Saturday, September 24, 2011


“Posh,” meaning fancy, first class, had --- I believed until this morning --- an interesting derivation: “Port Out, Starboard Home,” the preferred cabin positions for voyages from England to India and back, allowing rich passengers so favored to have a northern exposure throughout the trip. I told this story only yesterday to a friend and thought it would make a clever theme for a short article, ending with my elderly dog’s variation on the theme, how her gait changes during our mile-long early morning walks: “Prance Out, Stagger Home.”

In --- as is said --- an excess of caution, I decided to look up the derivation of “posh.” Several dictionaries assured me I was quite wrong, that the term did not derive from “Port Out, Starboard Home,” a “common misconception.” I sit here humbled. How many other erroneous ideas do I have? Am I, like so many others, often wrong but never in doubt? Are you? How would we know? What can we be sure of?

Of course, the dictionaries could be wrong. Perhaps we shouldn’t let them ruin a good story. No, we must trust our best sources. We seek the truth, as best we can, knowing how fallible we can be.


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