Help with Edwardian slang I don't know how to spell?
January 1, 2005 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Edwardian slang. I'm in the midst of an Upstairs Downstairs marathon and the daughter of the house keeps using a word that sounds like "deevee" and apparently means something like "cool." I've googled (hard when you don't know the spelling) and gone through online dictionaries of Victorian and Edwardian slang, but no luck on what it means or the derivation. Can anyone enlighten me?
posted by helcat to Grab Bag (22 answers total)
 
not just "divine" in a posh accent?
posted by James_in_London at 2:05 PM on January 1, 2005


What's the context?
posted by vetiver at 2:08 PM on January 1, 2005


Whoops -- hit post too fast.

James's suggestion makes sense to me but I'd still like to see it in a sentence.
posted by vetiver at 2:09 PM on January 1, 2005


No, not divine, though it could be a slang contraction of it.

It was more of an exclamation:
Suffragette: "We're all going to attack members of parliament at the same time"
Elizabeth, approving and excited: "Deevee!"

It could be D.V. but I can't figure out what that would stand for.
posted by helcat at 2:14 PM on January 1, 2005


Short for "devious"?
posted by 23skidoo at 2:36 PM on January 1, 2005


"D.V." normally stands for Deo Volente (God Willing)... So that doesn't seem to fit.
posted by swordfishtrombones at 2:52 PM on January 1, 2005


I thought of devious too, but she just said it again as an expression of surprised pleasure at being told there were kippers for breakfast.
posted by helcat at 6:01 PM on January 1, 2005


Nope, it's "divvy" for "divine", just as James suggested. According to the 2003 Language Report from Oxford Press:

But the language report isn't just about the BLEEDING EDGE of English. With help from the unrivalled resources of the Oxford English Dictionary , it compares the new coinages of 100 years ago with the freshly minted words of 2003. Some of the terms of 1903 still have a contemporary feel - GENETICS, IDENTITY CARD, and TABLOID JOURNALISM - while others are showing their age, such as TOODLE-OO and DIVVY (meaning 'excellent, divine'). New words of 2003 include PRECIPICE BOND, HOMEBOUNDER, and SPEED DATING. Such words give us an insight into the social preoccupations of the time, but will they be remembered a hundred years from now?

(The whole Ask Oxford site is awesome, by the way)
posted by maudlin at 6:11 PM on January 1, 2005


(Found via a Goolge search of divine english slang -- the Ask Oxford site was on page 4 of results.)
posted by maudlin at 6:13 PM on January 1, 2005


Oh maudlin, that's marvelous. Thanks so much!
posted by helcat at 6:15 PM on January 1, 2005


I would never have known there was a different way to pronounce "divvy."


Strangely, this page defines divvy the exact opposite: "British slang for odd, stupid, deviant, weak or pathetic." And this one says it's a noun and means a fool. But the definition you found is all over the place too. The brits need to get their slang in order!
posted by helcat at 6:28 PM on January 1, 2005


maudlin, that site is beyond awesome. (sur-awesome?) Anyway, it's bookmarked and thank you much.

On preview: helcat, that reminds me of a story... [feel free to bail out here] One evening, out with my dog, I passed a group of neighborhood kids and one of the guys said, "Oh, that dog is phat!" Then, nice boy that he was, he translated for me. "Phat in a good way. Not FAT." Which made me laugh.
posted by vetiver at 6:57 PM on January 1, 2005


Yeah, I'm glad that one never really went mainstream. Never cottoned to it.

And maudlin, you should put the Ask Oxford site on the blue. It's utterly divvy.
posted by helcat at 7:13 PM on January 1, 2005


*sniff* I'm left feeling like a librarian again -- so useful! But I hear you about the multiplicity of definitions, helcat. To make things complete, entering "divvy" in the Oxford online dictionary search yields yet another definition.

I'll see about laying this out on the blue tomorrow, after I've delved around a bit and confirmed it's not an old link (and AFTER I finish killing all the orphan pages and functions in the web site from hell I've inherited). This has been a very pleasant diversion!
posted by maudlin at 7:22 PM on January 1, 2005


Oh, let's do use sur-awesome. It's delicious!
posted by QIbHom at 7:29 PM on January 1, 2005


maudlin: This has been a very pleasant diversion!

Or, maybe a "divvy diver"?

Great thread; gorgeous answer!
posted by taz at 9:56 PM on January 1, 2005


Argh. Divvy, the verb, is short for "to share out" or divide; it can also mean the share you receive, or dividend. Divvy as a noun meaning fool is news to me.

"D'veen", emphasis on the second syllable, as an uber-posh rendition of "divine", sounds most likely. Does the person in question say "hice" for "house"? That would confirm that what you're hearing is "divine" in an extremely affected, dated, pseudo-upperclass accent. In other words, what J O'L said in the very first answer.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 11:29 PM on January 1, 2005


Divvy as a noun meaning fool/idiot is used to fine effect in this couplet in the song What a Waster by The Libertines:
What a divvy what a fucking div
Talking like a moron, walking like a spiv
posted by misteraitch at 2:41 AM on January 2, 2005


"D'veen", emphasis on the second syllable, as an uber-posh rendition of "divine", sounds most likely. Does the person in question say "hice" for "house"? That would confirm that what you're hearing is "divine" in an extremely affected, dated, pseudo-upperclass accent.

I doubt that. The diphthong "ou" in "house" being converted to the very tight diphthong that sounds similar to a long I sound in "hice" is both plausible and documented. But it's a huge stretch to see the single long I vowel in "divine" turned perpendicular into a long E sound as part of a natural accent. I'm open to the possibility that such a vowel switch could happen as a deliberate choice, but it's not a natural progression of phonemes. helcat also didn't hear any terminal "N" sound.

We're not seeing "divvy" defined as "divine" in any current abridged dictionaries because it's very old regional slang. But given that the Oxford Press source I quoted above explicitly describes it as slang from the Upstairs/Downstairs time frame, and given that this definition exactly fits with the motivations of the character, I'm sticking with that definition for now.

It would be nice if someone with access to the full 20 volume collection of the OED could snag a quick look and see if it's documented there.
posted by maudlin at 7:12 AM on January 2, 2005


Come on iajs, I'm not an idiot. She was saying DEE-vee, emphasis on the first syllable, as if you were begining to say devious. It was, in fact, a slang contraction of divine, as maudlin found. Why it was spelled like divvy up, I can't answer. But heteronyms exist, you know?
posted by helcat at 7:13 AM on January 2, 2005


Oh no! This site that used to allow you to check the OED online is down.
posted by helcat at 7:21 AM on January 2, 2005


eep! No intimations of idiocy intended. I couldn't tell where you meant the stress to be, and I thought you were transcribing something you heard. Somehow I skimmed over maudlin's italicised quote, which is why the only idiot involved is me.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:33 PM on January 2, 2005


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