Irish origins of US slang…

Fascinating piece from the New York Times which traces some noteable US slang words back to origins within the Irish language… Thanks to Frank and Rory for the multiple prompts…

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  • 0b101010

    I don’t doubt for a moment that we’re responsible for a lot of slang that’s floating about these days, but I do feel a lot of the examples in the article (and book *cough*) are a stretch. Matching a word to a similar sounding Irish equivalent is a leap of faith and a lazy attempt at constructing an etymology.

    A slight deviation, but I’m continually surprised how florid our wee North Irish dialect is compared to the rest of the English-speaking world; based heavily on metaphor, tone and insinuation. The reason we’re hard to understand abroad isn’t entirely the accent or Irish/Scots gaelic words and structure, but that we unknowingly speak in guttural poetry.

  • Nevin

    Glam can be found in Scotland and Ireland. According to the Scottish DSL it found its way into Scots from Gaelic. According to Alex Blair, it can be found in the records of the Presbyterian churches in and around Ballymoney – under sin.

    Here’s one I lifted from the Scottish DSL:

    “*Tyr. 1929 “M. Mulcaghey” Rhymes 29: I might give her a glam on the road to Portrush.”

  • joeCanuck

    Derrymen call their mates “muckers”. I’ve always felt that that must come from “Mo cara”, my friend.

  • Nice link, and much of what this Cassidy is saying is probably kosher.

    However, he can forget “buddy”/bodach for a start. That’s from Scots “body”, as in Burns:
    Gin a body meet a body
    Coming thro’ the rye,
    Gin a body kiss a body –
    Need a body cry?

    It had crossed the Atlantic before 1840 (and therefore likely via the Scots-Irish). See the Dictionary of the Older Scottish Tongue and the Dictionary of American Regional English.

    I’m up for this thread, if only because I’m armed with Michael Montgomery’s From Ulster to America: the Scotch-Irish Heritage of American English.

    My favourite therefrom is that craic, so beloved of the Oirish heritage industry, is English as early as the 15th century, and can be traced from Ulster dialect long before it appears in the Irish spelling in the 20th century.

    This reminds me of James Joyce in Portrait of the Artist. When Stephen Dedalus is accosted by the dean of studies (“the English convert”, supposed to be based on Gerard Manley Hopkins):

    — That? said Stephen. Is that called a funnel? Is it not a tundish?

    — What is a tundish?

    — That. The funnel.

    — Is that called a tundish in Ireland? asked the dean. I never heard the word in my life.

    — It is called a tundish in Lower Drumcondra, said Stephen, laughing, where they speak the best English.

    — A tundish, said the dean reflectively. That is a most interesting word. I must look that word up. Upon my word I must.

    Later Stephen finds his pride in Irish vocabulary challenged:

    April 13. That tundish has been on my mind for a long time. I looked it up and find it English and good old blunt English too. Damn the dean of studies and his funnel! What did he come here for to teach us his own language or to learn it from us. Damn him one way or the other!

  • dewi

    It’s twndish Malcolm mun ! And it’s about as Welsh as you can get!

  • joeCanuck

    Off topic, sorry. That ad to the right about what MPs read; what are DODS?

  • joeCanuck @ 07:50 PM:

    Dod’s Parliamentary Companion, a listing of Standing Orders, officials, ministers, MOPs, Lords and similar low-lifes. I (self-inflation alert!) see my avatar twice got in as a defeated candidate.

    I think it may now come in three versions: a small pocket-sized job, a shelf-bender, and on-line.

    In times gone by, before etiquette was loosened, it was essential baggage for determining whether to address a Member as a “noble” (scion of the peerage), a “learned” (lawyer), a “gallant” (ex-officer), an “honourable” (bog-standard MP) or a “right honourable” (Privy Councillor) prat Member or any combination thereof.

    There are other (perhaps better, and certainly cheaper) sources: The Times Guide to the House of Commons is best known. For the real dirt, though, rely on the Internet (start with http://www.theyworkforyou.com ).

