Interview on Robert Elms show, Bbc London

I really enjoyed chatting to Robert Elms on BBC London today. I’ve been listening to him for years (used to love it when he followed bus routes and people phoned in with their memories of places along the way), so it was a real pleasure and privilege. Today’s whole episode is great – I appear about 2.37 in if you want to have a listen here.

Win a signed book! – COMPETITION NOW CLOSED

THIS IS NOW CLOSED. THE 5 WINNERS WILL BE CHOSEN BY A RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR AND NOTIFIED LATER TODAY (5TH APRIL). THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE ENTERED – I WISH YOU ALL COULD HAVE WON!

To celebrate the publication of the third Arrowood book (Arrowood and the Thames Corpses – buy it here) on April 2 (UK, Ireland and other English-speaking territories) and June (N. America), I’m giving away 5 copies of Arrowood (book 1) or The Murder Pit (book 2). Your choice. Anywhere in world. Competition closes Saturday April 4th. To enter, send me a message using the contact page on this website, or follow me on Twitter (@mickfinlay2) or like my Facebook page

Origins of the terms ‘nob’ and ‘toff’

In the Arrowood books, the narrator Norman Barnett often uses the terms ‘nob’ or ‘toff’ when talking about people of a high status. These terms were common in the 19th century, and are still used in the UK today.

I’d never wondered where the terms came from until I heard a BBC Radio 4 programme Start the Week on the history of India. During the discussion, the historian William Dalrymple said that the term ‘nob’ came from the term ‘nawab’ (a governor of the Mogul Empire), from which came the 17th century term ‘nabob’ (a person who came back to Britain after becoming wealthy in India).

There are other theories as to the origin. The OED, which defines nob as ‘a person of some wealth of social distinction’ isn’t sure. It was in use as early as 1676, and might be an abbreviation of ’noble’ or ’nobleman’, or it might come from ‘nab’ meaning the head, a hat, or a coxcomb. wiktionary suggests it might come from ‘white-nob’ (“white-head”), a term for the white, powdered wigs worn by middle class people in the 1700s.

‘Toff’ is defined by the OED as ‘a person who is stylishly dressed or who has a smart appearance; a swell; (hence) one of the well-to-do, a ‘nob’.’ This source says it might derive from the 18th century ‘tuft’ (a titled student at Oxford who wore a gold tassel on their cap, also called a ‘tuft’).

So, there you go.

Reading and Writing Historical Fiction event

If you’re in the Cambridge area, do come along to this free event. Booking is essential. Saturday 26 October, 15.30 – 16.30 : Cambridge Festival Of Ideas. Reading and Writing Historical Fiction. Historical fiction panel event with authors Emma Flint, Syd Moore and Antonia Senior (Mick Finlay chairing). Followed by booksigning. At Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge. Free tickets – booking here.