[From Manx Dialect, 1934]
Short phrases in Manx Idiomatic usages Peculiarities of syntax Proverbial sayings Local allusions The spoken word The passage of time Old age and death Sundry expressions.
These have naturally been a wasting asset in the dialect ever since the change-over from Manx to English was finally accomplished. The work of George Quarrie, who wrote of country life as it was in the 'fifties and 'sixties, shows that the talk of the people was then rich in them, but they did not bear transplantation, and most of them withered and perished in the uncongenial soil. A few still survive under glass. We hear 'shoh slaynt,' ' here's health,' when men drink together.
' Oie vie,' ' good-night,' is a parting salutation.
' Kyns ta shiu ? ' ' how are you ? ' ' fastyr mie eu,' ' good evening,' and 'gur mie eu,' ' thank you,' are also favoured by those who wish to preserve the Manx language without learning it. (' Gur-eh-mie-eu ' is equivalent, literally, to 'good-bye '-'good-be-with-you.') These expressions and others are uttered a little self-consciously, but ' chree,' ' veen,' and ' villish,' terms of endearment, offer their services spontaneously when children and sweethearts are addressed ; and great surprise will occasionally extort a ' jeeagh ! ' 'look ! ' ' Uss shoh,' ' thou here,' an emphatic form of address, survives in drama, if not in real life " Well, Master John James Daugherty, uss shoh. Thou have grown mighty big and high " (Shimmin, Luss ny Graih, page 16).
' Rouyr sheear as rouyr shiar,' ' too far East and too far West,' was a mild rebuke to boyish fervour. ' Cleaysh liauyr,' ' long-ear,' meant one who was better at listening than talking. These two phrases are remembered in a friend's family, though not used now. (T.D.).
' Augh ' is too deep-seated and racial to be wholly supplanted. The final guttural in this exclamation has been dropped by the Latin, English, Scandinavian, French and Brythonic peoples, but retained by Gaelic speakers and their descendants, and by their Germanic brethren. The English have preserved it in ' ugh ' (sounded ' oogh ') to express extreme repulsion. The Manxman, having faced Westward at first and then Eastward, has modified his Gaelic interjection to ' aw ' for ordinary use, but he reverts to the original form to express his stronger feelings, chiefly those of regret or disgust. See also " Augh-augh " in Part II.
It may be doubted whether anybody now says ' crid shen ? ' for ' what's that ? ' or ' shass steirg ! ' for ' stand aside ! ', or ' graih Yee ort ! ' for ' God love you ! ' under the strongest emotional stress imaginable. The longer the phrase of pure Manx the poorer its chances of survival, obviously. Sometimes the two languages were jumbled together. When the first reaping-machine on the Island was seen at work in Kirk Bride an admiring spectator shouted out, " It's giar' as chit-reesh "-i.e., " it's cut and come again." " Gow lesh, Billy; try, man, and keep on thy coshey " was an exhortation to Billy the Bardoonagh at some merry gathering to maintain his perpendicularity. Half a century ago such expressions came easily from an habitual bilinguist, who would mix English with his Manx and Manx with his English at his own sweet will ; but his boys at school would at the same time be getting the Manx weeded out of their English by means of that deep-searching implement, the cane.*
* A contributor (" C.W. S.") to Notes and Queries, 6th ser., vii., 316, could hear of only one person in the whole Island who could speak no English. This was an old woman of Cregneish named " Kagan," and she was celebrated for her ignorance in this respect. The date of the enquiry was 1881.
The way in which particles, especially prepositions, are employed, attracts the attention of strangers accustomed to more or less standard English. Educated Manxmen who have lived long in England are liable to betray their nationality thus, even when writing on the subject of the dialect.
'With ' as a preposition preceded by an adverb of direction enters into a large variety of idiomatic phrases. To be 'up with ' someone is to be on good terms with him, 'in with him' in the corresponding English colloquialism, which has the same flavour of self-advantage : " They axed us in to supper, for Billy was ter'ble well up with the oul' people " (" The Ranther's Goose "). " If ye're not up with the gaffe! ye'll not get the job." ' Up with ' is also used in the quite different sense of ' getting one's own back ' ; " I'll be up with her for that," I'll get even with her.
In other usages 'with ' implies going speedily of hastily. Used with the first and third persons it is slightly rhetorical: " Up I jumped and away with me to Ramsey " (for 'away I went') ; " He clapped on his hat and off with him to Kelly the Lawyer " , " It came on to rain, so back with us to the house," or with them, or the children. This is a very common Hibernicism. In the second person the locution is imperative : " Down with you to the gate and shut it," which is less characteristically Celtic. Used impersonally it is quite English: " Over with the helm and meet it ! " " Away with those cards quick, here's the minister ! " But in the third person of the indicative both past and future the usage is, I think, a more Manx than English : " He up with his fist an knocked him down " ; " Garrat will in wis them in theer places as fas' as you can count " (Rydings 87) i.e., reassemble the works of the clock.
