FolkWorld Article by Patrick Weston Joyce (compiled by Walkin' T:-)M):

`Be aizy and do not taize me'

Excerpts from P.W. Joyce's English As We Speak It In Ireland (1910)

A plaque signposted from the Kilmallock-Kildorrery road (R512) marks the childhood home of Patrick Weston Joyce Joyce (1827-1914) in Glenosheen, Co. Limerick. Patrick's father Garrett, nicknamed `the Scholar,' was a skilled musician; his brother Robert Dwyer Joyce (1830-83) contributed many tunes for `The Petrie Collection of Ancient Music' (1855), and - being a committed Fenian - wrote a number of patriotic ballads, namely `The Wind that Shakes the Barley' (-> FW#7, FW#13, FW#21) and `The Boys of Wexford' (-> FW#7, FW#21). P.W. Joyce himself was a music collector too, best remembered for his `Old Irish Folk Music and Songs' (1909). He published works on Irish history and folklore as well, always aware of Irish music, song and dance, even while being concerned with the dialect of the English language that is spoken in Ireland, for `Irish music is the most beautiful folk music in the world.'

The Irish language has influenced our Irish-English speech in several ways. To begin with: it has determined the popular pronunciation. A couple of centuries ago or more the people had another substitute for this th namely d, and this sound was then considered almost a national characteristic; so that in the song of `Lillibulero' [1687] the English author [Thomas Wharton, 1640-1715] puts this pronunciation all through in the mouth of the Irishman:-

Dere was an ould prophecy found in a bog,
[`Ireland shall be ruled by an ass and a dog,'
And now dis prophecy's come to pass,
For Talbot's de dog, and James is de ass.]

The second way in which our English is influenced by Irish is in vocabulary. When our Irish forefathers began to adopt English, they brought with them from their native language many single Irish words and used them among their newly acquired English words. Irish words such as shamrock, whiskey, bother, blarney, are now to be found in every English Dictionary. The third way is in idiom. Most of these idiomatic phrases are simply translations from Irish; and when the translations are literal, Englishmen often find it hard or impossible to understand them.

Colonies of English people became particularly numerous in the time of Elizabeth [I., 1533-1603]. And so the native Irish people learned to speak Elizabethan English - the very language used by Shakespeare; and in a very considerable degree the old Gaelic people and those of English descent retain it to this day. For our people are very conservative in retaining old customs and forms of speech. Many words accordingly that are discarded as old-fashioned - or dead and gone - in England, are still flourishing - alive and well - in Ireland.

Assertion by Negative of Opposite

Assertions are often made by using the negative of the opposite assertion. A usual remark among us conveying mild approval is `that's not bad.' An old man has tired himself dancing and says:- `A glass of whiskey will do us no harm after that.' This curious way of speaking, which is very general among all classes of people in Ireland and in every part of the country, is often used in the Irish language, from which we have imported it into our English.

Rye bread will do you good,
Barley bread will do you no harm,
Wheaten bread will sweeten your blood,
Oaten bread will strengthen your arm.

An unpopular person is going away:-

Joy be with him and a bottle of moss,
And if he don't return he's no great loss.

Idioms derived from the Irish language

What is called in French a cheville is a phrase interjected into a line of poetry merely to complete either the measure or the rhyme, with little or no use besides. The practice of using chevilles was very Bard & Harper from John Derricke's Images of Ireland (1581) common in old Irish poetry, and a bad practice it was; for many a good poem is quite spoiled by the constant and wearisome recurrence of these chevilles. For instance here is a translation of a couple of verses from `The Voyage of Maildune':-

They met with an island after sailing - wonderful the guidance.
The third day after, on the end of the rod - deed of power -
The chieftain found - it was a very great joy - a cluster of apples.

In modern Irish popular poetry we have chevilles also; of which I think the commonest is the little phrase gan go, `without a lie'; and this is often reflected in our Anglo-Irish songs. In `Handsome Sally' these lines occur:-

Young men and maidens I pray draw near -
The truth to you I will now declare -
How a fair young lady's heart was won
All by the loving of a farmer's son.

And in another of our songs:-

Good people all I pray draw near -
No lie I'll tell to ye -
About a lovely fair maid,
And her name is Polly Lee.

