(Early) 20th Century British Slang

While reading the short story “Something Childish but Very Natural” by Katherine Mansfield, I came across the following curious expressions. (bolded by me in the following). The story doesn’t say, but it appears to be set in the early 20th Century (trains, telegrams, men tipping hats to ladies, etc.)

(An internal dialog of Henry’s):

I get the feeling this means something like, “I’ll be darned if I wash up”, or “Nuts to that!”. Is that right?

This one I have no clue about.

The expression “I bags (whatever)” today at least means that the person is making a claim on it. Most commonly used by children. For example “I bags the red ones” means “I claim all the red ones for myself”. When used referring to washing up it means the speaker is referring to which task they want. In households with multiple children washing up is usually a multi person job so you’ll hear “I bags washing up.”, “I bags drying”, “I bags putting away”.

Hard to tell if that’s what it means in this context, but that’s the common modern usage.

I think that “two t’s” could be short for “two ticks”, as in two ticks of the clock or two seconds - IOW “in just a little while”. But I could be wrong…

I agree with Blake about the modern (last 20 years) usage of “I bags” but your quote seems to use it in a reversed sense…


Blake is right about the bags thing and grimpixie is right about the “two t’s” thing.

London, United Kingdom.

oh and to clarify, its not being used in “the reverse sense.”

He/she/it is “bagsying” the washing up part because it is the more “fun” part of the job (compared to drying and putting away dishes).

Also, in my experience, unless there are some particularly stubborn stains the person who is washing is invariably finished first.

Yes when you say “bagsy …” you are claiming that object or in this case job as your own. As Garius says doing the washing up is considerd a more easier job than doing the drying up (of course now everybody has dishwashers) - “I’ll wash, you’ll dry”

Examples here: “Bags I first posting” vs. “I bags the comfy chair”. I was brought up (UK, 1960s) with “Bags I” as the more usual form, but it seems to vary.

myself i was brought up “shotgunning”:

“Shotgun front seat!”

but i can vaguely remember “bagsying” too:

“Bagsy first go on the Atari!”

A Twenty-something

We used to say ‘bagsy’ as kids too. I think “shotgun” is more of an Americanism?

I qualify as one of the younger dopers on the board and when I was a kid the 20th century was just about finished, but ‘bagsy’ was still among common usuage with my short-trousered associates.

Not to hijack, but this is kind of redundant. I’m not saying it wasn’t your usage, just that it’s an interesting evolution. I believe this comes from the US West in the days of stage coaches when a guard with a shotgun would ride beside the driver. This was called “riding shotgun”, so calling “shotgun” means claiming the front passenger seat. I guess in your usage, the “shotgun” came to mean the act of claiming rather the position being claimed.

Could be - although its probably worth clarifying that “front seat” was just the first thing that popped into my head.

another example would be:

Garihousemate: I need a cup of Tea

Garius: Shotgun not making it!

Garihousemate2: Shotgun not making it!

Garihousemate: bugger. guess i have to do it then.

Only last week I bagsied the front seat.
History in action;)

Maybe the use of the term ‘shotgun’ comes from the wildwest when the person who actually had the shotgun didn’t have to do anything because they would start poppin’ caps in peoples asses? Just a thought.

Yeah, your example makes it clear that you’re using it to indicate an assertion rather than the thing being asserted, but my point was that it was originally meant to indicate the thing being asserted. It comes from “riding shotgun”, which meant riding beside the driver, so yelling “shotgun” was short for “I claim the position of the shotgun-wielding guard” or “dibs on the front passenger seat”. Saying “shotgun on not making tea” is a corruption of that meaning which would be more properly “dibs on not making tea” since “shotgun” is the equivalent of the position being claimed (“not making tea”) rather than the act of making the claim.

But this is far afield… I’m starting to notice how many of my posts start with “not to hijack, but…”

That’s a link to a great word site. Random House.

The shotgun as a “seat” reference seems to have originated in the 1950’s in the US among people who actually rode as guards in a vehicle. It was adapted by teens in the 1970’s as a descriptive term for riding in the passenger seat of a vehicle. No evidence that it existed as a phrase before the 1950’s.