I have a report of the Peace Celebrations 1919 written by the vicar of a village in Kent (a county in the southeast of England) in which he describes some of the sporting competitions staged in the afternoon, including:

'The sight of all these contests stirred the blood of old and young. Wager matches were made and run off, Mr. J. Prior beating Mr. E. Orpin, and Mrs. Checksfield, after a good swallow, proved more than a match for her husband.'

What could he have meant by 'after a good swallow'? Google, as you can imagine, is no help as the top ten results for 'a good swallow' are probably quite different in meaning to what the good vicar intended. My one thought is that as this is a celebration in a quintessentially English village, Mrs Checksfield's 'swallow' is a gulp from an emboldening cup of tea.

I'm writing an article to commemorate the centenary of these celebrations next year and want to include the most likely meaning of this phrase.

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    Any idea what event the Checksfields were competing in? It might be relevant. (I do suspect you're right about the tea; circumstances seem to preclude Mrs Checksfield pulling out a hipflask for a splash of Dutch courage and the vicar considering this all suitable to report.)
    – tmgr
    Dec 11, 2018 at 11:24
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    I suspect that the target audience was probably the villagers who attended, and that there was a good bit of humour in what the vicar wrote. He writes "a good swallow", which reads as "took a reasonable swallow of a drink", whereas those who were there know he really meant "downed a pint of beer in 4 seconds". As we weren't there, we can't really be sure what he meant.
    – AndyT
    Dec 11, 2018 at 12:19
  • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I realise this is a question that's almost impossible to answer (so not really a good candidate for ELU). No idea what male-female contest this might have been, for the moment anyway, but these were almost certainly more fun events set alongside 'serious' games of cricket and tug-of-war. As it's unlikely Mrs Checksfield glugged down several measures of neat rum or speed drank a couple of pints of rough cider in preparation for the contest with her husband, I'll either suggest it was tea or just leave it to the reader to arrive at their own interpretation.
    – Goldbern
    Dec 13, 2018 at 20:21

3 Answers 3


Swallow in this context means swallow. Whilst it doesn't happen much in reality, in drama a person will often 'gulp' when fearful or concerned. You'll see the phenomena a million times in tv and movies where the shot is taken of the bobbing adam's apple as a character swallows/gulps in fear.

You're right to make the emboldening link, but it does not require that anything actually be consumed...this isn't to be taken that she was literally fearful of her husband, rather that she apparently needed to work herself up to the effort.

The meta for the OED reports: "Saran swallowed, fear and nervousness suddenly finding their way back.' 'I swallowed hard, recalling that the man I was verbally jousting with has enjoyed his own significant share of that patronage down the years.' 'Micah swallowed hard to control the fear inside of her."

Swallowing your fear(apprehension) is a common enough phrase that no more complicated explanation for the usage seems necessary.

  • I would never have come to this reading myself, but having seen it explained, I believe it’s what’s meant.
    – CCTO
    Dec 21, 2018 at 19:22

It would be my interpretation that the lady is having a drink of unspecified alcoholic beverage to prepare for whatever the competition is.


It could mean this - After almost accepting or being close to defeat, Mrs. Checksfield outdid her husband in whatever competition they were part of.

So in this context 'after a good swallow' should mean 'after a good number of times being defeated or outdone'. Its like taking a beating for a while (in the game of course) and one can do nothing about defeat but swallow (accept) it.

By the way, a Wager match is a betting sport. - Reference

  • Welcome to EL&U! Although a good answer, formatting your answer into quotes and paragraphs would make it more legible. Sources for your answer would be appreciated. Dec 19, 2018 at 8:55

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