In the modern Irish language the verse rhymes are assonantal. Assonance is the correspondence of the vowels: the consonants count for nothing. Thus fair, may, saint, blaze, there, all rhyme assonantally. As it is easy to find words that rhyme in this manner, the rhymes generally occur much oftener in Anglo-Irish verse than in pure English, in which the rhymes are what English grammarians call perfect. I will give just one example here, a free translation of an elegy, rhyming like its original. To the ear of a person accustomed to assonance, the rhymes here are as satisfying as if they were perfect English rhymes.

You remember our neighbour MacBrady we buried last   y e a r:
His death it amazed me and dazed me with sorrow and   g r i e f;
From cradle to grave his name was held in   e s t e e m:
For at fairs and at wakes there was no one like him for a   s p r e e;
And 'tis he knew the way how to make a good cag of pot t h e e n.
He'd make verses in Gaelic quite aisy most plazing to   r e a d;
And he knew how to plaze the fair maids with his soothering   s p e e c h.
He could clear out a fair at his aise with his ash clehal p e e n;
But ochone he's now laid in his grave in the churchyard of   K e e l.

The Devil and his 'Territory'

Bad as the devil is he has done us some service in Ireland by providing us with a fund of anecdotes and sayings full of drollery and fun. Dick Millikin of Cork (the poet of `The Groves of Blarney') was notoriously a late riser. One morning as he was going very late to business, one of his neighbours, a Quaker, met him. `Ah friend Dick thou art very late to-day: remember the early bird picks the worm.' `The devil mend the worm for being out so early,' replied Dick.

[Joseph] Damer of Shronell [1629-1720] was reputed to be the richest man in Ireland - a sort of Irish Croesus: so that `as rich as Damer' has become a proverb in the south of Ireland. An Irish peasant song-writer, philosophising on the vanity of riches, says

There was ould Paddy Murphy had money galore,
And Damer of Shronell had twenty times more -
They are now on their backs under nettles and stones.

Damer's house in ruins is still to be seen at Shronell, four miles west of Tipperary town. The story goes that he got his money by selling his soul to the devil for as much gold as would fill his boot.

On the appointed day the devil came with his pockets well filled with guineas and sovereigns, as much as he thought was sufficient to fill any boot. But meantime Damer had removed the heel and fixed the boot in the floor, with a hole in the boards underneath, opening into the room below. The devil flung in handful after handful till his pockets were empty, but still the boot was not filled. He then sent out a signal, on which a crowd of little imps arrived all laden with gold coins, which were emptied into the boot, and still no sign of its being filled. He had to send them many times for more, till at last he succeeded in filling the room beneath as well as the boot; on which the transaction was concluded.

Grammar and Pronunciation

The Irish schoolmasters did their best - generally with success - to master English. This they did in a large measure from books. As they were naturally inclined to show forth their learning, they made use, as much as possible, of long and unusual words, mostly taken from dictionaries, but many coined by themselves from Latin. You heard these words often in conversation, but the schoolmasters most commonly used them in songwriting. As might be expected, the schoolmasters often made mistakes in applying them.

I being quite captivated and so infatuated
I then prognosticated my sad forlorn case;
But I quickly ruminated - suppose I was defaited,
I would not be implicated or treated with disgrace;
So therefore I awaited with my spirits elevated,
And no more I ponderated let what would me befall;
I then to her repated how Cupid had me thrated,
And thus expostulated with The Phoenix of the Hall.

The author of `The Cottage Maid' speaks of the danger of Mercury abducting the lady, even

Though an organising shepherd be her guardian;

where organising is intended to mean playing on an organ, i.e. a shepherd's reed. Sometimes the simple past tense is used for one of the subjunctive past forms. [-> FW#7, FW#13, FW#18]

Oh Father Murphy, had aid come over, the green flag floated from shore to shore

Irish Street Ballad (i.e. would have floated). There is a tendency to put o at the end of some words, such as boy-o, lad-o.

I would hush my lovely laddo
In the green arbutus shadow.

It is well known that three hundred years ago, and even much later, the correct English sound of the diphthong ea was the same as long a in fate: sea pronounced say, &c.

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

This sound has long since been abandoned in England, but is still preserved among the Irish people. You will hear everywhere in Ireland, `a pound of mate,' `a cup of tay,' `you're as deep as the say,' &c. The old sound of ea is still retained - even in England - in the word great; but there was a long contest in the English Parliament over this word. Lord Chesterfield adopted the affected pronunciation (greet), saying that only an Irishman would call it grate. `Single-speech Hamilton' [1729-96] - a Dublin man - stoutly supported grate, and the influence of the Irish orators finally turned the scale.

