Friday, February 17, 2012

Hey hey

Little Davy Jones, formerly of arguably ersatz pop situationists The Monkees, drops the correct form in a rare cocklewarming tale from the Daily Mail -
'Being a cocky kid, I even went into the stable lads boxing championship. I got a good walloping from Taffy Thomas – that was an awakening – and now I can honestly say that I'm all mouth and trousers!'

It's almost a shame to note that that doesn't actually make much sense.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Two right

If a review of a Jim Cartwright play in the Blackpool Gazette can't get it right, I'd start to despair.

So it's good to see:
an all-human-life-is-there microcosm of still recognisable late 1980s society including a old lady seeking respite from her ailing husband, an all mouth and trousers flirt, a possessive bully, an overlooked other woman and small talking Elvis fan midlifers.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Hitchen whine

Just in case anyone didn't already think Peter Hitchens was a complete prannet, here he is dropping the bastardised form in a blog apparently associated with the Mail on Sunday. Hard to tell quite what he's wanking on about, though.

Monday, August 01, 2011

And on the other leg

BBC America's Anglophenia blog chips in with a charming entry on the phrase:
It’s a description of someone who is boorish and loud, and a little too full of his or herself. It’s analogous to expressions like “cock of the walk” or (going a little further back) “popinjay” or “coxcomb.” The point is not that this is a person who definitely can’t fulfil his or her promises; it’s that this is someone who is boastful about being the most attractive, most astonishing person in the room: a windbag, in other words.

Blog author Fraser McAlpine then goes on to discuss the 'no trousers' variant, to which he gives equivalent consideration as 'a more definite expression'. While arguably correct in terms of common usage, it really should be noted that this is a late bastardisation rooted in the London media scene of the 1980s, without the elegance or sense of the original.

The one should not be considered as a stronger version of the other, as it's extremely unlikely that both would be used by the same speaker. Adherents to the bastardised version, as has been noted, tend to typify the meaning of the original.

Friday, April 01, 2011


Mr Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Green Party, shows he's greener than onions with his line for STV:
"The other parties are all mouth and no trousers on public services."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Early uses

I've found what may be the wellspring of the bastardised form.

The State of the language by Christopher B. Ricks and Leonard Michaels (1990) quotes from a 1988 introduction to the soap opera Eastenders produced by Lionheart Television (the North American distribution arm of the BBC). It reads:
Angie things Den is nothing but aggro. Den thinks Angie is all mouth and no trousers. Sharon thinks they're both berks. Lofty thinks they're all barmy and wishes they'd just belt up - for once.

Google's book search finds just one earlier use, from the London Theatre Review in 1987, in a reference to a comic hero who is all mouth and no trousers.

The bastardised phrase seems to have its roots in the London-based media of the late 1980s. This was the heyday of the Yorkshire sitcom Last of the Summer Wine which, as has been noted, frequently used 'all mouth and trousers', a phrase which might have previously been unfamiliar in many parts of the capital. As that milieu might exemplify the meaning of the original phrase, it seems little wonder the poor dears got confused.

The Google books thing turns up various earlier uses of 'all mouth and trousers', of course. The earliest I can find is in a short story by LP Hartley, collected in 'Two for the River' (1961):
'I wasn't criticizing you,' I said, 'or them.'
'It's not a bad life. Most men are all mouth and trousers— well, I like the trousers best, if you see what I mean.'
'You mean without the trousers.'
'Yes, I suppose I do.'

Earlier examples of either form would be gratefully noted.

Friday, August 27, 2010


Following the recent Guardian blog debate, I was inspired to have another look for any further information on 'Mouth and Trousers', the 1982 single by punk jesters Spodge which I mentioned a couple of years ago. And behold!