To boast or brag ' out ' of something, or to ' take a brag out of it,' is to boast of it ; similarly, " He's proud out of his garden," or his midden, or anything that is his. But to ' call him out of his name ' is to abuse a man. ' Out ' is also used intensively, as in ' frightened out,' extremely frightened ; compare the English ' tired out,' ' worn out.'
" There's a nice smell of it," there's a nice smell from it, it has a nice smell. " He was vexed of her," he was vexed with her. To be ' used of ' something is to be used to it. To ' take of ' a thing (stress on ' of is to accept it against one's will, to put up with it : " He is only taking of it for thy sake " (Shimmin, Dooinney Moyllee, page 20).
To ' say bad for' a person or thing is to speak ill of them, as in the English idiom, 'it speaks badly for him.' " He did no good afterwards, and he wasn't for nothing for himself " (Roeder in Moore's Manx Folk-lore, page 50) ; he could do nothing for himself -after destroying an ancient cemetery. " The for he did it " is the reason why he did it. To be named 'for' another person is to be named after him, in the English idiom, or on him, in the French. ' For' is used for ' by ' in specifying a date : " It'll finished for Saturday " ; " He'll be twelve months old for next Hollantide Day." ' For' with present participle signifies intention : " He wasn't for coming Are you for buying it ? "
Persons or things that are ' in ' are present, alive, or existent. ' In through' is a compound adverb which points in an inward direction: " Thou had better be getting the bed put ready in through " (Douglas, St. Matthew's Eve). " Come in through " is an invitation to enter the house. ' In under' means underneath, usually in the sense of getting underneath rather than merely being there : " The cat ran in under the dresser." ' Give in ' (admit), is used transitively : " Now there's one thing I'll give in. I do like thy tea, Mistress Corkhill " (Shimmin, Luss ny Graih, page 5).
When a name is being specified it is followed by' to ' " The harb they call varvine to," the herb they call vervain ; " They're calling 'Mr.' to him in. the newspapers." 'To his trade' means 'by trade':
" A tailor he was to his trade " (Brown 498). A person or a statement is depended ' to ' : " You may depend to that " ; " You may depend to him finishing it in time " ; " No dependin' To the talk with people " (Brown 430)-people's talk.
' Till ' (often pronounced ' tell ') is used for ' than ' in comparisons, and for ' to ' in a directional sense " Mrs. Corlett's Jemmy's oulder till our Harry, but he doesn't rache till Harry's shoulder for all "-for all that.
The ramifications of ' at ' have been fully analysed in the V.A.D. Most often it expresses possession or agency. This use is, I believe, confined to the Isle of Man.
Prepositions endow the verb 'come' with a wealth of different meanings. To 'come on' anyone (with the stress on ' come ') is to make an insinuation against him: " Who are you comin' on with that ? "-when , you say that ? To ' come over ' (with the stress on ' over ') is to repeat something that has been said : ' " It's not every person I would come over the like , to " (Douglas, The Lips of the Sea). " Don't come, over his boghned to me "-his nonsense. This has no relation to the noun' come-over ' (stress on' come '), a temporary or newly-arrived resident on the Island. To 'come with,' of things, is to respond to an effort, hence to prosper : " The oul' Ranther was tuggln' arra wing, an' the piece came with him " in carving (" The Ranther's Goose "). " Things are comin' better with me now," I am being more successful. To 'come to' (pronounced 'toe') is to calm down, see reason. " She came to, though, an' axt us up to dinner next day " (" The Ranther's Goose "). Also, to recover from an illness: "The boy has come to fine " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 24).
The use of adverbs with the verb 'let' deserves notice. To 'let on ' is to make believe, pretend ; but in the negative, ' don't let on,' it means ' don't tell what you know,' or 'don't show that you know.' Examples: " Let on you'll do it for him," " let on you don't care " ; but " don't let on we did it ," " don't let on you notice anything." These expressions can be heard in Ireland and Liverpool, also. Not only are they odd in themselves, but doubly curious in that the negative is not the converse of the affirmative. ' Let with ' means 'let it pass,' ' let him have his way,' or his say: " Aw, let with, man, let with! He'll not trouble you long." ' Letting with' as a verbal adjective means, consequently, remiss, procrastinative " My failin'-too slow anal lettin' with " (Shimmin, The Dooinney Moyllee, page 10). " Here I've been letting with, letting with, and never a coat of paint on the gate for years " (Shimmin, Illiam Kodhere's Will, page 10).
Among a host of syntactic peculiarities, inversion and ellipsis are especially striking.