[Alexander] Pope [1688-1744] rhymes sphere with fair, showing that he pronounced it sphaire. Our hedge schoolmaster did the same thing in his song:-

The plots are fruitless which my foe unjustly did conceive;
The pit he digg'd for me has proved his own untimely grave.

Our people generally retain the old sounds of long e and ei; for they say persaive for perceive, and sevare for severe.

The pardon he gave me was hard and sevare;
'Twas bind him, confine him, he's the
rambler from Clare.

S before long u is sounded sh: Dan Kiely, a well-to-do young farmer, told the people of our neighbourhood that he was now looking out for a wife that would shoot him. In Tipperary the vowel i is generally sounded oi. `Foine day, Mick.' Farther south, and in many places all over Ireland, they do the reverse:- `The kettle is biling';

She smiled on me like the morning sky,
And she won the heart of the prentice bye.


The Irish delighted in sententious maxims and apt illustrations compressed into the fewest possible words. Here is another toast. A happy little family party round the farmer's fire with a big jug on the table (a jug of what, do you think?) The old blind piper is the happiest of all, and holding up his glass says `Here's, if this be war may we never have peace.'

`Oh that's all as I roved out' : to express unbelief in what someone says as quite unworthy of credit. In allusion to songs beginning `As I roved out,' which are generally fictitious.

Exaggeration and Redundancy

We in Ireland are rather prone to exaggeration, perhaps more so than the average run of peoples. Very often the expressions are jocose, or the person is fully conscious of the exaggeration; but in numerous cases there is no joke at all: but downright seriousness. Billy Heffernan played on his fife a succession of jigs and reels that might `cure a paralytic' and set him dancing. A common saying about a person of persuasive tongue or with a beautiful voice in singing:- `He would coax the birds off the bushes.' This is borrowed from the Irish. In the `Lament of Richard Cantillon' (in Irish) he says that at the musical voice of the lady `the seals would come up from the deep, the stag down from the mist-crag, and the thrush from the tree.'

I wish I were on yonder hill,
'Tis there I'd sit and cry my fill,
Till ev'ry tear would turn a mill. [-> FW#8]

We in Ireland are much inclined to redundancy in our speech. It is quite observable - especially to an outsider - that even in our ordinary conversation and in answering simple questions we use more words than we need. We hardly ever confine ourselves to the simple English yes or no; we always answer by a statement. `Does your father keep on the old business still?' `Oh yes certainly he does: how could he get on without it?' Dermot struck the giant and `left him dead without life.' This Irish expression is constantly heard in our English dialect: `he fell from the roof and was killed dead.'

Oh brave King Brian, he knew the way
To keep the peace and to make the hay:
For those who were bad he cut off their head;
And those who were worse he killed them dead.

The Memory of History and of Old Customs

At the end of the seventeenth century, among many other penal enactments, a law was passed that Catholics were not to be educated. Schools were kept secretly in remote places; and from the common plan of erecting these in the shelter of hedges, walls, and groves, the schools came to be known as `Hedge Schools.' These hedge schools kept alive the lamp of learning, till at last the restrictions were removed. Then schools sprang up all over the country, each conducted by a private teacher who lived on the fees paid by his pupils. These schools continued to exist down to our own time, till they were finally broken up by the famine of 1847.

There was extraordinary intellectual activity among the schoolmasters of those times. They often met on Saturdays; and on these occasions certain subjects were threshed out in discussion by the principal men. There was one subject that long divided the teachers of Limerick and Tipperary into two hostile camps of learning - the verb To be. There is a well-known rule of grammar that 'the verb to be takes the same case after it as goes before it.' One party headed by the two Dannahys, father and son, of north Limerick, held that the verb to be governed the case following; while the other, at the head of whom was Mr. Patrick Murray of Kilfinane in south Limerick, maintained that the correspondence of the two cases, after and before, was mere agreement, not government. One of Dannahy's pupils wrote a sort of pedagogic Dunciad:-

Lo, forward he comes, in oblivion long lain,
Great Murray, the soul of the light-headed train;
A punster, a mimic, a jibe, and a quiz,
His acumen stamped on his all-knowing phiz:
He declares that the subsequent noun should agree
With the noun or the pronoun preceding To be.