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>Gin a body meet a body
    Coming thro’ the rye,
    Gin a body kiss a body –
    Need a body cry?<< Sorry Malcolm but you are wrong there! 'A body' is Scots for the English anybody in this instance. Ayrshire Scots is pretty undecipherable, even to us 15 miles up the road. The simplicity of this article is astonishing in that it seems so obvious. Why has no-one picked up on this before. Alright Dewi! Back hame safe then!, was up at Fort William the other day. Glencoe is all they make it out to be, and ben Nevis was simply majestic in the autumnal sunlight.

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks, Malcolm.
    It was driving me crazy. Wondered if it was dull/dying/dead old dailies.

  • Nevin

    Malcolm, is crack just Scots or Northern English in the following sense of the word:

    “3. (1) intr. To chat, gossip, have a talk. Gen.Sc. Vbl.n. crackin.
    *Sc. 1728 Ramsay Poems II. 224:
    Gae warm ye, and crack with our Dame, Till I set aff the Mill.” ..DSL

    “Gie us a bit o yer crack” perplexes Americans!!

  • joeCanuck

    Yes, Nevin. I’ve come back from vacation and told people the crack was good and they’ve looked at me flabbergasted.

  • Dewi

    Wonderful in North Walian Welsh they say “Ffiseg” for medicine – ain’t that old like “Physick” from greek ?

    In the south we say “Moddion” cos we are modern like !

    PE – Got a pass to look after Dad……

  • Nevin @ 08:23 PM:

    Yes, I see where you’re coming from.

    My OED has it as “loud talk, boast, brag … arch or dial. (That’s definition 4, just after “breaking of wind”). The OED cites this as “c. 1450 HARDING Map of Scotl. National MSS Scotl.” That’s telling. The next citation is 1523, Henry VIII’s State Papers: Notwythstoodynge the Frenchemennys crakes.

    From there it’s a simple stretch to your:
    “5: brisk talk, conversation … Sc. and north dial. And, yes, the citations start with Ramsay’s “Gentle Shepherd” (1725), followed by Tannahill Poems (c. 1810) followed by (and I note this) Thoreau in “Cape Cod”, 1865.

    That seems a fairly clear line of descent.

    In passing, I see the OED thinks “bud” and “buddy” are childish or negro pron. of “brother”, and give a citation from “Polly Peaseblossom’s Wedding” of 1851. Montgomery (my earlier posting) has it from 1840 in a New York farce.

    And, no, I’m quite happy with my reading of Burns, thank you.

    Despite Prince Eoghan @ 08:18 PM‘s neat put-down, this is a topic of some passing interest. I reckon there are several distinct threads to US slang, for instances:

    The immigrant communities (starting with the Scots-Irish, then the Germans and Scandinavians, then the Irish, then the …) each contributed. My experience suggests this is regional: Yiddish contributes a lot to New Yorkese: Hibernicised English more so in Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia.

    There has to be some input from the hybrid “cant”, the admixtures of everything in the parallel culture of the “low” and semi-criminal classes.

    We’re still evaluating the contribution from Black culture.

    That said, the Irish-speaking (and Hibernicised English) contribution really hits in only after 1830. Montgomery makes a double point:
    “… nineteenth-century emigrants apparently made little contribution to Americn speech in those northern parts of the new nation, most likely because emigrants from Ireland were a relatively late-arriving group to areas where English had already been spoken … the component from Ulster often penetrated into the American hinterland, in contrast to that from elsewhere in Ireland, and sometimes played a part in distinguishing American regional and social dialects. Colonial-era emigrants from Ireland to America were by and large from Ulster (mainly Presbyterians of Scottish heritage) and went to interior areas where their numbers made them a strong and often the dominant group. They routinely mixed with people of English, German, African or other extraction who borrowed from their speech.”

  • páid

    Nevin asks MR

    Malcolm, is crack just Scots or Northern English in the following sense of the word:

    páid interjects..

    almost certainly.

    Most Irish speakers I know treat Cassidy’s assertions as fanciful and stretched beyond credence.

