flute shops?
May 26, 2006 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Please help an American out with British slang: what is a flute shop?

In Ian McEwan's novel Saturday, the protagonist is out and about in London on, of course, a Saturday and it is mentioned that the sandwich shops are closed but the flute shops and news agents are open. I assume he does not mean stores selling muiscal instruments, but what does he mean? Google didn't help and my son's soccer coach, who is from Liverpool, said he'd never heard the expression
posted by pasici to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
never heard that expression as slang - perhaps it's meant literally? What's the paragraph in which the expression is contained?
posted by altolinguistic at 6:36 AM on May 26, 2006

some type of brothel that specializes in oral transactions? ("flute" being slang for the male genitalia)
posted by cosmicbandito at 6:43 AM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: Here is the start of the parargarph:

"The sandwich bars along the street are closed up for the weekend. Only the flute shop and the newsagent are open. Outside the Rive Gauche traiteur, the owner is using a zinc bucket to to sluice down the pavement Parisian-style."

Found on page 73 of the paperback version.

I remembered the reference as plural, but it is singular.
posted by pasici at 6:45 AM on May 26, 2006

sometimes a flute shop is just a flute shop.
posted by cosmicbandito at 6:48 AM on May 26, 2006

Never heard that expression before.

Thinking about it, it could be a use of rhyming slang, whereby 'whistle & flute' means suit. By extension, a flute shop might be a clothes store. This would only play if the character in the book was a Londoner, more specifically a Cockney. It would also explain why a non-Londoner would never have heard it.
posted by veedubya at 6:49 AM on May 26, 2006

McEwan often has musicians as characters (see Amsterdam, for instance). Perhaps it's actually a flute shop? The only rhyming slang that involves 'flute' is 'whistle and flute' for suit, but that doesn't sound right.

I'm leaning towards it actually being a flute shop, given that I could easily see an Ian McEwan character frequenting one, and noticing that it was closed.
posted by jimmythefish at 6:50 AM on May 26, 2006

There's a shop on Charing Cross Road that sells flutes. They have them in the window. Alongside the saxophones.
posted by veedubya at 7:00 AM on May 26, 2006

Haven't heard Flute Shop before but Flute can refer to male genetalia.

In Dublin at least "ask me flute" is a reasonably common put down.
posted by Damhna at 7:01 AM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: The phrase isn't slang but a reference to an actual flute shop called All Flutes Plus on Warren Street, London.
posted by Nugget at 7:03 AM on May 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

I've not read the book but I'm pretty sure he's walking along Warren Street - there's a flute shop as in a shop that sells flutes and does flute repairs and a cafe called the Rive Gauche.
posted by boudicca at 7:05 AM on May 26, 2006

Sorry, I missed Nugget on preview, yes that's what I was thinking of.
posted by boudicca at 7:07 AM on May 26, 2006

Best answer: The flute shop is indeed open on Saturdays.
posted by AgentRocket at 7:12 AM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, all. MeFi is amazing.
posted by pasici at 8:19 AM on May 26, 2006

Pasici: MeFi is amazing. Why not mark Nugget's answer as best, just to give him a little "thank you"? It's always a nice thing to do when someone comes up with a perfect answer like that!
posted by The Bellman at 8:46 AM on May 26, 2006

"Flute" is also a term used for tall, narrow champaign glasses.
posted by wsg at 9:50 AM on May 26, 2006

Boudicca: I hate it when that happens, you're not alone..

The Bellman: Thanks and I agree, MeFi is amazing and an incredible resource.
posted by Nugget at 10:03 AM on May 26, 2006

It wouldn't seem there'd be enough business to open a shop just about flutes. Weird.
posted by vanoakenfold at 11:58 AM on May 26, 2006

Response by poster: "It wouldn't seem there'd be enough business to open a shop just about flutes. Weird."

That's exactly why I thought it was slang for something else--especially when I thought there were more than one.
posted by pasici at 12:59 PM on May 26, 2006

Apparently sometimes a ci– flute is just a flute.
posted by rob511 at 6:24 PM on May 26, 2006

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