My late mother (born in the 1920s in London, where she lived all her life) was fond of saying of anyone who wasn't helping in any particular job or activity that they were "Just standing around, like Toody Hotpot".

I've no idea if that spelling is correct: I doubt if she ever wrote the phrase down or had any need to do so, and even if she did I certainly never saw the result.

I regret never asking her where the expression came from, and subsequent research has failed to turn up any hints. Does anyone here know? Many thanks.

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    Where did your mother live? – WS2 Jan 27 '15 at 18:59
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    Sorry, I should have said. She was born, raised, and lived all her life in London. – Bert Coules Jan 27 '15 at 22:45
  • I'm guessing that's not the correct spelling. – Hot Licks Jan 27 '15 at 22:54
  • Very possibly not. I doubt if she ever wrote the phrase down, and if she did I certainly never saw the result. Do you have a suggestion for an alternative spelling? – Bert Coules Jan 27 '15 at 23:07
  • @BertCoules If she was a Londoner, my guess is that it is rhyming slang for something, but I can't think what it could possibly be. – WS2 Jan 27 '15 at 23:23

The Concise New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English mentions "hot toddy" as rhyming slang for "the body" (Google Books).

As BertCoules admits, "Toddy Hotpot" could well be a corruption over time. Bert's mother's expression could refer to a dead body, a still body that will not help in her task.

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    Note that hot toddy in that dictionary is dated to 1992, which is very late if it had been in oral use for over a century. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 5 '15 at 22:14
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    @JanusBahsJacquet - But certainly "hot toddy", as the name of a beverage, has been around since before I was born (and that was a long time ago). – Hot Licks Feb 5 '15 at 22:30
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    @HotLicks Certainly! Though I rather fancy (my own extreme dislike of the concoction notwithstanding) that hot toddy is—or, especially, used to be—quite a popular drink. Not one you’d generally associate with being allowed to just stand there for long without being swooped up and drunk. So without the rhyming slang angle, it doesn’t seem a very good candidate for the meaning in question. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 5 '15 at 22:33
  • @JanusBahsJacquet - But it's unclear how one gets from "Toody Hotpot" to "Hot Toddy" anyway. – Hot Licks Feb 5 '15 at 22:37
  • RicardoGMC, belated thanks for that. But as has been said, it was definitely "Toody" rather than "Toddy" which, especially when considered with the other dissimilarities, seems to me to make a simple corruption unlikely. – Bert Coules Feb 19 '15 at 0:16

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