    If you are looking for an all-powerful, subtle and juggernaut language from around these shores, look no further than An Béarla.

  • Dewi

    Malcolm – will you stop being so clever mun ! It’s entirely obvious that US slang is derived from Welsh.
    Everybody says “Cwtsh” dont they ?

  • Dewi @ 09:35 PM:

    Stop bwgging me, mon!

    Now “bug” is a great derivation. Without looking it up (which is dangerous with all the intellects round here) it goes all the way from those Welsh drovers, complaining about the flies as they brought the autumn cattle to London, via microscopes, via Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (look her up!) to Springfield’s famous child. In effect it makes a full circle.

  • Not Impressed

    Utter garbage. See this and stop believing everything you read in the papers.

  • Dewi

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cumbric_language

    Nôs Da

    I reckon Cumbrian shepherds have been speaking Welsh all alomg……

  • Rory

    Not Impressed,

    We do not, as you suggest, believe everything we read in the newspapers but we do so like to have a bit of a gab around the more interesting and, especially, contentious pieces.

    While Grant Barrett’s scorn might well be appropriate to The Lexicographer’s Rules, here, I’m afraid he serves as little more than a spoilsport.

  • Harry Flashman

    A bigger pile of twaddle I never did read.

    Basically he picks up any American-English slang, finds some word in Irish that nearly somehow sounds the same and then says that all the words are derived from Irish.

    Two points follow from this, why don’t the Irish themselves use these words? And did the Scots, English, Germans, Jews (I guessing at least half a dozen of the cited examples are Yiddish in origin), Swedes, Italians and most importantly Africans have no role in creating these words?

    “Geezer” derived from “gaosmhar” meaning wise man? Jesus, s’obvious innit? I mean when we say geezer we immediately mean wise man don’t we?

    Many English slang words are derived from India, and are connected with military service there, I suspect the Derry man’s “mucker” comes from the army where your mucker was the man you “mucked in” with.

    As for “craic”, I have said before the originator of this abomination should be taken out and shot forthwith. When I grew up in Derry “crack” meaning good fun was exclusively a northern word and was connected with the English expressions, “crack a joke”, “wisecrack”, “get cracking” etc. some time around the mid 1980’s some people down south decided it was an ancient Gaelic expression and with the global proliferation of plastic Paddy bars the dreadful word “craic” was released upon an unsuspecting world.

  • Donnacha

    Harry, I grew up using the word crack myself in Wexford in the 70s, so I’m not sure it was ever just a Northern word. I presume it comes from Northern England though and the first time I saw the appalling transliteration into craic was during the 80s. About the same time as they stopped using Rialtas for Government and started using Gubharmaint.

  • Rory

    Although I was one among others who provided the heads up on this item Harry Flashman’s erudite critique of Daniel Cassidy’s book, which he has clearly studied in great depth, has convinced me that Cassidy has got it wrong.

    In a devestating display of his knowledge of the social forces at work, Flashman, in his third paragraph demonstrates conclusively that the Irish in America could not possibly have influenced any new slang words as the Irish in the USA were much too timid and shy to speak to their superiors in the rest of the community and that this condition prevailed until after the election of John F Kennedy as president.

    Indeed Kennedy himself was never known to utter a word in public, other than among his family and Irish friends, until he took the presedential oath of office. Afterwards, of course, you couldn’t shut him up and they had to shoot him.

    Since then many Irish in the US have become quite famous and witty in communication both oral (Eddie Murphy) and written (Studs Lonigan), but before that time they had to make a living in the entertainment field as dancers and had quite some success in this field with such world renowned dancers as Jimmy Cagney, Dan Dailey, Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, Debbie Reynolds and of course, Fred O’Stair.

  • The Dubliner

    Rory, it stands to reason that a huge influx of native Irish speakers are going to influence the language of America… every ethnic group in America has done so.

    In fact, what surprises me is that Cassidy has only identified the etymology of a few hundred words.

  • The Dubliner

    Probably a more interesting project is how many words in the English language have their derivation in Irish. Since a random check of any dictionary will tell you that so-called ‘English’ words are actually Greek, Latin, French, Hebrew, etc.

