If given this word in a board game and forced to make up a definition, what would yours be?
I came across it in a book by Ian Rankin, Resurrection Men. It was the first I’ve read of his many novels, and I saw why he is accounted such a Master of the Crime Drama. However, it was also the first time I’d come across this term. Any guesses?
From Wikipedia: It refers to casual clothes, as opposed to a uniform, that may be worn on certain days to work or school. Police often use the term ‘civvies’ for civilian clothes to mean the same thing in the UK.
And that is the way it was used by Rankin. But its British colonialist origins explain its strange twin meaning: an Islamic scholar. Wikipedia also solves this mystery: “[it] is thought to derive from the vaguely Eastern style dressing gowns and tasseled caps worn by off-duty officers in the early 19th century.”
So it denoted a certain type of occupation, which at one time in history, wore a certain type of dress. Then when different people adopted that type of dress in their leisure hours, it took on its wholly different meaning, and continued to retain that meaning to the present day, when people aren’t even choosing that certain type of dress!
This is why Origins of Expressions remains my favorite board game.
Image via FirstNews