‘We’ll put that aside for the moment. I’m thinking of a case where what we’ll call anæmia of the brain was masked (I don’t say cured) by vibration. He couldn’t sleep, or thought he couldn’t, but a steamer voyage and the thump of the screw——’

‘A steamer? After what I’ve told you!’ Conroy almost shrieked. ‘I’d sooner . . . ’

‘Of course not a steamer in your case, but a long railway journey the next time you think it will trouble you. It sounds absurd, but——’

‘I’d try anything. I nearly have,’ Conroy sighed.

‘Nonsense! I’ve given you a tonic that will clear that notion from your head. Give the train a chance, and don’t begin the journey by bucking yourself up with tabloids. Take them along, but hold them in reserve—in reserve.’

This is from "In the Same Boat " by Rudyard Kipling.

I don't understand the meaning below---
--- --begin the journey by bucking yourself up with tabloids.
What are the tabloids?

I am glad if someone would kindly teach me.

2 Answers 2


From the full OED...

Any small medicinal or chemical tablet; a pill. Now rare.

In modern English, Keep your travel sickness tablets in reserve.

  • 1
    For those who don't have access to the OED, the wiktionary has it too.
    – None
    Dec 25, 2021 at 13:35
  • Wiktionary (like urban dictionary) doesn't have much credibility as an "authoritative source" for English. As it happens, Wiktionary cites a (different) instance from Kipling for its usage example - but I think the OED reference is better because it at least makes the explicit point that it's a rare (effectively, obsolete) usage. Which could be inferred from the fact that @Patrick below (presumably a perfectly competent native Anglophone) didn't know this outdated meaning. Dec 25, 2021 at 14:15
  • 2
    Wiktionary is pretty good, often better than a random Google result, for instance. Certainly not as good as a dictionary made by professionals full-time, but often it has more information and more valid than can be found elsewhere. Anyway, our job is to now go and add the obsolete tag to that entry :) Dec 25, 2021 at 14:25
  • I'm not sure I see the point of bringing up Wiktionary here. The intended meaning was obvious to me anyway, and I only included the link to OED as a courtesy (I assume no-one would accuse me of making up the definition, if I hadn't cited an "authoritative source"). Basically, this isn't a usage learners should need to concern themselves with, so it's not really important that they should be able to find a universally-accessible definition... Dec 25, 2021 at 14:34
  • 1
    Thank you so much for your detailed and precise answer and advice. Dec 25, 2021 at 23:46

Tabloids are certain newspapers--the "tabloid" paper size is larger than a magazine but smaller than a "full-sized" newspaper.

I take it that Kipling's character advises to go on a train ride with something to read, but not to make that your main activity on the train.

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