    Slang, by its nature, is almost impossible to trace etymological terms.

  • Nevin

    Harry, craic is just a (relatively recent) borrowing into Irish – and then into English; they dropped the surplus k and inserted an i. (cf páirc, páirt)

  • Nevin

    “A bigger pile of twaddle I never did read.”

    Is that the influence of a non-English tongue, Harry? 😉

  • Penelope

    Rory… Eddie Murphy is Irish!?!?

    oh so THAT’S what they mean by “black Irish”!?!? thank you for clearing that up for me, dumb American that I am.

    and that’s Fred Astaire… not O’Stair… BTW his given name was Frederick Austerlitz… an Irish name if I ever heard one!!

  • Dev

    Hmmmm, I think this guys has basically taken slang words and then found vaguely similar sounding irish words and tried to join the dots. I know ‘punk’ comes from an irish word but he says ‘dude’ does as well, I thought Oscar Wilde had a hand in that word’s creation, no?

    Rory… Eddie Murphy is Irish!?!?

    oh so THAT’S what they mean by “black Irish”!?!? thank you for clearing that up for me, dumb American that I am.

    and that’s Fred Astaire… not O’Stair… BTW his given name was Frederick Austerlitz… an Irish name if I ever heard one!!

    Posted by Penelope on Nov 12, 2007 @ 09:09 AM

    Erm, I think Rory was being sarcastic but I’m sure he can explain himself!

  • ND

    Just told the cockneys in the office (it’s a very slow monday) about the geezer origin above and how we invented slang.

    Taking a slagging now I can tell ya. Must get them a copy of that book about saving civilisation for them too.

    Fair play to this guy if he can make good cash from this, it’s a bit of fun surely.

    But not as funny as Penelope in the role of the third policeman above.

  • The Dubliner

    Nevin, a double negative and a split infinitive in one short sentence, eh? Shocking.

    We tend to forget that only Latin and Greek is older than Irish Gaelic in European literature, so much of what followed is bound to have been based on that which went before. The Celtic languages dominated Western Europe. Latin and Greek are duly noted in the etymology of English language words, but Irish, unsurprisingly perhaps, isn’t.

    http://www.krysstal.com/langfams_indoeuro.html

  • Penelope @ 09:09 AM:

    Ah, yes, the Old Stager Fred O’Stairlift.

    Last thought: it’s healthy and confident for any language to be adopting words and expressions from other cultures. So, for all our distaste for neologisms, let’s not knock them too much. It’s a heck of an improvement on the late 50s/early 60s when “Civil Service Irish” was being pushed on us, in a top-down semi-Stalinism.

    I notice that, now my daughter has lived in the US for a decade, our (Anglophone) language patterns are drifting apart. So I wonder, what’s the current argot for “mobile ‘phone”? Does/will Irish use “mób” (or some approximation thereof, and follow the British slang), or go for “cel” (in the American fashion, and as in “Eircell”)? Can someone ask a 15-year old? After all, they make the coming demotic.

  • Nevin

    Malcolm, I bunged ‘mobile phone’ into an online dictionary and it gave guthán gluaisteach so maybe they’ll call it the gluais – (sniffing) gluais on the luais.

  • The Dubliner @ 10:45 AM:

    only Latin and Greek is older than Irish Gaelic in European literature

    Hmmm: agreement. Double subject with a singular verb. See me after class.

    You expressed yourself precisely: except that Latin, Greek, Old Irish, Old French and Old Irish are in practical terms inaccessible to a modern reader. I remember being told, glibly, at Trinity that Romanian was capable of being interpreted by a competent Latinist. Some hope.

    So, in real terms, I reckon we’re living well inside the last millenium, and in English the limits are Chaucer or, at a stretch, Piers Plowman:
    And somme chosen chaffare; they cheveden the bettre –
    As it semeth to oure sight that swiche men thryveth;
    And somme murthes to make as mynstralles konne,
    And geten gold with hire glee – giltlees, I leeve.

