Meaning of “blue bag”

In Cakes and Ale, Maughm writes,

She was a pattern of propriety and she would never have women in her house, you never knew what they were up to (“It’s men, men, men all the time with them, and afternoon tea and thin bread and butter, and openin’ the door and ringin’ for ‘ot water and I don’t know what all”); but in conversation she did not hesitate to use what was called in those days the blue bag. (146–7)

I can’t find the meaning of blue bag in this context. Anyone?


Adding to StoneyB’s answer, in the first half of the 20th century “blue bag” was also a trade name for a well-known brand of starch used when washing white clothes. Various blue-colored compounds were mixed with the starch in order to to wash clothes “whiter than white”.

There was a well known intellectual property dispute between two manufactures of this type of product. The legal action arising from this is still cited in English law disputes. (Ironically, the two companies later merged with each other!)

The connection with “washing dirty jokes clean” is obvious.

As an amusing irrelevance, in the area surrounding Reckitt’s factory in Hull which produced “Reckitt’s Blue”, the colours used to identify the main UK political parties differed from the nationwide conventions. The owner of Reckitt’s was a committed supporter of the Liberal party, and the local colours if the Liberals and Tories were blue and yellow respectively – the opposite of the rest of the UK. This became even more confusing after Reckitt’s merged with Colman’s, whose best known product was mustard!

Source : Link , Question Author : Philip Boag , Answer Author : alephzero

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