po-faced

Okay, let’s address this ‘po-faced’ issue, shall we? I’ve been using this perfectly good term in conversation all week (well, for years actually, but much more often in this last week or so), and I declare, every time I use it people look at me like I’ve suddenly begun speaking Urdu.

I haven’t been speaking Urdu, people.

So, what does it mean, po-faced? In general, it means to be humorless and disapproving. But the definition doesn’t convey the richness of the term. To really appreciate po-faced you need to understand its origin.

There’s some disagreement about the etymology. Some claim the term is derived from ‘poker face’. I call bullshit. A poker face is one that’s devoid of expression; it’s a face that doesn’t give away any information. It’s a perfectly fine phrase, poker face, but it lacks the depth and emotional content of po-faced.

I favor the interpretation that suggests ‘po’ comes from pot de chambre. A chamber pot. It’s pronounced poe de shambra. Po-faced, then, refers to the expression on a person’s face upon encountering a chamber pot that’s — well, let’s say it’s after being used. A sort of mild attempt to disguise feelings of disgust and disapproval.

Wait. Maybe this will help.

kim davis

Po-faced. Any questions?

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