    In Italian with Dante? (useful for working out one’s fate in the afterlife):
    Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
    mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
    ché la diritta via era smarrita.

    Yeah, remembering my Latin as best as I can, I just about cope there.

    But, as for Irish/Gaelic? Any thoughts how far back a modern reader could easily go?

  • gaelgannaire

    I have never heard anyone saying guthán gluaisteach, we almost always call it a guthán póca ‘a pocket phone’, I have heard people saying something akin to mób but only in a lenited form, ie. wób/vób.

    Cassidy’s thesis is that Irish has been ignored in American dictionaries, he may have a point beut I think much of his book is implausible frankly. I may however put some others thinking and at least people wil have to go to the bother of dismissing his theories.

    I have never heard the word ‘crack’ being used in Irish by any speaker over 50. It is very very recent in my view.

  • The Dubliner

    Malcolm, I noticed the ‘is’ after I posted… and I also noticed that I misread a double negative where there wasn’t one. As you didn’t notice my other error, may I be excused from detention?

  • Nevin

    Dubliner, the sentence is in rare order too – object subject verb.

  • Nevin

    gaelgannaire, wouldn’t the Irishisation of ‘mob’ be móib?

  • gaelgannaire

    Nevin.

    Can’t possibly see why really.

  • Harry Flashman

    *Flashman, in his third paragraph demonstrates conclusively that the Irish in America could not possibly have influenced any new slang words as the Irish in the USA were much too timid and shy to speak to their superiors in the rest of the community and that this condition prevailed until after the election of John F Kennedy as president.*

    Rory what on earth are ye blatherin’ on about man?

    Where in feck’s name did I say the Irish were too timid to speak to their superiors?

    It’s a bit early to be hitting the booze mate, it helps if you try and stay sober for at least your first few posts of the day.

  • Nevin

    Just spotted mointeán – rough peaty land. A nearby field, which suits this description, used to be called the ‘mun’tin’ but is now called the mountain.

  • K McLaughlin

    Surely Cassidy is wrong about ‘buddy’. This stuff will certainly be news to the people of Paisley who have been known as ‘buddies’ for centuries. Isn’t ‘buddy’ just a corruption of ‘body’.
    His explanation (buddy=bodach) sounds implausible to me. A bodach (according to an on line Irish dictionary) is defined as ‘a lout’. It is also the Scots Gaelic for ‘an old man’. I can see the latter being a term of affection, but the former?
    PS I notice that the article omits one American slang word of undoubted Irish provenance,’phoney’.
    If the rest of his derivations are as shaky as this one, I think I can guess why..

  • Rory

    “Where in feck’s name did I say the Irish were too timid to speak to their superiors?”

    I inferred it from the subtext, Harry and realised that you were much too timid and shy yourself to air your erudition too brashly. You shouldn’t hide your light under a bushel.

    I never touch a drop before luncheon…Jeez! is it that time already? Cheerio!

  • Tochais Síoraí

    It’s inevitable that the millions of Irish people, the majority Irish speakers with many having little or no English, who emigrated to the US in the nineteenth century had an influence on American-English.

    I think Cassidy makes a valid case for the majority of words he claims are of Irish origin. Some of them seem very obvious particularly those with no alternative explanation but he does leave himself open for deserved criticism when he stretches the case too far with some words that are very unlikely to have Irish roots.

  • Rory

    Penelope,

    Of course Eddie Murphy is Irish. The fact that he so successfully portrays black characters in cinema is only a testament to the fine acting skills he developed at the Abbey Theatre along with Barry Fitzgerald and that other fellow (I forget his name) who used to play Lassie.

    And don’t be having a go at Fred O’Stair or you’ll be upsetting my old next door neighbour who swears she’s his auntie.

    The next thing you’ll be denying the nationality of that great Irish-American author, Norman McMailler, recently deceased, who came to fame with his definitive tome on the practice of naturist necrophilia among US troops in the Pacific during WWII.

