I found that expression in a book I am reading. Language is American English, often slangish: usually I can make some sense of the words I don't know, but this time I am stuck, beside thinking that it should not be sex-related. Here there is the relevant passage:

[Her father] bent and placed a dry Englishman’s kiss on her hair. “I wish I could have spared you all the pain in your life, but it has made you a good woman. One of which I am immensely proud.”

Could somebody help me, maybe explaining where this expression comes from?

The book is Soundbite With Sherlock, by Cat Spivey, and I got it from LibraryThing's Early Reviewer program. I think it is self-published, and so I am not sure any editor was involved. However Google gave some occurrences of the words, and this is why I asked...

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    I don't think this is a common phrase, but it probably relates to the idea that the English are reserved and undemonstrative with their emotions in comparison with e.g. Italians/south Europeans. So it does mean a peck, a dry kiss, something very chaste and tokenistic.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Apr 15 at 8:19
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    It's "dry" kiss. Does the author expect a wet father-daughter kiss --- on the head?
    – TimR
    Commented Apr 15 at 11:09
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    Dry and formal. Commented Apr 15 at 11:18
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    @TimR much ick there! Commented Apr 15 at 11:30
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    @TimR - it's my word of the week, having heard my niece (aged 16) list some of the things about boys that 'give her the ick'. Being a soccer fan, liking rap, eating meat, wearing trainers in certain colours, and about 100 other things. Commented Apr 15 at 12:59

1 Answer 1


I don't believe "Englishman's kiss" is a known idiom - this Englishman has certainly never heard of it. It seems to me that the writer has created their own phrase to be broken down and taken at face value.

I would suggest that, as the book is American English, describing the kiss as that of an Englishman is meant to make the reader lean on any stereotypical preconceptions held about English people. The usual trope is that we are reserved and even a little aloof (the latter more of a stereotype from the last century, perhaps). The words accompanying the kiss seem genuine and emotional, but the kiss seems brief, maybe suggesting that he is suppressing an outpouring of emotion. It may also be to differentiate it from the tradition of many other European countries which is to kiss friends and family with 2, or even 3 kisses on alternate cheeks.

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    I think it's just because he is English, or meant to be (I don't know anyone who'd say 'of which' about their daughter). Like saying Jean-Pierre gave me saucy Frenchman's smile when he handed me a baguette or Luigi (or Giancarlo) gave me a friendly Italian's squeeze on the arm when he passed by Commented Apr 15 at 9:35
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    This Englishman had never heard of "English Muffins" or "Give [the ball] a bit of English" either, until more exposure to American. And English horn (cor anglais). Commented Apr 15 at 11:19
  • @WeatherVane - English horn - I say! Steady on, old chap! Commented Apr 15 at 11:29
  • @MichaelHarvey – English guffaw (polite smile). Commented Apr 15 at 11:45
  • the characters live in the States, but they are distant relatives of Sherlock Holmes. Maybe the author thought she has to write "British"...
    – mau
    Commented Apr 16 at 16:39

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