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The Full Monty - a very British slang phrase

One thing can be said about this once fairly common used British slang phrase... that it now has global familiarity within the English speaking world thanks to the acclaimed 1997 film of the same name. Few people ever expected this traditional and typical British film comedy to ever make the big time globally, but once it hit the shores of the States there was no looking back for the phrase. As the popularity of the movie spiralled, interest in this unusual expression increased and the UK lost another piece of its enigmatic vernacular to the world.

For those who still don't know the real meaning of the phrase 'the full monty', it means the whole amount. Unfortunately its true origins, as with much slang, can only be speculated upon; what is known is that although previously used mainly in the North of England it really gained popularity throughout the UK in the early 1990's. Here's a selection of those origins:

  1. Referencing Field Marshall Montgomery's longwinded and fastidious military briefings during WW2. Montgomery was affectionately called Monty.
  2. From the full collection of medals that adorned Field Marshall Montgomery's chest.
  3. Alternatively, from the fact that Montgomery was rather partial to a very large full English breakfast.... the full monty.
  4. Gambler's jargon derived from the Spanish for mountain (monte) and meaning the entire pot or kitty that is to be bet.
  5. A reference to a 1980's Del Monte television advert for fruit juice, in which the characters ask for the full del monte.
  6. A corruption of the phrase 'the full amount'.
  7. A reference to the supply of 'demob' suits for discharged soldiers, supplied by the British tailors Montague Burton. Those acquiring the aforementioned suits would be promised the chance to walk proudly into civilian life in the full monty.

Renowned linguists all have their own etymological favourites, and in their professional capacity attempt to discount the other speculations through their rational analysis of the facts. In my role as a less than intellectual linguist, I'll stand back and wait with bated breath for the unlikely day they may all agree. Until that time it's down to personal choice...

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Slang Articles

A few essays on various slang and word topics, incl. rhyming slang, the full monty, Gordon Bennett and nadsat. Read more...

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