Inversion is the more frequent. An adjective (acting as an adverb) is often placed after instead of before another adjective which it qualifies : " Aw, the docthar was gennal morthal," was mortal friendly; " Daa was thoughtful shockin'," Dad was extremely sympathetic and helpful; " She was lookin' happy thremenjous " ; " It's a fine day mighty." " Strange uncommon " do these locutions sound to foreign ears. Inversion of the participle is heard in another common form of phrase describing the weather: " It's a gran' day doin' " for ' it's doing (is) a grand day '-or any other sort of day. Similarly in " He was a bit sick taken," " She's a big girl gettin', is Essie," or " You're not too well lookin' at all." In another formula the adjective is brought forward : " How dangerous is it ? " how is it dangerous ? " What imperent is Ned an' me ? " in what way are we impudent ?-in reply to the accusation. 'Up' and 'down' follow the names of places, according to situation : " The Crowes was livin' at the Neary up-aye, for hundhreds of years," living up at the Neary. " He saw the Fairy Pig jus' ; at the Raggatt down."
Ellipsis is an occasional feature of the dialect. In Brown's dialect poetry it is overworked, and hundreds of examples could be quoted of his omission of principal verbs, auxiliaries and pronouns. "And him goin' puttin' his hand on her head, And strooghin', And whatever he said, And never thinkin', and just as well; " " And I out on the door "-went out; " It's more till me "-more than I can understand, one too many for me ; " Before the fire, or was a fire " (Brown 375, 44, 595, 427). " Our Thobm know'd mos' of the voters in that parish, 'an' a fit an' proper pesson,' an' carried munamerous " (Rydings, " Our Kerree "). " There isn't half salt in this broth," not half enough salt.
Inversion and ellipsis are combined in a panicstricken man's exclamation : " What better I do ! what better I do ! " (Shimmin, The Dooinney Moyllee, page 34).
The infinitive is sometimes used for the indicative, as in Gaelic and in the Anglo-Irish dialect: " Yes, he was pardoned, and me to know't " ; " But coaxed, did Jack. . . . And Harry to help him " (Brown 492, 542 ; also 515 foot, 519 middle). " When harvis' was jus' about done arram, and the days to shorten lek, our Juan began to gerr about again " (Rydings 43). " Me to say it and God to do it " in charm-formulas appears to be the same construction, which has been brought over from Manx Gaelic. Joyce, English as We Speak It, page 33, instances " what should happen but John to stumble," but without alluding to the more characteristically Irish part of the sentence.
The definite article is sometimes inserted before an adjective, where it is equivalent to 'how' or 'so': " The proud she was ! " " The high you wouldn't believe ! " An adjective may be used instead of a noun : " Her eyes all swellin' With the big of tears " (Brown 178). An adverb may be used as an adjective a pedlar sells a man a liniment with the warning " for outwardly use, though, Juan ! " (Shimmin, The Dooinney Moyllee, page 9). The same superfluous termination may be affixed to an adverb : " I'm not overly fond of that sort " (Dooinney Moyllee, page 17). Double comparatives are frequent: ' more happier,' 'more wetter,' ' more lenienter,' ' more safeter.'
" The man that was for the ghos' to him " (Roeder, Lioar Manninagh, iii., 158)-i.e., the man that was passing himself off to him as a ghost ; and " I have heard of many men, and some women too, that have been for horses for them all night " (Roeder again)that have been acting as horses for them, the fairies this is, I believe, purely a Gaelic idiom.
" There was a man there that I couldn't remember his name " ; " A house that its roof was falling in " Joyce, English as We Speak It, page 52, has several specimens of this idiom, which he explains as being translations direct from the Irish.
' Had have ' may replace ' would have.' " Nelly had ha' took and went Over the mountains . . . but the misthress said not " (Brown 301).
William Harrison's two Mona Miscellanies contain many proverbial sayings and local allusions. An extensive collection of proverbs in English and Manx, by G. W. Wood, appeared in Folk-lore, v., 229-274. Manx Proverbs, a pamphlet by Morrison and Roeder, should also be consulted; some of their items, however, are not proverbs in the ordinary sense, but moral epigrams coined by some cultivated mind.
A few pithy maxims remain unrecorded as such. " It's a slippery stone that's at a rich man's door " (Douglas, St. Matthew's Eve), implies that little trust should be placed in the wealthy.
" There's no pocket in the shroud " (Shimmin, Illiam Kodhere's Will, page 17) rebukes the elderly miser.
" He sees every penny as big as a cart-wheel " (Juan Noa, The Raformah), is less discomforting but equally witty.
" The young may go, but the old must go," i.e., die. " He that goes from home without good cause will soon get good cause to come back " (in Manx in Blanche Nelson's MSS.). A rebuke to one who goes gadding about on pleasure.
" Money's not found on the shore " admonishes a wastrel or clinches a lamentable account of losses or expenses. It has been found there, nevertheless, and in large quantities, if certain stories be true.
" Well, things mus' allis be somehow, I s'pose, as oul' Meary said," tells us that Mary sat in the Porch, probably at her spinning-wheel.
If you are looking for something that is right under your nose you are told that " If it had horns it would have pushed you."