Another teacher, from Mountrussell, was great in astronomy, and was continually holding forth on his favourite subject and his own knowledge of it. The poet makes him say:-

The course of a comet with ease I can trail,
And with my ferula I measure his tail;
On the wings of pure Science without a balloon
Like Baron Munchausen I visit the moon;
Along the ecliptic and great milky way,
In mighty excursions I soaringly stray;
With legs wide extended on the poles I can stand,
And like marbles the planets I toss in my hand.

One of the ablest of all the Munster teachers of that period was Mr. Patrick Murray, already mentioned. I went to his school for one year when I was very young. It was on the occasion of his coming home one night very late, and not as sober as he should be, when he got `Ballyhooly' and no mistake from his wife. It was after [Thomas] Moore's `The valley lay smiling before me.'

I flew to the room - 'twas not lonely:
My wife and her grawls were in bed;
You'd think it was then and then only
The tongue had been placed in her head.
For there raged the voice that could soften
My very worst pains into bliss,
And those lips that embraced me so often
I dared not approach with a kiss.

A change has come surely upon her:-
The child which she yet did not wane
She flung me - then rolled the clothes on her,
And naked we both now remain.
But had I been a man less forbearing
Your blood would be certainly spilt,
For on my side there's plunging and tearing
And on yours both the blankets and quilt.

I attended a science school in Galbally. I was the delight and joy of that school; for I generally carried in my pocket a little fife from which I could roll off jigs, reels, hornpipes, hop-jigs, song tunes, &c., without limit. Some dozen or more of the scholars were always in attendance in the mornings half an hour or so before the arrival of the master, and then out came the fife, and they cleared the floor for a dance. It was simply magnificent to see and hear Irish piper these athletic fellows dancing on the bare boards with their thick-soled well-nailed heavy shoes - so as to shake the whole house. At last in came the master: there was no cessation; and he took his seat, looking on complacently till that bout was finished, when I put up my fife, and the serious business of the day was commenced.

During Fair-days - all over the country - there were half a dozen or more booths or tents on the fair field, put up by publicans, in which was always uproarious fun; for they were full of people - young and old - eating and drinking, dancing and singing and match-making. There was sure to be a piper or a fiddler for the young people; and usually a barn door, lifted off its hinges - hasp and all - was laid flat, or perhaps two or three doors were laid side by side, for the dancers:-

But they couldn't keep time on the cold earthen floor,
So to humour the music they danced on the door.

There was one particular tune - a jig - which, from the custom of dancing on a door, got the name of `Rattle the hasp.'

`He that calls the tune should pay the piper' is a saying that commemorates one of our dancing customs. A couple are up for a dance: the young man asks the girl in a low voice what tune she'd like, and on hearing her reply he calls to the piper (or fiddler) for the tune. When the dance is ended and they have made their bow, he slips a coin into her hand, which she brings over and places in the hand of the piper.

`I'll make you dance Jack Lattin' - a threat of chastisement, often heard in Kildare. John Lattin [1711-31] of Morristown House county Kildare (near Naas) wagered that he'd dance home to Morristown from Dublin - more than twenty miles - changing his dancing-steps every furlong: and won the wager. `I'll make you dance' is a common threat heard everywhere: but `I'll make you dance Jack Lattin' is ten times worse - `I'll make you dance excessively.' It is worthy of remark that there is a well-known Irish tune called `Jack Lattin,' which some of our Scotch friends have quietly appropriated; and not only that, but have turned Jack himself into a Scotchman by calling the tune `Jockey Latin'! [`Since 'Jack Lattin' was a reel in an era before reels were widely-known and danced in most of Ireland, a casual observer would have found it faster and livelier than other dances.' (Seán Donnelly)] They have done precisely the same with our `Eileen Aroon' [-> FW#21, FW#24] which they call `Robin Adair.' The same Robin Adair - or to call him by his proper name Robert Adair - was a well-known county Wicklow man and a member of the Irish Parliament.

There are current in Ireland many stories of gaugers and pottheen distillers, this one has left its name on a well-known Irish tune:- `Paddy outwitted the gauger,' also called by three other names, `The Irishman's heart for the ladies,' [-> FW#14,FW#20] `Drops of brandy,' and Cummilum (Moore's: `Fairest put on Awhile').