  • PaddyReilly

    Etymology is not an exact art but Cassidy is no etymologist. If anyone has seen the film < > there is a Greek who will demonstrate that all English words derive from Greek, even things like dude, buddy and crack. The art of creating false etymologies depends on imagining preposterous changes of meaning: that way anything can derive from anything. One example of this is the wideheld belief that the word ‘brogue’ meaning inexact accent derives in some way from the Irish word for shoe, whereas in fact it comes from a completely different Irish word, barróg , meaning defective accent.

    Crack is a word found in Scotland, but also in Cumbria, meaning approximately fun . The craic spelling is indeed an abomination.

    Buddy is, in my humble opinion, from the dialect word Butt or Butty, found in South Wales but originating from around the Bristol region, meaning simply friend, workmate. The Americans could not find this in Webster or Dr Johnson and so they spelt it as they said it, buddy.

    Penelope, I’m afraid you will find that the natives use irony a lot, so they often mean the opposite of what they are superficially saying. The Fred O’Stair joke is an old one. But Edward Regan Murphy, the legitimate son of a policeman, does sound like a person who might, patrilineally, have Irish origins. Unfortunately in the US there seems to be a rule that Black ethnicity takes precedence over all others.

  • Charlie

    Haven’t read yer man’s book so can’t comment on its merits but surely the Scots-Irish influence on American English is pretty obvious in the general flow and intonation of many American accents…countless times I’ve thought I’ve overheard a Norn Iron accent here in England only to realise once I got within closer earshot, that they were Yanks…

    …and of course the Ulster settlers invented bluegrass/country music and gave America Mark Twain, Woody Guthrie, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Steve McQueen etc etc etc

  • PaddyReilly

    Isn’t ‘buddy’ just a corruption of ‘body’

    Personally I believe that one should not treat one’s buddy with the same familiarity that one treats one’s body. A different set of permissions obtain. They are quite different concepts, and should not be confused.

  • PaddyReilly @ 01:28 PM:

    Now, to be sure, have ye not wandered a bit from Baile Shéamais Dhuibh — oh, sorry, that’s the other thread (http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/ballymoney-town-of-bigots/ )

    I’m with you up to the dialect word Butt or Butty, found in South Wales but originating from around the Bristol region, meaning simply friend, workmate.

    The term is quite common across the mining districts oop north. The OED has the first citing for Congleton in 1802 (i.e. the first example in writing of a colloquialism). Disraeli in Sibyl (1845) is explaining it as a “middleman between owners of mines and workmen”. That sounds to me as credible as Robert Browning’s definition of a nun’s twat (and since nobody has ever shown me the supposed 1841 poem in which that misunderstanding occurs …) The OED also speculates on a link to “booty” (in the sense of “share” or “gain”).

    Then there is the familiar “My old beauty” (as popularised by Walter Gabriel), but which I know from Norfolk speech.

    And the dumb-barge pulled by a canal tug is a “butty boat”.

    As you imply, there’s no way we are likely to nail the precise origin of such a commonplace. However, I’m expecting to be smacked down by the cruder element represented here along the lines of:
    He knows two things about Old Norse,
    And one of them is rather coarse.

  • Dewi

    http://www.theanswerbank.co.uk/Phrases-and-Sayings/Question254151.html

    What a bunch of sad geeks we are – before Slugger I thought etymology was to do with ants butt.

  • PaddyReilly

    Whatever the origins of this word, (colliery middlemen, tug-boats etc) the fact remains that hundreds of thousands of folk in the Glamorgan and Bristol area are familiar with, and even use, the word butt/butty to mean friend or mate.

    As American English derives in the greater part from English English, with a small input from Ulster Scots and other tongues (Dutch, German, Algonquian) etc, it is not unreasonable that the South Welsh word for ‘friend’ passed into American English as a word meaning ‘friend’, the only alteration being in the spelling, if that: obviously, the word wasn’t written down much.

    Americanisms often turn out to be rural English dialect: for example, Fall is the word for autumn in Shropshire.

  • Dewi

    “Fall is the word for autumn in Shropshire. ”

    Never knew that – always thought it was one of the few American words that I liked – evocative, meaningful and four letters long !

