origin of ‘Disgusted’ (a person expressing outrage)



The proper noun Disgusted (with initial capital D) was originally used as a self-designation by a member of the public writing anonymously to a newspaper in order to express outrage about a particular issue—cf. also meaning and history of ‘to write to The Times about it’.

The earliest instance of this noun that I have found is in the following letter, published in The Merthyr Telegraph, and General Advertiser for the Iron Districts of South Wales of 15th June 1867:



Sir,—On Tuesday evening last the Plymouth Road, close to the Plymouth House, was the scene of the most disgusting and disgraceful public outrage ever witnessed in a country which boasts of civilization. There were no fewer than ten lads of from 14 to 17 years old running races on the high road “stark naked,” and these lads were prompted to it by men of 30 and 40 years of age. But sir, this is not the first or only time, but ever since the long evenings have set in it is impossible to take a quiet walk up this road, without meeting with a similar outrage. Why is this? in a land of education and religion too. What are we coming to? Where are our policemen? They surely cannot be ignorant of these disgusting proceedings. How long then are respectable females feelings to be thus outraged? Let stringent measures be at once adopted to stay such scandalous immorality.—Your obedient servant,

And this is from The Bradford Daily Telegraph (Yorkshire) of 30th October 1869:

A correspondent, under the signature “Disgusted,” writes to us complaining bitterly of the disturbance made at Mr. Halle’s concert on Friday night by the boys selling “Books of the Words” while Mr. Halle and Madame Neruda were playing their finest piano music. He also complained of the noisy behaviour of an elderly gentleman, who he says was tipsy, and should have been turned out by those in charge of the comfort of the audience.

Hence, more widely, Disgusted has come to designate a person who is vocal and indignant in his or her opposition to something. For example, in The Stage (London) of 6th March 1969, Marjorie Bilbow thus concluded Morley comedy failed to raise a smile, her review of the first episode of Charge!, a television comedy series broadcast by BBC One, starring, and co-written by, the English actor Robert Morley (1908-92):

Charge! could have been compiled by a computer programmed to please all the Disgusteds who have ever appeared on Talkback. Mr., Mrs. and Miss Disgusted have every right to have a comedy series designed especially for them. But to see such a programme written around the richly colourful personality of Robert Morley is enough to force me to sign this review as from Depressed of London.

In 1978, BBC Radio 4 called its new listener feedback programme Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells (it has since been renamed Feedback). This name apparently alludes to a perception of Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, as the type of middle-class, conservative area from which letters from indignant members of the public often originate. However, in an article titled Trying to break out of comedy straitjacket, published in The Stage of 9th March 1978, Simon Trussler wrote of Derek Robinson “introducing the first edition of the listeners’ letters programme, Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells (BBC Radio 4. Sundays, 10.15 a.m.)” and remarked:

Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells has, incidentally, provoked the wrath of the Kent and Sussex Courier, which publishes from that traditionally choleric spa. But only a few of its readers were genuinely bewildered by the allusion — which, if I rightly recall, was given general currency by Take It From Here. Such is the posthumous power of a radio comedy show.

Trussler refers to Take It From Here, a radio comedy programme broadcast by the BBC from 1948 to 1960: on 8th April 1954, a sketch was titled Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells.

(I have found only two letters from Tunbridge Wells under the signature Disgusted: one published on 18th December 1914, the other on 2nd June 1933, both in the Kent & Sussex Courier.)

In any case, disgusted of Tunbridge Wells has come to be used to refer to a person holding conservative values. The following is the beginning of A cosmic cathedral on 81st Street, by Jonathan Glancey, published in The Guardian of 8th May 2000:

Great machines drive great cities, yet we tend to hide them away, as if embarrassed by what we take to be their unsightliness or offended by their steely organisms. But when they do make their presence known, how they invigorate streets and skylines. The Eiffel Tower. The Pompidou Centre. Lloyd’s of London. Trams. Chicago’s “L”, the elevated railroad that rattles like some gigantic model train set around the heart of the windy city. Docks with their cranes and gantries. Power stations. Ocean-going ships berthed beside midtown skyscrapers. The London Eye.
All these happily intrusive designs and structures are heroic things. All catch the eye and stir the soul. Most are despised by the disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells, who prefer a nice bit of neo-geo brickwork, an executive cul-de-sac or a postmodern shopping arcade with split pediments, herringbone brick-tiled floors and brass-veneered handrails.

Other place names also occur. For instance, The Stage of 1st October 1981 published a letter from one Dedwydd Jones which thus begins:


Sir, — I was desolate to read (Stage, September 17) that Graham Watkins’ exile in steamy Taffswazia had so unhinged him. If he had ever left the Colonial Club he ran (The Torch) he might have discovered that the “nauseous” natives do, in fact, possess a civilisation of their very own — a civilisation, moreover, that has little to do with Jewish noses, South African burghers, the National Front, or even with the “disgusteds of Cheltenham” (or is it Leicester now?).

In All change in Cheltenham, published in The Telegraph of 10th July 2002, Sonia Purnell also used disgusted of Cheltenham:

For nearly three centuries the genteel wealthy congregated in Cheltenham for a refined retirement. After a slow but distressing decline, the fine Regency townhouses were becoming as tired and mottled as their occupants, the town’s handful of cafes and restaurants stuck in a Fifties time warp. Young people were nowhere to be seen.
Now Cheltenham is undergoing its most dramatic revival since the late 18th century when George III put it on the map by visiting the pump room of what was then one of Europe’s most important spas. The “disgusted of Cheltenham” generation is being supplanted by ambitious young professionals with large chequebooks.

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