27

I encountered a sentence that's full of British culture:

I have found a pair of my father’s old tan driving gloves, the sort that say ‘Mine’s a gin and tonic’ and that my mother would have accessorized with her horsey headscarf from Country Casuals.

I found out that Country Casuals is a brand of clothing, but I don't understand what the phrase ‘Mine’s a gin and tonic’ means... I only know that gin and tonic is a popular drink in the UK, but what does the phrase mean here?

Also, I'm not a hundred percent sure of the meaning of 'horsey' too. The closest definition I believe is 'large and clumsy' but it feels a bit odd in this sentence.

  • Before I saw you accepted the answer, I presumed your question was what gin and tonic had to do with riding gloves – Mr Lister Nov 13 '18 at 10:20
  • Note that a google search shows the use of "mine's a gin and tonic" used in all sorts of labels on commercial products as though it means something special, but with little indication of what exactly the implication is. I roughly think of it as a serious or sarcastic enthusiasm for the alcoholic drink. – Mitch Nov 13 '18 at 16:54
29

"Mine's a [name of alcoholic beverage]" is said in a pub when someone is buying a round of drinks.

Example

John: It's my turn to buy a round. What's yours Susan?

Susan: Mine’s a gin and tonic, thanks.

John: What about you Bill?

Bill: Mine's a pint of lager.

Etc.

So:

What's yours? = What drink do you wish to have?

Mine's a ... = I'd like a ...

'Horsey' refers to a certain type of upper-class person who owns and rides horses

They spend a lot of time outdoors with their horses and the women often wear a headscarf as a protection against the weather.

Below is a photograph of a young H.M. Queen Elizabeth looking at horses whilst wearing a headscarf and gloves. (Edited to add 'gloves')

The Queen (in a headscarf) looking at horses with uniformed riders

  • 28
    It might be worth explicitly adding the class implications to this. Lager versus mixed drinks (the example you've chosen) are a particularly nice 1970s case. – origimbo Nov 13 '18 at 11:03
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    This answers one half of the (implicit) question; namely, what the sentence fragment in the title means. But it doesn’t yet tie it to the gloves (“the sort that say …”). As an aside, your use of blockquote formatting is a bit confusing: it seems like you’re quoting somebody. Maybe it would be clearer to put these sections in bold instead. – Konrad Rudolph Nov 13 '18 at 11:53
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    "Well, I'm off to do my chores." "What chores?" "Oh thanks very much, mine's a gin & tonic!" – Jeremy Nov 13 '18 at 12:56
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    @user240918 There certainly is in the UK. Buying a horse is expensive; and maintaining a horse in stables is even more so. Horses therefore tend to be owned by richer people. This does not necessarily link to class, but they may be an "aspirational" purchase to demonstrate the ability to afford one for your daughter. (Horse riding is overwhelmingly a female hobby/sport in Britain. Like any outdoor sport, caring for a horse in unforgiving of pretension though, leading to the stereotype of the "horsey" woman as being upper-class with a very practical and down-to-earth attitude. – Graham Nov 13 '18 at 14:04
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    To add to Graham's point, I wouldn't describe for example a stable-hand as "horsey" even though they obviously work with horses full time. "Horsey" has a very definite upper-class connotation. – Daniel Roseman Nov 13 '18 at 15:08
47

chasly from UK's answer is correct, I think what the author is really trying to get across is that they're posh, or at least dress that way. A gin and tonic is a popular enough drink with all classes of England now, but if you look like your drink of choice is a G&T then you are definitely not working class.

The picture included in the discussion of the word horsey is of the Queen, I think that's a great choice of picture. It can also mean is interested in horses generally, but I don't think it does in this context.

  • 1
    That's not the Queen, that's Princess Anne. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Nov 13 '18 at 12:17
  • I take it back. You are quite right. – Martin Bonner supports Monica Nov 13 '18 at 12:18
  • 4
    It is an old photo of Queen Elizabeth II. Possibly from the late 1960s or 70s – Mari-Lou A Nov 13 '18 at 13:03
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    I don't think this should be a comment, it's actually the correct answer where the accepted one has missed the point. It would be better if you could fully expand it to include the relevant points from chasly's answer. – Jack Aidley Nov 13 '18 at 13:35
20

To add an answer about the gloves:

Back in the 1950s/60s, gloves with (especially tan-coloured) leather palms were a fashionable accessory for drivers of sports cars and similar vehicles (and those aspiring to them).

