16 JUNE 1990, Page 20

Percy poofter

Sir: I am puzzled at the paucity of know- ledge of the use of the word 'poofter'. I first heard it in 1922 when my elder brother returned from his first trip to Australia as purser on the P & 0 ship, SS Baraboo!, defining an effeminate male.

Our mongrel family dog, of the queerest extraction, was so named in the late 1920s.

There is also a story of Somerset Maugham's, where a queer-acting fellow (a coward?) is nicknamed 'Powderpoof Percy', is there not?

James Menhinick

69 North Salts, Rye, East Sussex