A zookeeper explaining how to approach animals:

'Ittin' of them over the 'ead with a pole is one way; scratchin' of their hears is another, when gents as is flush wants a bit of a show-orf to their gals.

Source: Dracula by Bram Stoker, Wikisource link with more context: https://en.m.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Dracula.djvu/167

1 Answer 1


The phrase speaks of gentlemen who happen to be financially well-off at the time. How well off one needs to be for this, of course, depends on their personal finances. Being "flush" usually indicates that a person has no worries about money and has plenty to spread around.

  • I am not sure now if I fully understand the metaphor the zookeeper uses. Is he comparing the gentlemen who have money and can show off to their ladies, in a sense "treating" them better, to the animals which are not hungry, and because of that "treat" the zookeeper better? If you follow the link you can get more context.
    – user98467
    Jul 17, 2019 at 13:53
  • Not really. Picking up the colloquial English of the period isn't an easy task. The keeper was comparing his initial behavior (upon being asked questions) to that of the hungry animals. The animals weren't friendly enough toy with before they'd had their dinner, and neither was he "friendly" enough to answer questions before he'd had his supper. After feeding, the animals were more likely to let the keeper pet/scratch their ears with his stick, just as he was more likely to answer their questions after having had his supper. Jul 17, 2019 at 14:19
  • Thank you for your detailed replies, but I still cannot see how "showing off" would fit in this context…
    – user98467
    Jul 17, 2019 at 14:40
  • @user98467 Touching a potentially dangerous animal in any way would be considered an act of bravery by some. (Foolish by others.) Men doing something they think makes them look better when a woman is present would be them showing off to the woman. Jul 17, 2019 at 16:01
  • @JasonBassford, only too right. But in this case the keeper was safely on the other side of the bars. He's cruel idiot, but not a complete idiot ;-) Jul 17, 2019 at 17:13

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