The following is a quote from the 2018 television show "The ABC Murders".

A sergeant was describing an altercation involving a set of dentures:

Yes, sir, the miscreant being one Herbert "Humpy" Morris, who requested that a passing lady give him a smile to which she responded with some choice Anglo-Saxon, whereupon Morris threw his dentures at her. The lady stamped on them and it all to-do.

I have two questions:

  1. I know Anglo-Saxon means ture-born british ppl, but the meaning of choice Anglo-Saxon?

  2. What's the meaning of all to-do?

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    The lady probably told Humpy to "f_ck off" or something like that. I put the underscore there because there are some squeamish people who frequent this site and the enforcers of the "no obscenity" rule don't quite understand that obscenity requires obscene intent. They think there are "obscene words". I was once accused of obscenity here for using random characters, $*@&!#. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Dec 27 '18 at 12:21
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    The actual quote was "it all turned into quite the to-do" – Simon Wright Dec 27 '18 at 15:11
  • This is all sixes and sevens; none of it means anything in American English. – Mazura Dec 28 '18 at 7:04
  • I have just watched the first episode of this series. One thing that leaps out is the dialogue - peppered with anachronisms - "quite the to-do", "ducks in a row", "sack of shit (!)", "high-up in the food chain". It is a confection (as all these things are), but whipped up for an international audience (American money involved?). It is the 1930s as they never were. I detect two levels - a sophisticated entertainment for those in the know (John Malkovitch!), CGI steam trains that are rather obviously CGI, but also a "Masterpiece Theater" show for those who just want that. – Michael Harvey Dec 28 '18 at 23:25

Words derived from Anglo-Saxon that have survived in English tend to be shorter than later words introduced from French or Latin. This is especially true of many swear words, the crude words for bodily functions, etc ("shit" is Anglo-Saxon, while "excrement" is from Latin), so much so that to say somebody used "Anglo-Saxon" words, especially "choice" ones, is a way of saying that they used bad, crude or vulgar language. "Choice" fruit is ripe fruit; "ripe" language can mean obscene or crude language. As for "all to-do", a commotion or fuss ensued. There would be a to-do if a fox got in a hen house, for example. Often used to describe a fight starting.

Anglo-Saxon 4 :
direct plain English
especially : English using words considered crude or vulgar

to-do noun BUSTLE, STIR, FUSS



"Choice" means "carefully chosen" or "very good". You might say "He bought some choice meat".

Anglo-Saxon is a language, it is sometimes called "Old English".

But this expression is an ironic euphemism. The swear words in English are from old Anglo-Saxon words. What "some choice Anglo-Saxon" means here is "very strong swear words".

A to-do is an argument or a fight.

  • 1
    Not all English swear words are derived from Anglo-Saxon, "fuck" for example. – Michael Harvey Dec 27 '18 at 12:15
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    People often use "Anglo-Saxon" in a loose sense to mean crude obscene language using short words. – Michael Harvey Dec 27 '18 at 12:39
  • I think it would be good to emphasize that this usage is ironic and understated, two big parts of British humor that are often overlooked. – Chris Bouchard Dec 27 '18 at 15:36
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    is a subtle level of language here. A Sergeant is a working-class position (whether in the police or the army) but the sergeant is in an upper-class situation (giving evidence) and is attempting to use language in a higher register than he would normally. Hence the word "miscreant", and the participle phrase "being one ..." and his unwillingness to repeat the actual words. This contrasts with the bawdy comical situation (He flirts, she tells him to f-off, he takes out his teeth and throws them, fighting follows) – James K Dec 27 '18 at 18:07
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    1960s British sociologists classified police sergeants as "respectable working class". It is a running joke that police officers never walk towards the west, they "proceed in a westerly direction". – Michael Harvey Dec 27 '18 at 20:05

Anglo-Saxon is an old Language that is close to Old French and had a notable influence on both English and French. "French" is a common idiom for swearing nonchalantly, mostly in "excuse my French".

For the other bit, a comment notes it was "it all turned into quite the to-do" which apparently meant the task that the characters had to do something about.

  • Re your last sentence, -- try googling to-do meaning or to-do definition. As others have noted already, it means a commotion or fuss. – Glen_b Dec 28 '18 at 6:41
  • I am afraid vectory's answer is wrong in just about every respect. – Michael Harvey Dec 28 '18 at 22:28

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