  • joeCanuck

    Love your 12:50, Rory, especially the bit about the guy whose name you forget.
    It’s been at least 5 minutes and I’m still chuckling.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Had a few chuckles there myself Joe!

    Malcolm @ 09:16 PM

    There was no put down intended neat or otherwise. As someone who speaks Scots on a daily basis I understand how hard it is to read written Scots. Many of us speak Scots, yet use standard written English hence the unfamiliarity to us. Never mind those not used to hearing it on a regular basis.

    Dewi

    Hope all turns out well with your Da, maybe promise him another trip to NZ when he recovers.

  • Penelope

    ahh yes… I see the sarcasim now. It was well past midnight here on the Pacific Coast and I had just taken a dose of a cold medicine to help me sleep and so in my sleep deprived, drug addled state I took things literally and missed the joke… apologies.

    To be sure, it was the wit and sarcasim of the Irish that first attracted me to my Belfast boy!!! Plus that Norn Iron accent is dead sexy 😉

  • Harry Flashman

    Bill Bryson wrote a very good book on the origins of American-English in which he proves that many of the so-called “Americanisms” so despised by English purists are in fact old English expressions brought over by the early settlers. I think it is no coincidence that so many of the old wild west characters in the old movies spoke with English west country accents (“darn varmints” etc) who were after all among the original European settlers. In a similar way most Australian vernacular can be traced back to London/Cockney slang.

    I was amazed to discover that the oul’ Derry talk so discouraged by our teachers was in fact perfectly acceptable Elizabethan English imported into the town at the time of the Plantation.

    Anyone like me with the privilege of having a genuine Derry grandparent will know such expressions as “fornenst” (opposite), “starving” (very cold), “wanting” (lacking, ie only one arm), “doubt” (fear, as in ‘I doubt she’ll be home tonight’), “shade” (shed), “divil” (devil), “grayze” (grease), there are many others but it’s time for bed, any Derry wans can add a few others.

  • joeCanuck

    My mother was a Derrywoman, Harry, and I went to high school there so I well remember the English teachers trying to (literally) batter us into using proper English.
    And by the way, none of the words you mention above ended in “g”.
    I still drift into the vernacular when over there (or even over here when I’ve had a few).
    My wife is Canadian but when we meet anyone new, they think she’s Irish because of the idiomatic quirks she has picked up from me.
    One of my favourite expressions (maybe Strabane rather than Derry) is “wile cowl the day” (very cold today).

  • I have no idea on how Irish is Eddie Murphy, but his full birth name is Edward Regan Murphy.

    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000552/bio

    That’s about as Irish a name as you’ll get, anyway the Irish are whores for claiming anyone in the world who may have drunk a pint of Guinness and the Irish will claim them as fully fledged Irish.

  • páid

    Having spent 4 years in South Wales I’m familiar of course with the widespread use of butt, butty and butty boy for mate.

    And then one night in deep dark Laois I heard the locals use it in the same way.

  • Rory

    While I find myself more easy with ‘buddy’ for ‘body’ and had always assumed that the Severn Estuary usage of ‘butty’ (I have lived and worked in South Wales and the Bristol area) was simply a local pronounciation of ‘body’ and used much as as the Scots term for someone they might meet “comin’ thru the rye” (or anywhere else for that matter). it remains simply that – something that sits more easily with me and my own limitations of precise knowledge of how language develops dynamically with widespread social intercourse.

    Speculation and ‘hunch’ is all in the tool box of the linguist of the spoken word and is always at least “a dollar short and a day too late” in the sense that, even within a given area in a modern shifting world the young scholar at the age of 35 or 40 will be hopelessly incummunicado with the youth of his own social grouping. The wilder speculations of some badly thrown darts in the OED give testimony to that difficulty. The problem for the linguists is that those who are most familiar with slang usage are also those least likely to consult their findings and so correct their howlers.

