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From this question, here is a quote from The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist by Conan Doyle, published in 1903:

The landlord further informed me that there are usually week-end visitors—‘a warm lot, sir’—at the Hall, and especially one gentleman with a red moustache, Mr. Woodley by name,

Lexico says the word 'lot' is derogatory in British English:

informal treated as singular or plural
A particular group or set of people or things.

‘it's just one lot of rich people stealing from another’
‘he will need a second lot of tills to handle the second currency’

1.1 British with adjective A group of a specified kind (used in a derogatory or dismissive way)
‘an inefficient lot, our Council’

The additional examples given by Lexico are predominantly you lot, us lot, that lot, &c., or else are made derogatory by the surrounding sentence.

I am BrE, and understand the Doyle quote to be informal perhaps, but generally jovial and not really derogatory.

I would agree that the dictionary quote, 'an inefficient lot', is derogatory - this I feel is mainly because of the adjective: a pleasant lot, for example is not.

Is this a case of context in each case, or has the expression 'an adjective lot' become derogatory more recently?


Things that would answer this question:

  • A comparison of older and more recent texts either proving or disproving my surmise.
  • A reputable authority's opinion on this.
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  • what about "warm lot" sounds negative? Warmness is a positive trait. That is like assuming a "wonderful lot" would be insulting. It would be informal in nearly any usage, but it being derogatory is all to do with how you describe the group rather than that they simply are a group.
    – Yeshe
    Aug 17, 2019 at 15:29
  • @Yeshe my point exactly. There's a comment on the linked question that implies it is negative, and I wasn't sure. Aug 17, 2019 at 16:45
  • @Yeshe I respectfully disagree. It is precisely the act of grouping people ad hoc that is condescending and dismissive. And warm here is not the warm you are thinking of. See here - english.stackexchange.com/questions/508636/…
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 17, 2019 at 17:49
  • An expression such as 'a friendly lot' would be informal but not derogatory. However, the people described in the story as 'a warm lot' are some disreputable men planning a forced marriage in order to get hold of the young lady's inheritance. It's unlikely in context that the landlord meant anything complimentary. Aug 18, 2019 at 14:42
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    'Lot' and 'bunch' can both be used as a colloquial grouping together of persons being labelled as X. But X may be derogatory or not, or even neutral. The colloquialism does not lie in the type of description, but lies in the method of grouping.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 23, 2019 at 10:34

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