" That bates Monachan, an' Monachan bate the Divil " expresses wonder or admiration. Inquiry will elicit the information that Monachan was a giant in the days of Finn MacCowll, and Finn was another. 'Monachan,' however, may be the monks collectively, or may even stand for ' Manannan.' It is ' Mollaghan ' in Mr. Kneen's play, Yn Blaa Sooree, page 21. The country-bred Manxman has a strong dislike to going out in the morning, and particularly to doing anything in the nature of work, without having first broken his fast. Being given to this habit, or to part of it, I have sometimes been assailed with a proverbial saying that "An empty sack cannot stand." If I parried it with an original motto of my own, that a full sack cannot bend, it did not seem to meet with approval, nor can I discover that it has passed into currency as an antistrophe.
Most of the local characterisations and allusions in the next section might be defined as proverbial.
The Insular local nicknames are, as everywhere, mostly uncomplimentary and satirical.
" The Laxey perkins, getting in their own way," or " falling over each other," imputes the clumsiness of porpoises to the men, at any rate, of the mining village.
I have heard a saying in the South West of the Island that " if the gandher went to Lonan he'd get a wife," with a derisive stress on ' gandher ' which implied a superfluity of single women in that parish.
Kirk Santon is said to contain " the poorest land, the finest horses, and the proudest people."
The Dalby and Ronnag districts have in past times been bywords for their alleged lack of wealth and wit. " Royal Ramsey " got its epithet from the royal visits with which it has been especially favoured.
Lezayre parish has been called " the Garden of the Island."
Other local nicknames have been mentioned in Part II. (see " Bonkans," " Skitters," " Stunners," " Weeds").
" On the Island or on the North " was an expression used in the South in the days when difficulties of communication made the Northside almost as distant and foreign as the mainland. Cf. " Foreigner," Part II. " You'll not die on the North " was a sly allusion to the fact that capital punishment was carried out at Castletown, formerly the seat of Government.
" Till Peel Fair is in the Harbour " or " held in the Harbour " is a picturesque way of saying ' for ever ' ; contrariwise, " when Peel Fair is in the Harbour " means 'never.'
" ' Struan Barrule,' used contemptuously, was frequently applied to those who boasted of valour, but were reputed ' bravest most when danger was not near.' It was said to have owed its origin to a man who asserted he had ' given a bit of his mind ' to the Deemster who non-suited him in a Castle Rushen Court. It was discovered later that his crushing rebuke was administered when crossing Struan Barrule on his way home, six miles from the Castle and the Deemster " (LaMothe, Manx Yarns, pages 133-5). " There," says LaMothe, " sight is first lost of Castletown " ; but as a matter of topographical accuracy, Castletown is out of sight nearly a mile before Struan Barrule is reached-by the usual route, at any rate.
Neighbours cannot be wholly ignored, even when they are regarded with dislike and slight contempt. Many low-class Irish incomers swelled the ranks of the Manx pedlars and beggarmen from the 16th century onwards, and in the 19th century, if not earlier, they were introduced to help in the harvests ; hence the Irishman figures conspicuously in popular phraseology. " Irishman's weather " is changeable weather which cannot be trusted. The Irishman is credited with a paradoxical belief that in a gale the wind will blow harder down the lee side of a mountain than on the weather side. " Like the Irishman " is a disparaging simile ; one who goes about inattentively or wears a vacant look is " thinking of nothing, like the Irishman." " You're looking reg'lar Irish " a dirty or untidy child will be told. " Hit him, he's Irish " is said when playful blows are going, or something is being hammered. " Do your best and cuss the Irish," or " do your best and to hell with the Irish," is meant to encourage the faint of heart. In some compensation for these slights an exceptionally large potato may be praised by calling it " a Home-ruler." " Good for Ireland, good for Man" relates to the weather. Most of the Island's weather comes from the West.
The Scotch seem to have received very little attention from the phrase-makers ; the English none at all, except for one or two contemptuous nicknames bestowed on the Lancashire trippers. The inhabitants of the Netherlands are recognized as a race not easily baffled : " Well, if that don't bate the Dutch ! " " It'd bate the Dutch to know what we're wantin' with the 'lectricity." Or are these clever people ' Dutchmen ' in the sailors' sense of the word Germans ?
In a land where talk is as plentiful as rain in November it is natural to find many expressive phrases relating to this faculty.
To ' come over' another person's words is to repeat them. (Examples on page 158.)
To 'give lip to ' a matter is to talk about it, unwisely perhaps, but not in the English slang sense of 'giving cheek.' " Meg's been givin' lip to some capers about wutches," Margaret has been venting some nonsensical notions on that subject.
To 'give a Manx answer' is to counter a question with another question-reputedly a Scotch habit also. To ' have a big song ' is to have a lot to say about something, to exaggerate a matter. "If his little finger aches, he'll have a big song about it."
To 'have it to say ' is to be in the habit of saying, with good grounds-usually something derogatory. " The neighbours had it to say that she wore out more blankets than shoes " (Morrison, Manx Fairy Tales, page 8). Sometimes " more sheets than shoes."
