Fraser’s Phrases: ‘All Mouth And Trousers’

“All mouth and trousers” is the kind of phrase you might have first heard on soap operas like Coronation Street, as it comes from the North of England. But it’s not just for people in Manchester to use, unless the rest of the world is suffering an arrogance drought, and we’ve seen your pop stars, we know it’s not.

It’s a description of someone who is boorish and loud, and a little too full of his or herself. It’s analogous to expressions like “cock of the walk” or (going a little further back) “popinjay” or “coxcomb.” The point is not that this is a person who definitely can’t fulfil his or her promises (see below); it’s that this is someone who is boastful about being the most attractive, most astonishing person in the room: a windbag, in other words.

The rapper Pitbull is particularly all mouth and trousers. Paris Hilton is all mouth and trousers. David Hasselhoff is all mouth and trousers. P Diddy? Oh you betcha.

Meanwhile, there’s “all mouth and NO trousers,” a more definite expression referring to someone who definitely cannot make good on their boastful claims.

The character Kenneth Branagh plays in the second Harry Potter film is all mouth and no trousers. Jay from The Inbetweeners is all mouth and no trousers.

You could just as easily substitute any of these little beauties, they all mean the same thing: “all bark and no bite,” “all booster and no payload,” “all crown and no filling,” “all foam and no beer,” “all hammer and no nail,” “all icing and no cake,” “all lime and no tequila,” “all shot and no powder,” “all sizzle and no steak,” “all talk and no action,” “all wax and no wick.”

Heck you can even make your own up. Why not try “all Ron and no Harry,” or “all Cowell and no fake exasperation”?

The weird thing is, unlike Ron and Harry, there’s no actual relationship between the words “mouth” and “trousers,” apart from in the expression “all mouth and trousers,” which effectively makes “all mouth and no trousers” a doubly-damning description of someone who aspires to be all mouth and trousers but can’t even manage that.

Of course, should you take the time to point any of this out the next time you hear the phrase, you run the risk of being a bore, which is arguably worse than being all mouth and (no) trousers in the first place.

Are there any British phrases that baffle you? Tell us here:

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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