Paddy Fogarty kept a little public-house at the cross-roads in which he sold `parliament,' i.e. legal whiskey on which the duty had been paid; but it was well known that friends could get a little drop of pottheen too, on the sly. One hot July day he was returning home from Thurles with a 10-gallon cag on his back. He he sat down to rest, when who should walk up but the new gauger. `Well my good fellow, what have you got in that cask? Ah, my man, you needn't think of coming over me: I see how it is: I seize this cask in the name of the king.' Poor Paddy begged and prayed - all to no use: the gauger slung up the cag on his back and walked on, with Paddy walking behind - for the gauger's road lay towards Paddy's house. At last when they were near the cross-roads the gauger sat down to rest. `Sorry I am,' says Paddy, `to see your honour so dead bet up: sure you're sweating like a bull: maybe I could relieve you.' And with that he pulled his legal permit out of his pocket and laid it on the cag. The gauger was astounded: `Why the d-- didn't you show me that before?' `Why then 'tis the way your honour,' says Paddy, `I didn't like to make so bould as I wasn't axed to show it?' So the gauger, after a volley of something that needn't be particularised here, walked off with himself without an inch of the tail.

A common exclamation of drivers for urging on a horse, heard everywhere in Ireland, is hupp, hupp! It has found its way even into our nursery rhymes; as when a mother is dancing her baby up and down on her knee, she sings:-

How many miles to Dublin? Three score and ten,
Will we be there by candle light? Yes and back again:
Hupp, hupp my little horse, hupp, hupp again.

This Irish word has come down from a period thirteen or fourteen hundred years ago. In the library of St. Gall in Switzerland there is a manuscript written in the eighth century by some scholarly Irish monk: and in this the old writer glosses or explains many Latin words by corresponding Irish words. Among others the Latin interjection ei or hei (meaning ho! quick! come on) is explained by upp or hupp.

A Variety of Phrases

When a person singing a song has to stop up because he forgets the next verse, he says (mostly in joke) 'there's a hole in the ballad' - throwing the blame on the old ballad sheet on which the words were imperfect on account of a big hole.

Plato to a young man who asked his advice about getting married:- `If you don't get married you'll be sorry: and if you do you'll be sorry.' Our Irish cynic is more bitter:-

If a man doesn't marry he'll rue it sore:
And if he gets married he'll rue it more.

`To cure a person's hiccup' means to make him submit, to bring him to his senses, to make him acknowledge his error, by some decided course of action. The origin of this expression is the general belief through Ireland that a troublesome fit of hiccup may be cured by suddenly making some very startling and alarming announcement to the person. Fiachra MacBrady, a schoolmaster and poet, of Stradone in Cavan (1712), wrote a humorous description of his travels through Ireland of which the translation has this verse:-

I drank till quite mellow, then like a brave fellow,
Began for to bellow and shouted for more;
But my host held his stick up, which soon cured my hiccup,
As no cash I could pick up to pay off the score.

The host was the publican, and the stick that he held up was the tally stick on which were marked in nicks all the drinks poor MacBrady had taken - a usual way of keeping accounts in old times.


Cailey; a friendly evening visit in order to have a gossip. There are usually several persons at a cailey, and along with the gossiping talk there are songs or music. Irish céilidh.
Kimmel-a-vauleen; uproarious fun. Irish cimel-a'-mh ilín, literally `rub-the-bag.' There is a fine Irish jig with this name [-> O'Neill's].
Piper's invitation; 'He came on the piper's invitation,' i.e. uninvited. A translation of Irish cuireadh-píobaire (curra-peebara). Pipers sometimes visited the houses of well-to-do people and played - Irish dancing to the great delight of the boys and girls - and they were sure to be well treated. But that custom is long since dead and gone.

Come-all-ye; an old country song; from the beginning of many of the songs:- `Come all ye tender Christians,' &c. [A nickname] intended to be reproachful, after the usual habit of many `superior' Irishmen to vilify their own country and countrymen and all their customs and peculiarities.
Cronaun, croonaun; a low humming air or song, any continuous humming sound: `the old woman was cronauning in the corner.' [-> croon(er)]
Husho or rather huzho; a lullaby, a nurse-song, a cradle-song; especially the chorus, consisting of a sleepy cronaun or croon-like 'shoheen-sho Loo-lo-lo,' &c. Irish suantraighe (soontree). `The murmur of the ocean huzhoed me to sleep.' (`M'Kenna's Dream.')
Ullagone; an exclamation of sorrow; a name applied to any lamentation:- `So I sat down ... and began to sing the Ullagone.'