To ' hold one's luff ' is to be discreet, tactful, diplomatic. " And knew who she had, and'd houla her luff, Manceuvrin' accordintly " (Brown 574) ; knew whom she had to deal with. Nautical.
' A lie with the lid on' is a workmanlike falsehood, well thought out, conscientiously constructed, and complete in every detail.
' Not a word out of you ! ' means ' don't you dare to utter a word ! ' ' Not a word out of him ' means that he did not utter a word. " He jus' sits an' smooks an' spits in the fire, an' not a word out of him the whole everin' " complained the girl to her mother.
To 'put a mouth on ' one's thoughts is to put them into words. "What will ye take? Come, put a mouth on it, man! " Of a song, to sing it.
To 'put a big mouth on' a matter is to exaggerate its importance, make a fuss about it, complain excessively. " If we are poor we'll not put a big mouth on it " (Douglas, The Answer).
To 'put a poor mouth on' one's affairs is, in the same vein, to make the worst of things.
To 'say hey or haw.' Whoso is incapable of doing this much is clearly no conversationalist. " He's that shy he can't say hey nor haw for himself." As shy as a ghost, in fact, which can't speak till it's spoken to.
' Say so ! ' is about equivalent to ' forsooth,' 'indeed.' (See " Dy-ghra " in Part II.)
To ' talk to the birds ' is the last resource of an incurable chatterbox who can get nobody else to listen. " Me head is weary listenin' to ye. If I wasn' here ye'd talk to the birds " (Shimmin, The Charm, page 4). " Talk ? that one 'ud talk to the gulls ! "
To ' talk the hind leg off a pot ' speaks for itself. The pot to suffer must have been the old-fashioned cooking-pot which could either be slung by its handle to a hook depending from the chimney (see " Rackentree " and " Swee " in Part II), or stood on its three little legs in the hearth. Which of these was the hind one is a matter for enquiry.
Certain expressions that fall under this heading are strongly idiomatic and redolent of their original Manx.
' On the day ' or night (the Manx er lhaa or er noght), are equivalent to ' during the day ' or night : " He'll not be back on the day." ' By the day' means day by day, every day: " Jem is gettin' crosser be the
day " (Shimmin, The Charm, page 3). 'On the week' is throughout it, every day as a regular thing : " If I didn' finish me washin' o' Mondays I'd be doin' it on the week."
' Times ' is ' many a time Times I'd be goin' to bed without any supper." ' In times,' at times, now and again : " I enjoy a pipe in times." ' Times about,' in turn : " Dhrink'n' times about till avary dhrop was done arram " (Rydings 125) ; ' arram,' at them. 'Through time,' in a while, in the course of time " Things would come right for them through time," and " Gather a few sticks and they would dry through time " (Douglas, The Answer).
' Before now ' is long ago, or for a long time back. "As the man said before now" often endorses a proverbial saying.
' From that out ' means thenceforward. " They got plenty of fish from that out " ; i.e., after they had followed the witch-doctor's instructions.
'The day is with me ' can be interpreted in two ways. The more usual meaning now is that things are going well with me ; but when used by the older generation it may signify that most of the day is still at my disposal, I have plenty of time in hand.
' The edge of night ' is the evening twilight or ' lil everin'.' The evening as a division of the day begins soon after noontide ; the afternoon is a modern innovation.
' Between the lights ' is the time between starlight (or moonlight) and sunrise. This was the hour consecrated to lifting magical and medicinal herbs, to skimming the dew off a neighbour's cow-pasture, to scooping out and carrying home the precious soil from a ' fairy-hole ' at the meeting-place of three farmlands, or to dropping a white pebble into it.
' A moon of gobbags ' is a long space of time, ' a blue moon.' " Many a thing . . . a quiet man living in the one place would never hear in a moon of gobbags" (Douglas, The Lips of the Sea, page io). ' Gobbags,' dogfish.
' The age of man ' is the allotted span, three-score years and ten. " I'll be the age of man come next Hollantide."
To 'be gone in age ' is to have grown very old. 'Going down the hill' translates a native metaphor for ageing, feeling the effects of age-' Goll sheese dy lhergy.' To 'go West,' 'gone West,' when said of a thing, implies that it is lost or destroyed ; when said of a person, it is a euphemism for dying. (This expression was in use long before the European war.) Consequently, ' the sun is going West with me ' means that I am getting old. ' The sun's gone down on him,' he has died: "The sun went down on him a Wednesday " (Caine, The Manxman, part 3, chap. ix).
' Going round land' is another euphemism, not peculiar to seafarers, for dying. The same expression is used in Cornwall.
To 'do the last of it ' is, for a human being or an animal, to die.
' Lying in the sheets ' means laid out for burial.
'Against the throw' describes a cross-grained disposition or perverse course of action. " He's always against the throw." " It's no use goin' agen the throw," no use kicking against the pricks.
