Bars & Restaurants, Bigots, Gay Bars, Historic Sites, LGBT

Pith, Path and Poof

Anyone growing up in Seventies Britain will remember that the word ‘poof’ was the insult of choice for red-blooded males in their crotch-hugging loon pants, polyester tank tops, bouffant hairdos and BO. The abuse was often accompanied by a teapot impersonation. Oh, how I laughed. These days the word seems quaintly old-fashioned and has been (almost) consigned to history along with flock wallpaper, velour three-piece suites, fondue sets, beige teasmades with corn motifs and the curly perm.

Poof

I’ve often wondered about the origin of the word. A quick Google reveals a variety of explanations from a suitably camp French headdress to some fanciful tale about the sound of a fart; neither of which rings true to me. Now I think I’ve cracked it. Liam and I were watching ‘The Secrets of the Castle,’ a BBC show about the construction of a medieval fortress employing the building techniques of the day (I know, I know, we ought to get out more). One of the many absorbing details uncovered by the experimental archaeology was the old grading of sandstone into hard (pith), medium (path) and soft (poof). There you have it. Shirt lifters have always been considered a bit soft, never quite man enough to make the grade, butch-wise. Not that this was the case with Billy Moss, a prison officer I once dallied with in the Nineties. One warm summer’s evening we were enjoying a pint outside the Colherne Pub in West London, the grand-daddy of gay bars back in the day. As we supped, a delivery van passed by, stopping at a red light. The tattooed driver shouted over something rather unpleasant. Billy handed me his pint, swaggered over, squared up to the driver and said,

‘Come on then, mate. You want some? And after you can tell yer wife you got beaten up by a big poof.’

While I don’t condone the threat of violence, I must confess that the look of fear on the white van man’s face was a real treat as he hit the gas to make a quick getaway. I wonder where Billy is now?

12 thoughts on “Pith, Path and Poof

      1. Hi jack. 2 years later, sitting in my lounge in Kirribilli, Sydney, watching that same TV prog about the French castle recreation. I heard, pith, path and poof, googled it and found your story. Fantastic and thank you!!
        Tony Durant

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  1. That reminds me of when I met a chap who claimed he was the queen’s pastry chef . I had no reason to disbelieve him, as were introduced by a mutual friend who was a ghillie on the balmoral estate. Anyway seemingly lizzie was partial to school dinner type puds that this chap made. Anyway I digress, this chap was as camp as christmas, and most definitely out. I asked if being gay caused him problems at work, his answer oh no, the boss (her maj) calls me poof pastry. Not sure if it was a true story, but you never know, it gave us all a laugh at the time

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