prunes and prisms

prunes and prisms

Intentionally formal and/or prudish speech or action. The phrase originated in Charles Dickens' novel Little Dorrit as an example of proper speech. When you talk to your grandmother, stick to prunes and prisms so that you don't offend her. If you want to become a proper lady, practice saying "prunes and prisms"!
See also: and, prune

prunes and prisms

used to denote a prim and affected speech, look, or manner.
In Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit ( 1857 ), Mrs General advocates speaking this phrase aloud in order to give ‘a pretty form to the lips’.
See also: and, prune
References in classic literature ?
I take the liberty of differing from Madame Prunes and Prisms, and, as your physician, I order you to run.
Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes, and prism are all very good words for the lips: especially prunes and prism.
To become accustomed to the novelty of my life, was all I meant,' said Little Dorrit, with her loving eyes upon her father; whom she had very nearly addressed as poultry, if not prunes and prism too, in her desire to submit herself to Mrs General and please him.
Having delivered this exalted sentiment, Mrs General made a sweeping obeisance, and retired with an expression of mouth indicative of Prunes and Prism.