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What are "susans?"
August 29, 2011 9:00 AM   Subscribe

"Ladies with their 'susans' showing?" My google-fu failed this one! What is a susan, if it's not lazy and not an actual person's name?

Some time ago, an article about British writer Jilly Cooper appeared in the Guardian. The following sentence appears in the first paragraph:

"...the day-to-day business of winning international trophies and large (always rather baffling) financial contracts is conducted by ladies with their susans showing..."

I figured that "susans" probably means either breasts or panties, assuming Cooper's heroines flash things at work that real-life women usually don't. But I can't find the term in any dictionary - not Wiktionary, not other online dictionaries, nor lists of Cockney rhyming slang. Is "susans" a common slang term in the UK? If so, what does it mean? Or did the author Zoe Williams just make it up?

I've been scratching my head for some time, and my usual sources have completely failed me on this one. So I'm turning to the green.
posted by Rosie M. Banks to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cockney rhyming slang? Susans = bosoms?
posted by asockpuppet at 9:11 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bloomers? Wasn't Susan B. Anthony an advocate? Don't have a cite for this but seems possible.
posted by mlle valentine at 9:14 AM on August 29, 2011


My sister and her friends used to use "sue" as a slang term for vagina, so perhaps it's meant as a female equivalent of balls or cojones, from the context.
posted by booksherpa at 9:27 AM on August 29, 2011


I tried several Cockney rhyming slang dictionaries and found that breasts can be "Georgie Bests" or "Eartha Kitts" - but no Susan anything.

"Bloomers" as in panties seems to be likely from the context of the sentence. Or perhaps "vagina" as Booksherpa says, and the women in Cooper's novels were pulling a Sharon Stone in "Instinct."

I'm not completely insular; my love of Harry Potter has led me to "Britpicking" Livejournals and forums where British slang and word usage is discussed - not that it makes me an expert by any means but it has exposed me to some British English. And I'd never heard anyone use the term "susan" or make jokes about Susan Bones.

Thanks for helping with something that really puzzled me.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 9:34 AM on August 29, 2011


it's an older slang term for a ladies privates... my grandmother uses it, and i've heard others use it too, i'm guessing it's from a nursery rhyme or something else...
posted by fozzie33 at 9:37 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


fwiw, as I'm sure you know breasts have been referred to as "the girls", Susans might just be a personal iteration of the same.
posted by edgeways at 9:38 AM on August 29, 2011


I'm not completely insular; my love of Harry Potter has led me to "Britpicking" Livejournals and forums where British slang and word usage is discussed - not that it makes me an expert by any means but it has exposed me to some British English.

don't feel bad, I'm English and I've never heard it either ;)
posted by missmagenta at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2011


Almost any noun can be put in that sentence and the reader will understand it must be slang for breasts, so I think there's a good chance the writer made it up, or at least that it's used quite infrequently.
posted by michaelh at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2011


First thing that came to mind is black-eyed susans, aka flowers,...
posted by notsnot at 9:53 AM on August 29, 2011


Not familiar to me either (British, though admittedly less aware of slang than most). It's not in my Shorter Oxford or my Chambers, which do include at least some slang. Zoe Williams does like the word, though; it turns up in her interview with Stockard Channing too: "In her current age bracket, with sass at more of a premium than susans, Channing could pretty much take her pick of non- piƱata parts. This is partly the triumph of talent over evanescent beauty..."

I'd go with breasts, I think.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 10:44 AM on August 29, 2011


Thanks everyone! I'll go with "breasts" then. I knew it was something that real-life working women didn't flash at work (one hopes). But it is apparently a sufficiently obscure term that I couldn't find it anywhere in any dictionary or Google search. But once more the green to the rescue!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:56 AM on August 29, 2011


It's not in my edition of Cassell's Dictionary of Slang and it's not one (as a Brit) that I've heard of before.
posted by SyntacticSugar at 10:59 AM on August 29, 2011


ManyLeggedCreature, thanks for the other Zoe Williams link. Maybe she's trying to popularize the term, make it particularly associated with her, or use something that's not a cliche (though I think it would be cool if she used "Eartha Kitts!")
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:01 AM on August 29, 2011


i lived in england for ~6 months and i noticed quite a bit of what i'd call "conservative cockney" slang in the papers there...i believe that most papers there would use "susans" as opposed to "eartha kitts" if you catch my drift...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:27 AM on August 29, 2011


Interestingly a somewhat cursory Google turned this up http://pinoyslang.com/define/susan/
posted by Chairboy at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2011


I think it's short for "brown-eyed susans" which is listed here and used elsewhere as a euphemism for breasts.
posted by beagle at 11:53 AM on August 29, 2011


"Eartha Kitt" has a rather different meaning as well, mind how you use it!! As in "I have to take an Eartha Kitt" It means something one does on the toilet.
posted by kuppajava at 12:33 PM on August 29, 2011


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