
Little, you are alogether too sensitive, and for no reason. "Prat" and "Pratt" have no link.

Perhaps you might like to change your name to, say:

in terms of personal names or, if you want to go by a place-name:
Bunkum (from Buncombe);

12th Dec 2004, 19:27
Little_GTO - what does 'nimrod' mean to you as an American? How would you take it if I called you a 'nimrod'?

There's a specific reason why I pose the question...

tony draper
12th Dec 2004, 19:46
Then there is this one Mr Davaar.

Cohen said Mr. Shulman was first to challenge that "shyster" derived from a lawyer named Scheuster. Others, particularly Roger Mohovich, then traced the etymology to 1843-1844. "Shyster" turned out to be a Yiddish corruption of a German vulgarism meaning a crooked lawyer.

12th Dec 2004, 21:10
Have you abandoned the Rev Dr Brewer?

12th Dec 2004, 21:22
Could change to "Mike Hunt", has a certain ring about it, give you some real street cred, or just make it your first name and it will distract folks' attention from the Prat bit.
"Mike Hunt Pratt" here.........

tony draper
12th Dec 2004, 22:03
Sorry Mr Davaar, one was researching the origin of the phrase
"To do a Brodie" a term which meant, to take a dive, not much used nowadays, turns out it comes from one Paul Brodie who leapt off the Brooklin Bridge long ago, when one turned up the Shyster thing.
Then we have "Gordon Bennet"
The internet has taken a lot of fun out of research.

12th Dec 2004, 22:30
Let me know what you found on "Gordon Bennett". I have a particular reason for asking.

tony draper
13th Dec 2004, 08:18
Gordon Bennett!!, for those folks from foreign parts is a Southern England exclamation of shock or supprise.
Something on Mr Gordon Bennet here Mr Davaar,apparently he hailed from the country of your birth.

Gordon Bennett.
This was a real person, named in full James Gordon Bennett. Confusingly, there were two of them. Mr Bennett the elder was born in Scotland in 1795, emigrated to the US, became a journalist, founded the New York Herald in 1835, and instituted many of the methods of modern journalism. His son of the same name (universally known as Gordon Bennett, to start with probably to distinguish him from his father) was also a good journalist (he sent Stanley to Africa to seek out Livingstone) but preferred the good life, mostly in London and Paris. He spent much of the fortune accumulated by him and his father in promoting air and road racing in England and France and generally being the playboy.
There are several surviving pieces of evidence that show the high public profile of Gordon Bennett the younger during his European years, and his impact on sports in particular. He can be said to have started the sport of international motor racing through his sponsorship of the Bennett Trophy races from 1900 to 1905; a trials course in the Isle of Man was named after him. He gave a trophy for long-distance hot-air ballooning in 1906 that started the modern sport (the international Gordon Bennett balloon race still continues). He also gave a cup for powered air racing. So it’s perhaps not surprising that his name become well-known, well enough that he should have become a byword, helped by his eccentric and boorish ways (he is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records under “Greatest Engagement Faux Pas” for having his engagement to Caroline May broken off in 1877 after he arrived late and drunk at the May family’s New York mansion and urinated in the living room fireplace in front of his hosts).
The curious thing is that though his high-living European heyday was in the first decade of this century, the phrase only began to appears in print very recently (the OED has traced it back only as far as a cartoon in 1983, though it would be very pleased to hear of verified earlier sightings). For the phrase to have survived until now, it must have been lurking in the spoken language for most of this century. I can remember my sister using it in the late forties, and through such oral usage it must have been kept alive until a greater use of demotic language in the press and elsewhere in the eighties brought it to wider public notice.
Gordon Bennett may have had another influence on the language. Until the middle of the nineteenth century, the given name Gordon was unusual. It turns up much more commonly as a family name, originally Scots, deriving ultimately either from the town in Berwickshire or from a similarly-named place in Normandy (experts disagree). Our Gordon Bennett, like his father, had it as his middle name, which had probably been bestowed originally to mark the family name of some relative of influence. The popularity of Gordon as a given name grew as the century waned. It has been suggested that this was through the influence of Charles George Gordon, Gordon of Khartoum, the soldier of the British Empire also known as Chinese Gordon, once hugely famous, who died during the siege of Khartoum in 1885. But could it be that the popularity of the name was due in part to the publicity given it by Gordon Bennett only a few years later?

Oops sorry, misread that, his father hailed from North of Wall.

Found another interesting snppet,the term, "Gone West" as in lost, damaged, no longer servicable, in the England of the 1600's would have been "Gone South" or "Going South" ie, dying or dead, or about to give up the ghost, another example of the American version of English overtaking the home grown.
One always thunk the origin of "Going South" was from Amunsens Telegram to Captain Scott, he of the Antarctic, but apparently it long predates that and has to do with the direction of Tyburn Tree from the law courts, where many were sent south to be "gone west" at the end of a rope.
:uhoh: :rolleyes:

13th Dec 2004, 09:51

Am I still a "prat"?
Still effective in aviation (engine) engineering circles as far as I know.