To ' air one's-self ' is to give one's-self airs. " A second mate he was, an' his wife airin' herself as if she was Queen Victoria."
An ' air of fire ' is a small fire in a grate. " Tell our oul' man to put an air of foire in the parlour for him, for the night is cool " (Cushag, " Hollantide ").
' All of a slap,' all of a sudden. " All of a slap I seen by my side the shadder of a person " (Morrison, Lioar Manninagh, iv, 159).
' Another pair of oars,' a totally different matter. " But the evenin' was another pair of oars " (Brown 552).
' The back of my hand to you,' good riddance to you. " Be quick an' say what you've got to say, an' then begone and the back of my ban' to you " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 10).
' A bad stick ' is a bad character, a person not to be relied on ; but the aspersion is often merely playful. (Brown 574).
' I (or other pronoun) bees to be,' I ought to be, must necessarily be. " Wasn't I always allowed to be a shocking good cook ? I bis to be, cooking for the Deemsters and the Kays and all that " (Graves, " Mrs. Quilliam ").
' As big as bull-beef ' is an ironical description of one who is highly important in his own estimation.
To' blow a good cheek 'is to enjoy food, eat heartily. " The English blow a good cheek on beef " (Quarrie, " Tittlewhack ").
A 'boy to run.' A youth who carries messages and does errands and odd jobs is thus entitled, though he may not often be seen running unless on his own affairs. " Quayles have a horseman and a cowman and a shepherd and a boy to run." " Yn gilley dy roie, yn gilley dy speiy," " the boy to run, the boy to hoe " (old song).
To ' break a straw ' over a bargain is to clinch it, to come to an irrevocable agreement about the price or conditions. "Break a straw on it, said Black Tom, and the bargain was complete "-the sale of a cow (Caine, The Manxman, part 5, chap. xiii). Now only a figure of speech. According to Train (ii, 283) a symbolic handful of hay or straw was used. Comparison with the Tenure of the Straw, formerly customary in the Isle of Man as well as in England, need only be suggested. *
' Cock him (her, them) up ! ' is said ironically of a proud or presuming person. Irish, and equivalent to the Scotch 'set him up !'
To ' cock one's jib ' is to put on airs, show pride. " She was cockin' her jib purry high, I can tell ye ! " (Quarrie, " Tittlewhack ").
' There's a cock's eye (or a cock-eye) at the moon,' the moon is ringed like a cock's eye, which is a sign of bad weather coming.
To ' cut one's lucky ' is to clear off, make one's-self scarce. "An' toul' that chap to cut his lucky" (Brown 606). Also known in Scotland and Yorkshire.
'Dead on end,' continuously. " The years You may live dead-on-end . . . and you never known' " (Brown 109).
' Dear the me,' ' the dear me,' ' the dear dear me,' 'dear me (my) heart,' are some of the bob-maximus changes rung on ' dear me ! '
The Devil has other aliases than the ordinary ' Old Nick,' ' Old Harry,' etc. " That's the way th' Oul' Lad got thee in his power " ; " He was dhruv at the Ill Wan to do such a crime " (Cushag, Mylechayaine, pages 23 and 24). " I'm thinkin' we'll have to ax th' Oizl' Falla to take us in " to Laxey Harbour in a fogbut this may have referred to some local giant. 'The Jouyl ' (Manx) is also used for the Devil.
' The dirty turn-out ' or ' get-out ' is any degree of rebuff, from a severe snub to forcible expulsion. In Quarrie's " Melliah " it is exclusion from the harvestfield ; in Brown 417 it is expulsion from King William's College.
To ' do all there is to ' anyone is a comprehensive threat of violence. " Show him the man that was saying ' Scooiyi1,' he said, and he was going to do all there was to him "-i.e., to the man who was saying he, Paul Creer, was drunk. (A Patrick bird-story.)
To ' do a person out ' is to cheat him or get the better of him in some way. " He did me out over the pig," as in the English colloquialism " he did me out of five shillings." But to ' do out ' used impersonally means to decorate, array, or dress up something. " The church at Crissimas was all done out in hibbin and hollin " (V.A.D., " Hibbin ") ; ivy and holly. " I've done me old hat out with velvet and it looks like new." Again, to ' be done out of ' something is to have none left. " I'm clane done urrov stories " (" Gran'father's Story," in Manx Tales).
To ' do a job for one's-self,' ' doing a job for himself,' are polite periphrases. Hence 'job' for excrement ( V. A. D.).
To ' do manners ' is to show good manners, behave politely. "Ned took a notion that Harry hadn't done manners enough to his (Nod's) mother " (Blanche Nelson's MSS.).
' Doing in,' occurring, taking place. " A sup of rain doin' in." " And the years doing in."
To ' do nothing of ' a matter is to make nothing of it, or out of it, to do no good with it. " Carrying on (farming) out at the mountains, and issent doin' nawthin' of it " (" A Letter from Rovvin-a-Pherrick," Examiner, 19o8).