(Practical too, providing warmth and grip, in the days before effective heating and padded leather steering wheels.)

Thus they would be an indicator of a similar class of person to the G&T drinker - affluent middle-class, or ostentatiously pretending to be such.

  • 3
    They were known as the "Gin & Jag Brigade." The drink 'must' match the car. – Tetsujin Nov 14 '18 at 9:28
  • The fact that the mother merely "accessorizes" with a horsey headscarf indicates to me that they aren't real country toffs. They might still be upper (middle) class, but if so definitely more of the metropolitan sort. – AkselA Nov 14 '18 at 12:14
8

To add an answer about the gin:

Gin has a long history and so it is not surprising they its social status had varied considerably. In British culture the biggest change was when what had previously been cheap alcohol for working-class Londoners became fashionable amongst British Army officers in India. They had been encouraged to consume quinine as an anti-malarial drug and this was made more palatable by making it into tonic water. It was found that gin made this even more palatable and soon replaced whisky and brandy.

I see from Wikipedia that G&T (as it is often referred to in the UK) is a cocktail. However no one thinks of it like this in the UK. It is just the normal way to serve gin.

All the references in the quote in the question plant us firmly in the 60s-70s-80s. At the time a particular sort of person would have had a particular sort of drink. Since then there had been a gradual trend against stereotypical drinking towards people simply drinking what they like so a drink choice says much less about someone then it used to.

  • If there has been a trend towards drinking what you like I would have thought that a drink choice now says more about someone than it used to, not less. Or am I misunderstanding your point? – skomisa Nov 14 '18 at 9:40
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    @skomisa - quite the inverse; it now says absolutely nothing. People used to drink what they were expected to drink, to conform to their [perceived] social status. – Tetsujin Nov 14 '18 at 9:45
  • @skomisa: Their choice now says more about their tastes and less about their allegiances. – PJTraill Nov 14 '18 at 22:17
7

Some of the other answers have made headway, as regards the definition of 'mine's a G&T', but the entire point of the quote is really to define this couple in a single sentence.

They are both middle-class, from a time when that was 'more important' to be recognised as such than it is today.

He has gloves which suggest he drove a sports car or Jaguar*, which would define his drink as G&T rather than beer. Her mode of dress would be appropriate to that & a weekend at the horse trials.

It defines an entire class & culture from (probably) the 50s/60s in one sentence.

Below is a comment on the outmoded class-structure in the UK at the time, not my personal opinion...
*This would make him one of the class defined by those not belonging to it as 'The Gin & Jag Brigade'. It was a derogatory description, usually used by those who would prefer beer, even if they could afford the car.

'Horsey' describes the type of person who would attend gymkhanas & horse trials & describes the kind of attire one would wear to those... but (if it were not the author talking about her own mother, but a general perception of those times) could be a double 'attack/criticism' on not only the social class of the woman, but also her (alluded to) visual appearance. Large-framed, broad-hipped, long-faced; similar appearance to the horse she is accustomed to riding, or did in her youth.
Note that even in these times, the description 'horsey' wouldn't ordinarily be applied to someone with merely the physical appearance mentioned above - it would have to go hand-in-hand with the social definition.

Refs for 'the Gin & Jag Brigade'.
I can't find a dictionary definition as yet, but a couple of newspaper reports using it in such a way that it's obvious they fully expect their readership to already be well-aware of the term.

The Telegraph - They can't mean us

The Guardian - Town bristles at 'gin and Jag' slur

Urban Dictionary has a non-authoritive definition

Also... Ask Andy About Clothes but please take your social-responsibility-for-the-easily-offended hard-hat with you to this one, which is full of 'colourful' explanations - though technically just about SFW (safe for work).