"Alright, we've seen the Pratt's, now where are the Whitney's?" :hmm:

Just an other number
13th Dec 2004, 10:03
Have to say that I thought Gordon Bennett was a handy euphemism for 'gor blimey' - God blind me - in the same way as 'golly'; and sugar for shit, darn for damn, fiddle faddle for fcuk,
I could go on....

You could also look at this Guardian page (http://www.guardian.co.uk/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-19337,00.html)

13th Dec 2004, 13:32
Am I to understand that not a single PPRuNer can come up with a new derogatory term?! :rolleyes:

I propose prunnad, meaning someone who goes to extreme lengths in order to milk the last drop in an online discussion ;)

And why not hexagonad, which is a French prunnad?! :O

13th Dec 2004, 19:30
Now let me understand: Is that a hexa gonad (or witch's whatever), or a hexagon ad? The first seems to come close to bumping up against the hotel lobby rule. Just asking.

tony draper
13th Dec 2004, 20:26
Hmmm, one thinks a hexa gonad should be more rightly classed as a Warlock Mr Davaar.

13th Dec 2004, 20:36
As always, Dr draper, one is grateful for the refinement of definition.

tony draper
13th Dec 2004, 20:51
Hmmm, does that make old Adolf a mono gonad.

The Invisible Man
13th Dec 2004, 20:54
I've heard he keeps it in a free trade hall.

13th Dec 2004, 21:05
How evocative are the two last posts, recalling the ballad of Samuel Hall, who only had one whatever; but that was not all. Musicologists will not lightly forget that poor Samuel had killed a man, and for that peccadillo had to something swing just to please the something King, dammitall.

tony draper
13th Dec 2004, 21:09
"My name it is Sam Hall an I hate yer one and all, blast yer hide".

Thats weird Mr Davaar ,thats the only song I know how to play the backing for on a guitar, as one regards singers as the lowest form of musical life.

13th Dec 2004, 21:26
Yes. The Halls were a big family, of course, for we must not overlook their kinsman, Robert Hall, the Glasgow Glutton, of whom Google writes with such approval:
Rab Ha', the Glesca Glutton is remembered by a man who farmed
Highflats, in Wester Kittochside, as Rab slept in his barn one night. Rab Ha', properly known as Robert Hall, is chiefly remembered for his exploit in successfully eating a whole calf, at one sitting, for a wager. He died in 1843 in a hay loft in Thistle Street, Hutchiesontown, and lies buried in Gorbals cemetery.

The Samuel Halls were the defective branch, related by marriage one believes to the Welsh family of Morgan, headed as we need remind no one, by Danny Morgan, who had a tiny sexual whatever. 'Twas one inch .... Oh I forget the rest!

They in turn are believed to be sib to Sonia Snell, to whom, we learned long ago with regret, an accident befell. Still, she is probably over it by now.

tony draper
13th Dec 2004, 22:04
Eating a whole Calf? well, thats small potatoes compared to Sawney Bean and his brood, they devoured whole Clans.

13th Dec 2004, 22:41
You write a mean post, a mean post.

14th Dec 2004, 11:32
Some clarification may be required re. hexagonad...

France is often called 'le hexagon': it can be drawn roughly as a hexagon, and then the coastline can be drawn in.


Well, it all made some sense to me yesterday... :O

14th Dec 2004, 11:33
I knew a corporate jet pilot who's name was Krapp, I told him not to go to any English speaking nation for fear of ridicule and when he asked why I didn't have the heart to tell him!
There's a butcher down the road here who's name is F*ck! Yes I can proove it.
German names can be downright hilarious if you translate them,
these all exist:

Schweinebraten = Roast pork
Schimmelpfennig = Mouldy penny
Schweinheer = Pigs Army

There is even a little town in the eastern part of Germany called Hundeatem = Dogbreath!
Darmstadt = Intestine Town
Eiterfeld = Puss (as in infected wound) field

The list is endless!

14th Dec 2004, 13:44
Meanwhile back on topic...

There's a story I've heard more than once, but no amount of Googling will turn up today, of a practical joke played by one of the great English poets on another one (Coleridge? Wordsworth?) when one asked the other what 'prat' meant, and was told it was an item of monk's clothing, whereupon he included it in a published poem, much to everyone's hilarity.

14th Dec 2004, 20:08
desk jockey, I think it was a slightly different word, and I think the poet may have been Browning.

tony draper
14th Dec 2004, 21:17
Heres a ancient one, shouted by Englishmen from the top of Senlac hill.




15th Dec 2004, 13:14
desk jockey, I think it was a slightly different word, and I think the poet may have been Browning.

Ah, yes, now I suppose I should feel a right [email protected] rather than a right [email protected]

But how come anybody ever spotted it? That poem is 2000+ lines long and the offending word comes right at the end.