Harry Champion was a music hall singer of (I believe) ~1900-1920 in East London. His songs often reflect the time period and location that he lived in. In his song Samuel Duff, the lyrics of the first verse are as follows:

My father always used to say you ought to wear a shine

To show the people what you're paid and what's your proper line

So upon me face I wear this little bit of fur

Because I am a sideboard manufacturer

When they see me sideboards when I'm walking out

Dogs begin to bark and people all begin to shout

In this context, what does "shine" mean?

  • 1
    The full OED includes a (very dated, imho) definition 4c A brilliant display, a ‘dash’. to cut (make) a shine. So maybe you should understand it as My father always used to say you ought to present yourself in a stylish (but relevant) way. But if you hadn't specifically focused on it, I wouldn't have bothered to "decode" the particular word even that precisely. I was too busy figuring out that this little bit of fur refers to what I'd call "sideburns" (facial hair, as opposed to "sideboards" which are the items of furniture he amusingly claims to make). May 24, 2019 at 14:01
  • @FumbleFingers Harry Champion was English and side whiskers were, and to a great extent still are, known as "sideboards" on this side of the Pond, "sideburns" being an import from US English. This explains the joke in the song perfectly, because he makes sideboards he wears sideboards. However the term "shine" means nothing to me, although it might to a Londoner of the same age.
    – BoldBen
    Jun 23, 2019 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


The figurative use of the noun shine OED going back to ~ 1560

brilliance, radiance, splendour, lustre.

As in:

1867 J. R. Lowell Fitz Adam's Story No other face had such a wholesome shine.

And from Ahdictionary.com

excellence in quality or appearance

So, to shine up your appearance and/or illuminate it with splendor.

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