To ' draw a person's cork ' is to stop his little game, settle his hash, or squash him in an argument. " That's the boy that'll draw their cork ! " (Brown 581). " The lawyer read out the agreement in Coort, an' that dhrew Jem's curk complately." Also, to overcome a difficulty. " To triumph and have the rule of it, Or draw its cork and make a fool of it " (Brown 216).
' A drop between ' two or more people means they have had a drink, or many drinks. " An' was there a dhrop between us ? That's what they're sayin' still " (Cushag, " The Passing of the Fayries saying always.
' The fairies are doing their baking ' or their washing, when it rains with the sun shining.
To ' fall on ' a person or object is to chance upon them. Even an apparition may be fallen on. " I heard Tommy tellin' that he fell on a woman that was killed on the mountains " (Lioar Manninagh, iv., 16o) ; i.e., on her ghost.
To ' fall the legs on ' anyone is to nonplus him entirely, to cut the ground from under his feet, to put him out of countenance. " It fell the legs on the Pa'son, I tell thee " (" Tom the Ranther's Weddin' ").
' Finger-jintale,' genteel in the fingers, ironically. " As finger-jintale as the Coangarrow ones . . . the finger and Vumb on the right hand is allis so clane wis purrin' them in their mous' wis the herrin' " (Rydings 86).
' Full fetch ' is full gallop, full stretch. " Dhramin' very likely thar he was full fetch after a hare " (Quarrie, " Tittlewhack ") ; the dog.
'Full git,' at full speed. " I'm workin' at it now, full git ; it'll be ready for Saturday"; but it never is. To ' get (or be) shot of ' or ' shut of ' a person or thing is to get rid of them, have done with them.
" Glad to be shot of us " (Brown 247). " My feoncy wants to get shut of me, I can tell, but he'll not find it so easy for all."
' Glad to goodness gracious ' is reminiscent of the Welsh ' indeed to goodness ! ' "He was glad to goodness gracious to get theer " (Lioar Manninagh, i, 324).
To ' go at it like dust ' is to go at it hard, to display furious activity-presumably from the dust kicked up in the process ; if so, the choice of the simile in the following example was rather unhappy: " He heard the fairies agate o' their washin' ; they were goin' at it like dus', he said " (Lioar Manninagh, iv., 161).
To 'go behind the bush ' corresponds to the English figure of speech 'to beat about the bush.' "She's very brunt, no goin' behin' the bush at her " (V.A.D., " Brunt," blunt).
' Good shuttance,' good riddance. " ' Good shuttance to ye,' as the Irishman said " (Bydings, "Our Kerree "). No doubt he did, but so does the Manxman, and the North-country Englishman too.
' Hallo, the house ! ' is a comprehensive greeting on entering which has perhaps replaced the old Celtic form of blessing on the house and its inmates.
' The height of glory ' is the summit of enjoyment. " Spinnin' away to the height of your glories " (Brown 329) ; i.e., spinning yarns. The fairy changeling was " ridin' his besom at the height of his glory" in Cusbag's Hommy Beg.
' High off the land,' far out at sea. " The only trouble is the fish is so high off the land " (Shimmin, Illiam Kodhere's Will, page 23). This, and the commoner expression ' the high seas ' for water beyond the three-mile limit, concur, intentionally or not, with the sea's aspect of rising from the land.
' The impudence of sin ' perhaps antithesises the modesty of virtue. " The imperence of sin is in them blackbirds " (Morrison, Manx Faiyy Tales, page 126). " She gav' me the imperence of sin, she did, an' her takin' the Christian Heral' reg'lar." Also, "as imperent as sin " (Rydings 36).
' In my senses ' is used at large for emphasis. " How they are r'ared I don't know know in my senses " (Brown 587). " They war wonderin' in theer senses what I was doin' so early " (Roeder in Manx Tales, page 39). ' Heart ' is a little less positive and more reflective than 'senses.' " I knew in me heart the day was won at me " (Rydings, " Our Kerree "). " I don't b'lieve in me heart he's m'anin' to marry her."
To ' keep meat before ' anyone is to keep his plate supplied with food, keep pace with his appetite. " When he comes in from the boat I can't kape mate before him."
' Killing a pig ' enters into expressions of the type of " Not every day, boys, that we're killing a pig ! " (Quarrie, " Jemmy from Jurby "), and " We don't kill a pig every day," in which the pig's death is, of course, purely figurative. Construe " this is a jolly occasion, let's make the most of it ! "
To ' lash in ' something is to sweep it in, include it. " Why didn't he lash in the whole parish while he was at it ? " (Rydings io6).
To ' lay high ' is to take a high hand about a matter.
" Lay high, That's your road, Mr. Tear . . . You'll beat her yet " (Brown 476).
To ' lay him stretched ' is to knock him Pat and stunned, to knock him out. " I could take a stick to Alfred Ernest . . . and lay him stretched " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 24).