  • Good answer until I reached the "horsey" bit. I don't think a daughter, it's in the quoted text, would every describe their mother as looking horsey. It would be strange for a daughter to attack and criticise the social class of her very own parents, as she most likely belongs to the same bourgeois or a little higher: the upper-middle class – Mari-Lou A Nov 14 '18 at 9:53
  • You're very probably right;) - at the end I swapped from 'the author' to 'general commentary' on how this would probably be perceived at the time. – Tetsujin Nov 14 '18 at 10:08
  • @Mari-LouA - re-cast, hopefully in a better light. – Tetsujin Nov 14 '18 at 10:17
  • I can't find a definition, as such, but it's deeply-embedded in the culture. I found a couple of newspaper reports that use it expecting their readership to know exactly what it means already. – Tetsujin Nov 14 '18 at 10:24
1

Literal answer

In a social setting, it is common to ask people what they are drinking. If there is a group of people, a conversation may go:

"What are you drinking?"

"Beer, and yourself?"

"Mine's a gin and tonic."

Where "mine's" is short for "my drink is".

Why is this in your book

Richard Boston was a politically comedic journalist (akin to Mark Twain or Gary Trudue) who was born in London in 1938. He wrote a beer column which highlighted local/small breweries rather than the big names. This made him popular with the brewers, but he had a secret, he didn't like beer. When they would ask him what beer he was drinking, his reply was "mine's a pink gin." Wikipedia

Pink gin is simply another type of gin, which can be mixed with tonic.

I do not know why the phrase has been changed from the quote. There is another article that quotes him as saying "mine's a gin and tonic" directly: click

I do believe this meaning gives a more nuanced description of the character.

Horsey

As said in other answers, "horsey" is a description of someone who enjoys the less labor intensive aspects of owning a horse.

  • 1
    Note "a pink gin" at the time was not another type of gin - it was gin with Angostura Bitters (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angostura_bitters) - a good bar tender would ask the customer if they liked it "in or out" - i.e. a few drops of the bitters left in the glass or swilled around the glass then discarded. In recent years there has been a trend for flavored gins some pink but this was not what he was asking for in the quote. – Steve Barnes Nov 14 '18 at 19:23
  • @SteveBarnes For argument's sake, and according to Wikipedia, a "true" pink gin is made with Plymouth gin, while the typical gin and tonic was with London gin. A Plymouth gin is sweeter, so the bitters go well with it. And also, I now know more about English gin than anyone needs to know :) – Carl Nov 14 '18 at 21:36
  • @SteveBarnes The accuracy of mentioning Richard Boston is a little dubious. He did say "pink gin", but did he ever say gin and tonic"? Why does the poplar phrase differ? However, Richard does match the feeling of the OP's quotes well, it answers why we care what the character's gloves say. – Carl Nov 14 '18 at 21:41
0

To be instructive to the non-native English speaker (Olivia Lo), English sentences or utterances are classified as one of four types: declarative, interrogative, imperative, or exclamative. "Mine's a gin and tonic" would be exclamative with the usual context being a prior interrogative (What would you like?) by someone else. By the way, exclamatives usually end with an exclamation mark (!), which is not present here.

The reference to "horsey scarf" is simply a reference to the person's scarf that would usually be worn, for whatever reason (it had pictures of horses or was warm or was rough weaved ...), when going to an event that involved horses.

It is the tone of the whole conversation that would betray it as being middle class.

-4

I don't fully agree with chasly from UK. Obviously, horsey is an adjective here, and has nothing to do with 'upper-class' according to wiktionary.

  • Wiktionary doesn't mention anything about context or connotations. It limits itself to providing a definition. The father wore driving gloves, the mother wore headscarves, and clothes from an expensive retailer, there are enough clues here to give us a good general picture of their financial situation. – Mari-Lou A Nov 14 '18 at 13:12
  • And headscarves are for those who do their work in the open air, like peasants. Peasant wears both gloves and headscarves. – Ngui Siautien Nov 21 '18 at 4:11
  • Peasants no longer exist in the UK, and haven't done so for over a hundred years. The excerpt is about the author's parents who lived in the UK during the 1950s-1970s. Today, simple, rural folk, may even be better off (financially speaking) than many who live in suburban or urban areas. – Mari-Lou A Nov 22 '18 at 9:51

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