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Nylon Non Sequitur

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1247337.  Fri Sep 01, 2017 6:58 am Reply with quote

Good morning.

I love QI. I stumbled across it by accident, as very few people here in America have ever heard of the program. There's a bit of a cultural gap between the two nations, so there are times when I need to research some of the off-hand comments to understand them.

In the Non Sequitur episode, during the Nylons segment, Alan makes a throw-away comment about "Breadford Nylons". I'm a bit curious; what are Breadford nylons, and why are they funny?

Alan's comment is a bit mumbled and there are no subtitles in my episode, so I may have misspelled "Breadford". I've googled the phrase, but I'm not turning up anything.

Any enlightenment is much appreciated. Thank you.

L on earth
1247340.  Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:22 am Reply with quote

Hi DiceRoll!
I suspect he was referring to Brentford Nylons. They were a retailer that made nylon bedsheets amongst other things back in the 1970s. I don't know what the comment that Alan made was, but I suspect the joke is to do with them being considered rather naff. There's a nice advert for them here if that helps for context.

Alfred E Neuman
1247349.  Fri Sep 01, 2017 7:53 am Reply with quote

I'm fairly sure that "naff" also falls into the cultural gap.

I know I had to google to find out what it meant.

1247358.  Fri Sep 01, 2017 8:30 am Reply with quote

In that sense, generally a bit rubbish, crap, lame, et cetera.

A woman's parts of shame were her naff in the 19th century, probably from Old English nafala (= navel, much as the navel is actually something else entirely). While it wasn't a word to use In Front Of The Ladies, it was considered less coarse than other names for that area.

It is unclear whether or not this is connected with the gay slang word naff = a straight person. It is claimed that this is an acronym (Not Available For Fucking, and hence not of interest to a cruising gay man), but it's fair to say that not everyone believes this. Barry Took believed it, and used it with this meaning when he wrote the radio sitcom Round the Horne, but he was himself straight and some of his notions about gay slang weren't entirely accurate.

The euphemistic naff off began life in the BBC sitcom Porridge, which was set in a prison. The show aired prime time and so strong expletives were out of bounds, and naff off was substituted. It became even more prominent when Princess Anne told a press photographer to do it, but is rarely heard now.

1247387.  Fri Sep 01, 2017 12:19 pm Reply with quote

Here's a blog post about Brentford Nylons. Their 1970s TV commercials starring Alan Freeman - around the time a well-known DJ - were quite notorious.

1247580.  Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:09 am Reply with quote

That's fantastic. Thank you for all that information.

I had a slight notion of what "naff" meant, but only that it was something negative.

1247586.  Sun Sep 03, 2017 9:41 am Reply with quote

suze wrote:

The euphemistic naff off began life in the BBC sitcom Porridge, which was set in a prison.

Can I call you on that? The OED Online has a citation from 1959:

1959 K. Waterhouse Billy Liar ii. 37 Naff off, Stamp, for Christ sake!

The next citation is from Porridge in 1975, so it's fair to say that the show popularized the phrase, but it's certainly a bit older.

1247594.  Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:29 am Reply with quote

You can most definitely call me, because I should have checked before I posted.

Whether Keith Waterhouse would have known about gay slang I don't know, but he was a journalist and he frequented seedy bars so he might have done.

Why Mr Waterhouse used "naff off" in Billy Liar I don't really know. While fuck off certainly had appeared in novels by 1959, it may be that his publisher Michael Joseph wasn't willing to allow such strong language under its roof.

1247595.  Sun Sep 03, 2017 10:43 am Reply with quote

Was the verb (as opposed to the adjective) gay slang? The OED Online's etymology section says:

Origin unknown. Probably unrelated to naff adj.
It has been suggested that the word is < English regional (northern) naf the female genitals (19th cent.; compare Scots nyaph , nauf in same sense from mid 18th cent.; apparently back-slang for fan , shortened < fanny n.4), or that it is perhaps a variant of eff v. with metanalysis (see N n.).

Its earliest citation for the adjective naff is 1966, which does appear to be Polari slang.


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