Gammon Tendency’s Dickensian Roots

‘Gammon’ is not a Corbynista neologism first popularised by millenials, it was in fact first used about politicians by Charles Dickens in 1838. In Nicholas Nickleby an MP, Mr Gregsbury, after being accused of being of the ‘gammon tendency’ asks ‘If it means that I grow a little too fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I AM proud of this free and happy country. My form dilates, my eye glistens, my breast heaves, my heart swells, my bosom burns, when I call to mind her greatness and her glory.’ Which is exactly how lefties view red-faced UKIP supporters.

Here is the full extract from Chapter 16:

‘My conduct, Pugstyles,’ said Mr Gregsbury, looking round upon the deputation with gracious magnanimity —‘my conduct has been, and ever will be, regulated by a sincere regard for the true and real interests of this great and happy country. Whether I look at home, or abroad; whether I behold the peaceful industrious communities of our island home: her rivers covered with steamboats, her roads with locomotives, her streets with cabs, her skies with balloons of a power and magnitude hitherto unknown in the history of aeronautics in this or any other nation — I say, whether I look merely at home, or, stretching my eyes farther, contemplate the boundless prospect of conquest and possession — achieved by British perseverance and British valour — which is outspread before me, I clasp my hands, and turning my eyes to the broad expanse above my head, exclaim, “Thank Heaven, I am a Briton!”’

The time had been, when this burst of enthusiasm would have been cheered to the very echo; but now, the deputation received it with chilling coldness. The general impression seemed to be, that as an explanation of Mr Gregsbury’s political conduct, it did not enter quite enough into detail; and one gentleman in the rear did not scruple to remark aloud, that, for his purpose, it savoured rather too much of a ‘gammon’ tendency.

‘The meaning of that term — gammon,’ said Mr Gregsbury, ‘is unknown to me. If it means that I grow a little too fervid, or perhaps even hyperbolical, in extolling my native land, I admit the full justice of the remark. I AM proud of this free and happy country. My form dilates, my eye glistens, my breast heaves, my heart swells, my bosom burns, when I call to mind her greatness and her glory.’

So it was, appropriately, used by Dickens to describe a red-faced jingoistic Briton…

Hat-tip: Bryan




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