flannel

Definitions

General English

Slang

  • verb (to subject someone to) talk intended to flatter, deceive, bamboozle, cajole, etc. This term is now a well-known colloquialism for waffle or nonsense. It was originally (in the 19th century) a scathing term for the pretentious ornamentation on commercial letterheads, etc.

Origin & History of “flannel”

Flannel is probably one of the few Welsh contributions to the English language. It appears to be an alteration of middle English flanen ‘sackcloth’, which was borrowed from Welsh gwlanen ‘woollen cloth’, a derivative of gwlān ‘wool’. this in turn is related to Latin lāna ‘wool’ and English wool. It is not clear where the British colloquial sense ‘insincere talk’ (which seems to date from the 1920s) comes from, although it may well have been inspired by Shakespeare’s unflattering application of the word to a Welshman in the Merry Wives of Windsor 1598: ‘I am not able to answer the Welsh flannel’, says Falstaff of Hugh Evans, a Welsh parson.
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