Phrases And Their Origins
Up The Swanee
Well, this is a bizarre expression, isn't it?
When we say something's "up the swanee" we mean that it's been lost or knackered in some way.
"I'm sure that horse has a wooden leg; that's another tenner up the Swanee."
But where is the Swanee? Indeed what is it?
If we could go there would we find an Aladdin's cave of all the treasures that have ever gone "up the Swanee"?
So, where does this expression come from?
There's seven swans a-swimming for the best answer.
As we know, things that are knackered invariably get thrown in the local river. The
original phrase was in fact 'up the swans arse', referring to the fact that most of
this discarded junk ended up being sucked up the rear end of a swan, which is
raised up to the water level as the head bobs below the water to check for electric
eels. Incidentally, this public-spirited feature of the swan earned the creature
royal protection after a spate of swan shooting, combined with a particularly bad
year for things breaking, left the King's barge floundering amidst a flotilla of
discarded kitchen utensils one summer's day.
That the words 'swans arse' later contracted to 'swanee' in popular usage
is no surprise. Compare, for example, the original term 'goats arse' - this was
used to describe a style of beard which afforded its proud bearer an uncanny
resemblance to a goats arse, and is now shortened in exactly the same way
You're right about the 'arse' part your story Kee-ran but it wasn't anything
to do with a swan's arse. What you should have said is. . . "Swansea is arse"
(which it really is if you have ever had the misfortune to find yourself
there, a proper shithole and no mistake. Did you know that the Swansea
branch of the charity The Samaritans has the highest rate of suicide in the
UK? I can understand why, who can they speak to? Poor bastards.) Anyway,
where was I?
Ah yes, 'Swansea is arse', which due to the Welsh knack of distorting
everything they say in English (another thing about the Welsh you may not
know, because of their stupid native language involving all sorts of tongue
acrobatics and spastications they have the world's highest incidence of
throat cancer. All I can say is. . . "Good".) they bastardised it to "Swanee's
Now then, because the Welsh are all a bunch of
anything or anybody who ventures into Swansea is liable to
disappear never to be seen again, (and if it was, nobody would want it
anyway) hence the phrase, "Up the Swanee" to signify anything that is arse.
Phrases And Their Origins
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