4chan Memes, circa 1889

In the comments to this unremarkable story about 4chan’s Boxxy fad, I came across this gem from CSClark:

I don’t know why I didn’t think to see if this sort of phenomenon was covered in Extraordinary Popular Delusions… Of course, it is.

Walk where we will, we cannot help hearing from every side a phrase repeated with delight, and received with laughter, by men with hard hands and dirty faces, by saucy butcher lads and errand-boys, by loose women, by hackney coachmen, cabriolet-drivers, and idle fellows who loiter at the corners of streets. Not one utters this phrase without producing a laugh from all within hearing. It seems applicable to every circumstance, and is the universal answer to every question; in short, it is the favourite slang phrase of the day, a phrase that, while its brief season of popularity lasts, throws a dash of fun and frolicsomeness over the existence of squalid poverty and ill-requited labour, and gives them reason to laugh as well as their more fortunate fellows in a higher stage of society.

Wherein we also learn that the FAIL of the day was Quoz:

When a disputant was desirous of throwing a doubt upon the veracity of his opponent, and getting summarily rid of an argument which he could not overturn, he uttered the word Quoz, with a contemptuous curl of his lip, and an impatient shrug of his shoulders. The universal monosyllable conveyed all his meaning, and not only told his opponent that he lied, but that he erred egregiously if he thought that any one was such a nincompoop as to believe him.

I’m also sure I’ve read of a fad – Greek, Roman, 18th century, something like that – where a group of young (aristocratic?) men who would suddenly grab a common woman and proclaim her Helen and make her their queen and swear to die for her and so on. And the tearing down of such idols could be seen, if you were wont to be pretentious like me, as part of Frazer’s Golden Bough’s Sacrificial King idea, although I’m not sure script kiddies care if the crops grow. (One other problem with that is that Frazer was romancing; but so are the more literal memecists, so yah!)

Since then however, it appears that “quoz” has entirely flipped meaning, according to UrbanDictionary:

slang for quality, a cockney term for something good. usually accompanied with a hand action of slaping ur index finger against the stationary thumb and middle finger. ‘thats quoz man! propa quoz.’ finger slappy hand thingy

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  1. Posted March 20, 2009 at 18:29 | Permalink


  2. McKracken
    Posted March 20, 2009 at 21:42 | Permalink

    you are a huge nerd

  3. Posted March 20, 2009 at 22:49 | Permalink

    Oh, that’s fantastic.

    The OED has a nice set of cites for Quoz:

    1790 Bystander 93 Mr. World [sc. a newspaper] might retort that Mr. Herald was a Quoz, and a low print. 1790 J. EDWIN in Muses Banquet 68 Hum’d and then humbug’d, Twaddle, tippy, poz; All have had their day{em}but now must yield to Quoz. 1796 F. BURNEY Camilla IV. VII. xiii. 200 ‘The quoz of the present season are beyond what a man could have hoped to see!’ ‘Quoz! What’s Quoz, nephew?’..‘Sometimes we say quiz, my good sir.’ 1802 in Spirit of Public Jrnls. (1803) 6 197 At length it was announced, that Pic-Nic, like Quoz, which was chalked some years ago on windows and doors, really meant nothing. 1841 C. MACKAY Mem. Pop. Delusions I. 325 Many years ago the favourite phrase (for, though but a monosyllable, it was a phrase in itself) was Quoz. 1926 Amer. Speech 2 89/1 When mischievous urchins wished to annoy passersby, and incidentally create a little fun for their comrades, they would look the stranger in the face and cry out ‘Quoz!’ 2001 London Rev. Bks. 22 Feb. 34/2 The short-lived, inscrutable, vaguely insulting expressions heard in the 19th-century streets included ‘Quoz’, ‘Walker!’, ‘What a shocking bad hat!’ and ‘Has your mother sold her mangle?’

    The entry also references “quiz”, which in the relevant entry seems to refer to the sort of person likely deserving an old-school “quoz”.

  4. Posted March 20, 2009 at 23:13 | Permalink

    This, sir, is marvelous.