Skellig List - On the Great Skellig rock in the Atlantic, off the coast of Kerry, are the ruins of a monastery, to which people at one time went on pilgrimage. The tradition is still kept up in some places; in connection with the custom that marriages are not solemnised in Lent, i.e. after Shrove Tuesday. Young persons who should have been married before Ash-Wednesday, but were not, were supposed to set out on pilgrimage to Skellig on Shrove Tuesday night. It was usual for a local bard to compose what was called a `Skellig List' - a jocose rhyming catalogue of the unmarried men and women of the neighbourhood who went on the sorrowful journey. Some of these were witty and amusing: but occasionally they were scurrilous and offensive doggerel.

Poor Andy Callaghan with doleful nose
Came up and told his tale of many woes:-
Some lucky thief from him his sweetheart stole,
Which left a weight of grief upon his soul:
With flowing tears he sat upon the grass,
And roared sonorous like a braying ass.

Aroon; a term of endearment, my love, my dear: Eileen Aroon, the name of a celebrated Irish air [-> FW#21]: vocative of Irish rún (roon), a secret, a secret treasure.
Cooleen or coulin; a fair-haired girl. This is the name of a celebrated Irish air [-> FW#21]. From cúl the back (of the head), and fionn, white or fair:- cúil-fhionn, (pron. cooleen or coolin).
Cruiskeen; a little cruise for holding liquor. The Cruiskeen Laun is the name of a well-known Irish air - the Scotch call it `John Anderson my Jo' [-> FW#21]. Irish cruiscín, a pitcher: lán (laun), full: i.e. in this case full of pottheen.

Bowraun; a sieve-shaped vessel for holding or measuring out corn, with the flat bottom made of dried sheepskin stretched tight; sometimes used as a rude tambourine, from which it gets the name bowraun; Irish bodhur (pron. bower here), deaf, from the bothered or indistinct sound.
Bother; merely the Irish word bodhar, deaf, used both as a noun and a verb in English (in the sense of deafening, annoying, troubling, perplexing, teasing): a person deaf or partially deaf is said to be bothered. It was first brought into use by Irishmen, such as Sheridan, Swift and Sterne. In its primary sense of deaf or to deafen, bother is used in the oldest Irish documents: thus in the Book of Leinster we have:- Ro bodrais sind oc imradud do maic, `You have made us deaf (you have bothered us) talking about your son': and a similar expression is in use at the present day in the very common phrase `don't bother me' (don't deafen me, don't annoy me).
Jokawn; an oaten stem cut off above the joint, with a tongue cut in it, which sounds a rude kind of music when blown by the mouth. Irish geoc n.

Leprachaun; a sort of fairy, called by several names in different parts of Ireland:- luricaun, cluricaun, lurragadaun, loghryman, luprachaun. Irish luchorp n, from lu, little, and corp n, the dim. of corp, a body:- `weeny little body.' The leprachaun is a very tricky little fellow. If you catch him and hold him, he will show you where treasure is hid, or give you a purse in which you will always find money. But if you once take your eyes off him, he is gone in an instant. I never heard of any man who succeeded in getting treasure from him, except one, a lucky young fellow named MacCarthy, who, according to the peasantry, built the castle of Carrigadrohid near Macroom in Cork with the money.

In a shady nook one moonlight night, a leprachaun I spied;
With scarlet cap and coat of green; a cruiskeen by his side.
'Twas tick tack tick, his hammer went, upon a weeny shoe;
And I laughed to think of a purse of gold: but the fairy was laughing too.

With tip-toe step and beating heart, quite softly I drew nigh:
There was mischief in his merry face; a twinkle in his eye.
He hammered and sang with tiny voice, and drank his mountain dew:
And I laughed to think he was caught at last: but the fairy was laughing too.

As quick as thought I seized the elf; `Your fairy purse!' I cried;
`The purse!' he said - `tis in her hand - that lady at your side!'
I turned to look: the elf was off! Then what was I to do?
O, I laughed to think what a fool I'd been; and the fairy was laughing too.

Elegant. This word is used among us, not in its proper sense, but to designate anything good or excellent of its kind:- `That's an elegant pig of yours, Jack?' Our milkman once offered me a present for my garden - `An elegant load of dung.'

I haven't the janius for work, for 'twas never the gift of the Bradys;
But I'd make a most elegant Turk, for I'm fond of tobacco and ladies.


English as We Speak it in Ireland (Link updated: 2006)

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