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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n., adj.) describing a house that looks grand, affluent or imposing from afar, but on closer inspection is actually nothing of the sort; a hall of this type

A house that looks good from the outside, but on closer inspection is ran down on the inside, is a mock-beggar hall.

That’s a word dating back to the Tudor period, and first recorded in print way back in 1603. Although seldom encountered in its original sense since the nineteenth century, it nevertheless survives as a placename, and in the names of streets, fields, and farms.

Mock-Beggar-Hall: a house which has an inviting external aspect, but within is poor and bare, dirty and disappointing.
WD Parish, A Dictionary of the Sussex Dialect (1875)

This might sound like a confusing word too, especially given that in relation to buildings and architecture, the word mock usually means ‘emulating the style of’ (as in mock-Tudor, or mock-Roman). In fact the sense at work here is that, to a beggar looking for food or aid, a mock-beggar house would look grand and inviting from afar—but viewed more closely would clearly be nothing of the sort, and offer little in the way of help or assistance. So the house ‘mocked beggars’ by appearing to promise more than it actually had, and wasting their time walking up to it. That slightly twisted meaning ultimately makes this another example of a cutthroat compound.

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