    Paddy Reilly’s assertion that “Personally I believe that one should not treat one’s buddy with the same familiarity that one treats one’s body.” for example holds out the possibility of all sorts of speculative sexual imagery which I am sure he was not intending, but which, as sure as shooting, if such imagery were to be lewdly referred to and spread and developed throughout the web could well leave Paddy as the inadvertent father of outlandish practices beyond the visions of his wildest imagination.

    Cassidy’s contentious speculation is delightful for the bright new spark that it provides in a field of many sparks but yet a field poorly illuminated. Like a new introduction to a pyrotechic display it adds initial excitement then another glimmer and the teasing possibility of greater illumination and then we wait for the next.

    We may not see much in such light but, with more and more communication and the greater holiness of increasing miscegenation I yet hold out hope to see evidence that the Tower of Babel may be crumbling.

    Cassidy reinforces my hope and, besides, he makes me smile. I like him.

    My fun with Fred Astaire and Eddie Murphy was my poor way of teasing old Harry Flashmen, Slugger’s Irish equivalent of “the self hating Jew”, a kind of Irish “Step’n’Fetchit” it would appear from his rush to denigrate anything Irish other than ‘doff yer cap’ Anglo-Irishism. But I suppose my overtures to make him realise that, to paraphrase Rod Steiger in Blake Edward’s film How to Murder your Wife, ” Just because I’m Irish doesn’t mean I’m a bad person” (best done with a NYC ultra camp gay accent) have yet again been unsuccessful.

    Never mind. God loves a trier*.

    * Old Welsh: n. a football player who places a ball beyond an opponent’s end-line thus setting up the opportunity for a try.

    try n see also girl’s blouses; pushing up of.

  • PaddyReilly

    …..could well leave Paddy as the inadvertent father of outlandish practices beyond the visions of his wildest imagination.

    Not at all. The late Tom Driberg MP was approached by two young Scotsmen near his flat in Paddington one night, who asked if he could put them up for the night. He agreed, but pointed out that he had only one room and one bed, though big enough for three. Had they known what he was like, they might have preferred the street. The three of them went to sleep with Driberg in the middle. In the morning, Driberg woke to the sounds of Scottish curses. The police were called. At Bow Street the next day, he advanced the novel but effective defence that in the confusion of somnolence, he had mistaken his neighbour’s person for his own. [see Driberg’s Autobiography].

  • Dewi

    Rory – I repeat you have a wonderful way with words butt. Prince – glad to see u back – things a little better thanks.

  • Wilde Rover

    The Dubliner

    “We tend to forget that only Latin and Greek is older than Irish Gaelic in European literature, so much of what followed is bound to have been based on that which went before. The Celtic languages dominated Western Europe. Latin and Greek are duly noted in the etymology of English language words, but Irish, unsurprisingly perhaps, isn’t.”

    Yes. And doesn’t that make you wonder?

    An bhfuil seans ann go bhfuil Gaeilge an Chead Teanga?

  • Rory

    I’ve read Driberg’s autobiography, Paddy, but thanks for recalling it. I recall another episode when he brought home a Scots labourer he had picked up off the street and I recall that the too, too graphic detail there was better read on a empty stomach.

    The best Driberg anecdote I recall came from Gore Vidal who recounted how, with the Labour Party confidently expectant of entering government under Gaitkskill at the next election, he had had dinner with Driberg and mentioned that he was dining with Gaitskill at his home the following evening.

    Driberg became very excited and pressed Vidal to lobby Gaitskill on his behalf for a cabinet position (he fancied the Foreign Office – as who wouldn’t?).

    Vidal brought the matter up with Gaitskill the next evening and Gaitskill at first thought it was a joke but then upon being assured that Driberg was most sincere in his ambition he mellowed over the port and mused that perhaps Driberg might well be a candidate for the Ministry of Public Works responsible, among other things, for government buildings.

    “I can just picture the old dear fussing over the curtain materials and the wall hangings and it would make him happy”. And, says Vidal, that was more or less it – Driberg had the gift of the job for his asking decided there and then.

    Unfortunately, as we know, Gatskill did not make it to the premiership – mostly on account of him being dead (although such a small handicap didn’t seem to stop John Major).