‘antwacky’: meaning and origin

The British-English adjective antwacky means old-fashioned; out of date.




The adjective antwacky may be a humorous alteration of the adjective antique, perhaps punningly after the adjective wacky.

Alternatively, antwacky may be derived from Ann Twack, rhyming slang for crap.

Tony Crowley mentioned both those origins in The Liverpool 1 English Dictionary: A Record of the Language of Liverpool 1850—2015 on Historical Principles (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2017):

Antwacky (adj.): old fashioned, out of date. ‘Some of this gear looks right Ann Twack’ (Jacques 1975: n.p. 2). ‘Gross antwacky foreign things’ (Simpson 1990: 102 3). ‘She looked like a fucking orphan. Antwacky clothes, bunches, white socks’ (Sampson 2002: 60). Recorded from l.20c.; possibly from ‘antique’ and ‘wacky’, or rhyming slang ‘Ann Twack’, ‘crap’.

1 Liverpool is a city and seaport in north-western England, situated at the east side of the mouth of the River Mersey.
2 This is a quotation from According to Jacques: A Mersey Bible (Liverpool: Raven Books, 1975), by the Liverpudlian author Brian Jacques (1939-2011).
3 Cf. quotation 4 below.




These are, in chronological order, the earliest occurrences of the adjective antwacky that I have found:

1-: From this advertisement, published in the Runcorn Weekly News (Runcorn, Cheshire, England) of Thursday 2nd October 1975—Cheshire is a county in west-central England:


All that’s latest, greatest, cheapest, way out, regular, fully fashioned, antwacky, karates, hoods, maxis, polos, collars, zippers, weeny-boppers, hooligans, school kids, aunties and uncles.

2-: From Beatle! The Pete Best Story (London: Plexus Publishing Ltd, 1985), by Pete Best 4 and Patrick Doncaster—the following is about Brian Epstein 5, who had just offered to become the Beatles’ manager:

Certainly there were several things in his favour, most of them connected with the fact that Eppy—as he would be known to us from now on—was well-heeled.
‘See the suit he’d got on?’ said George, impressed.
‘And the shiny shoes?’ someone else put in. But we all agreed he was a bit ‘antwakky’, a bit of Liverpool dialect that meant Mr Epstein was pretty out of step as far as we were concerned.

4 The British musician Pete Best (Randolph Peter Best Scanland – born 1941) was the Beatles’ drummer until 1962.
5 The British businessman and music journalist Brian Epstein (1934-1967) was the Beatles’ manager from 1962 until his death.

3-: From The Footloose Guide to Spain (London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 1992), by Margaret Greenwood—the adjective antwacky is here associated with the adjective wacky:

Sa Penya is the nerve centre of Ibiza’s lively, offbeat scene, full of wacky, antwacky, hippy and gay bars and restaurants, and yet more late-night boutiques. The streets are busy till around 2.00.

4-: From An Elegy for the Galosherman 6: New & Selected Poems (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1990), by the British poet Matt Simpson (1936-2009), who was born and bred in Bootle, near Liverpool:

Men stoked furnaces, heaved cables,
loaded derricks up, and sang
tart songs in the teeth of the wind,
the eyes of storms; women prayed
and holystoned for these – gaudy objects,
gross antwacky foreign things.

6 In The Liverpool English Dictionary, Tony Crowley writes that the noun galosherman designates a lamplighter; a street worker.

5-: From Family Notices: Deaths, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) of Monday 13th October 1997:

CLAYTON—ANN, October 9, 1997. (Ann, I will miss you coming up to ours, having a laugh, a drink and a sing song. Who will say to me now, ‘you’re antwacky you are.)—Love Betty and Paul Devin and family.

6-: From Susan Lee’s column Telling it like it is …, published in the Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, Merseyside, England) of Thursday 29th April 1999:

Frocky horror show

Painting the town . . . Liz Hurley 7 with Hugh Grant 8, and Julia Roberts 9

Why all this fuss about Liz Hurley, Julia Roberts and what has been termed, rather detrimentally to both, ‘The Battle of the Babes’?
The national Press were in a right lather yesterday as reporters, fashion editors and photographers pondered who had outshone the other at the premiere of the new film Notting Hill 10 screened this week.
Was it Liz in a slashed-to-the-thigh Versace number or Julia sporting a pink shimmering ensemble that cost the same as a small terraced house in Anfield?
Having seen the pictures, I’d say neither.
Liz’s gossamer-thin outfit looked like it had been attacked by a man with a red paintbrush while her rival’s dress was, frankly, a bit antwacky.
Still, unlike Hugh Grant’s main squeeze, at least there’s more to Julia than the sum of her frocks.

7 Elizabeth Hurley (born 1965) is a British actress.
8 Hugh Grant (born 1960) is a British actor.
9 Julia Roberts (born 1967) is a U.S. actress.
10 Notting Hill (1999) is a romantic comedy film.

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