These terms were in use when I was a boy in South London back in the 1930s/1940s. My grandmother would tell me to "Rime up well." or "Get well rimed up." when I was going to go outdoors on a cold day and when I came back I would say "I'm going to get unrimed", meaning 'take off and hang up my outdoor clothes'. I used the term today and had to explain it to my wife who said she'd never heard it. Now I can't see it in the O.E.D. Sixth Edition (2007) or anywhere else

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    Interesting! Brings a new possible meaning to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, apart from "spelling wasn't standard yet" :) – anotherdave Jun 25 '16 at 8:15
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    Hi Tom, welcome to English Language & Usage. Great question (+1)! I've searched and can't find any suitable reference. The closest I can find is "2. A coating, as of mud or slime, likened to a frosty film". Perhaps it was a local idiomatic use of "coating", as in "get coated up" (meaning, put your coat on)? – Chappo Jun 25 '16 at 8:16
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    Any chance that the wording might have been "rig" and "unrig"? Partridge, A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, first edition (1937) has entries for rig ("To clothe; supply with clothes: from ca. 1530: S[tandard] E[nglish] until C. 19, then coll[oquial]; in C. 20 rather slangy"), rig-up ("An outfit; style of dress: coll[oquial]: from ca. 1895; ob[solete]"), and unrig ("to undress, is a coll[oquialism] verging on, prob[ably] achieving the status of, S[tandard] E[nglish]: late C. 16–20; in late C. 19–20, dial. except where jocular."). – Sven Yargs Jul 2 '16 at 21:45
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    In the British National Corpus, 'rimed' is sometimes used to just mean 'covered': corpus.byu.edu/bnc (search 'rimed' here; for some reason there are no individualized links for search queries) – user180089 Jul 16 '16 at 22:06
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    I'm flagging to close this question as the asker hasn't provided any proof that this phrase was ever in use beyond a single, incidental, idiosyncratic circumstance. – user180089 Jul 17 '16 at 14:21

I think I got this one. As Chappo suggests in the comments, rime is a coating. Moreover, while the dictionary definition he provides seems to indicate it is usable as a synonym for any kind of coating, I have only ever heard it used to describe the kind of frost that you get which thinly covers all the surfaces of a damp area once the temperature drops.

As it relates to your grandmother of South London, there's a lot to like about this etymology. First, rime is likely prevalent in South London due to the climate; it is liable to occur whenever a foggy day goes under freezing. Next, it is easy to see that she was asking you to get bundled up to protect against cold weather, which is indicated by the presence of rime on surfaces. Finally, it has a nice metaphorical component to it, wherein you protect yourself against the cold with your own coating, suggesting a sort of wordplay that, as an ugly American who has never been, I think of as rather prevalent in the British Isles.


Coming at this from a different angle, more of a linguistics view.

The word rime originated in Germanic and Dutch, becoming a part of Old English, it then fell out of use in Middle English, and was revived in Modern English around the 18th century when various writers began to start using it again.

The meaning of rime in this context was a thin, white coating of ice formed by rapidly freezing water vapour, such as dew forming ice on blades of grass.

I can't find any information on exactly where the word came into use as putting on layers of clothing, but it would be logical to assume it had something to do with the definition of a thin layer of ice on a surface.

What is also interesting, is how the word came from being used rarely, to being picked up in 18th century literature, and then taking on multiple meanings, also being used as an alternative spelling of 'rhyme', in the classic Rime of the Ancient Mariner, released in 1834.

  • This is an interesting answer. Do you have any links that can help establish the assertions? I found this on etymonline, but it would appear that you have something more extensive. – Lawrence Aug 6 '16 at 14:15
  • There's an excellent level of detail on the Wiktionary article for rime concerning linguistic origins: en.wiktionary.org/wiki/rime As for the slang, it seems to be quite a niche usage that dropped under the radar somewhat! – Sam Aug 8 '16 at 10:36
  • Great! This site is curated as a repository of questions and expert answers, with comments considered more ephemeral. It is customary to have supporting links etc in the answer itself for the sake of future reference. You can use the edit link under your question to add the wiktionary link. – Lawrence Aug 8 '16 at 11:04
  • Oh yes, and welcome to EL&U. Check out the blog and chat, as well as the meta site - they're all accessible from the Stack Exchange menu in the menu bar at the top of the page. The blog is a little dated, but contains some interesting material. Chat is more informal, not really part of the repository proper, but more a place to relax among EL&U friends. Meta is for questions and answers about the main EL&U site (as opposed to Q&A about English). See you around! – Lawrence Aug 8 '16 at 11:07

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