' Laying out the sheets ' is a synecdoche for the wedding-night. A man saw his wife's spirit after she was dead, " on the same day as she was laving out the sheets " ; i.e. on their wedding-anniversary (A Second Manx ,Scrapbook, page 7I).
To 'leave a person good-bye ' or good-day or good-night, or to leave them with him, is to bid him the same. " Well, I'll leave you all good-night now." "Them two . . . lavin' good-bye with wan another " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 22). Also Irish.
To 'lie cute ' is to lie low, keep hidden. " Lie cute, boys, till he's gone past."
To ' lift eyes on ' anyone or anything is to get a sight of them. " I'm going to see can I lift eyes on Issa " (Douglas, The Faery Tune).
'Like sin' is used merely for emphasis, and sometimes very inappropriately. " Aw dear! the Pazon laughed like sin " (Brown 301).
' Like a spit,' promptly, without hesitation or effort. " He knew like a spit That wouldn' take the Pazon a bit " (Brown 505) ; flattery to wit. " I could do it like a spit if I had a crow "-a crowbar.
' Like the very hammers ' describes great physical energy. The tailor and his strange steed " go like the
very hommers, on and on, over hedges and ditches " (Morrison, Manx Fairy Tales, page 4z).
' The little tongue ' is the uvula ; a literal translation of the Manx chengey veg.
' Look at that now ! ' expresses the speaker's interest, genuine or politely assumed, in a statement. " Cowley : ' Get up to the fire, man.' Chalse : ' Look at that now, the kind ye are ! ' " (Shimmin, Illiam Kodhere's Will, page 23). " ' They're going to give me a gold medal for dialect.' ' Look at that now ! what did I tell you ? ' " A favoured phrase in Ireland, but in the Isle of Man it may be a translation of jeeagh shen.
To' look down one's nose ' is to show disappointment, dissatisfaction, or injured vanity. " He'll be looking down his nose if he doesn't get the job." Current in England also.
' Looking seven ways for Sunday ' expresses bewilderment, loss of one's bearings, or being in an awkward position. " I'll give ye a polt in the gob that'll lave ye lookin' seven ways for Sunday." " If his brakes fail on Richmond Hill he'll be looking seven ways for Sunday and not finding it."
To ' make big of ' a person is to make much of him, emphasise his importance, flatter his vanity. " The (carol) singers had gone there thinking to make big of him " (Clague, Manx Reminiscences, page 2oz). Also, to boast of something. "He was makin' big of his schoolin', and him not able to write a latthar."
To ' make boundary together,' to be on intimate terms. " Thobm and Billy hev all theer lives made boundary together " (Rydings 79).
To ' make it up,' to agree upon a course of action, plan something together. " A goodish few Made it up to kill him " (Brown 430). " Kitty an' me had made it up to go to the concert."
To ' make one's-self up ' means to rise socially or in a vocation, if not exactly to ' gain face,' as might be supposed. " A man who was makin' himself up in the worl', and not comin' down in it lek Robbie Dick was " (" Bill-y-Dossagh's Vision," I. of M. Short Stories). " Arthur's making himself up fast in the Army ; he says in this letter he's learning pack-drill already." Well, all the world's a stage.
To ' make out ' has, for one of its meanings, that of serving out, pouring out. " Miss Sophie made out the tay an' done tha 'greeable lek " (Quarrie, " Tittlewhack ").
To ' make strange of ' a person or thing is to show or feel unfamiliarity with them. " He hadn't heard the word before, but he wasn't making strange of it," I was told recently in reply to an inquiry on a point of dialect. The English ' make light of ' corresponds in structure to this phrase and to ' make big of ' (above). To ' make up to ' a person is to court or curry favour with him or her. " Look at Jem makin' up to Nessie ! " " Some of the Chapel ones is for makin' up to the Church ones these days."
' A meal's meat' is simply a meal, food; but the phrase often connotes scarcity as well. " Thee brother 'ill navar be lettin' thee want a male's mate" (" Bill-y-Dossagh's Vision," I. of M. Short Stories). " I didn't know which way to turn to get a meal's meat."
' Mind you yourself ' is a threat or a warning ; look out for trouble, expect the worst. " Mind you yourself, for if you fail to tell me my name . . . " says the Giant to the Lazy Wife (Cushag).
' Off one's hand,' spontaneously, without hitch or hesitation. " That Swivvle Hornpipe's rightly named.
. . . It went like smook ! Clane dancin' off yer hand it claimed " (Quarrie, " The Melliah ") ; a slightly bullish claim, like one often made in Ireland for a good dancer: ' he handles his feet nicely.' The Manx expression is matched by the English ' offhand ' in its primary sense of ' extempore,' and by 'out of hand.'
' The one of,' as the subject of a verb in the negative, may signify ' not one,' an idiom which is likely to mislead the uninstructed. In a long account of a funeral to which I was treated recently, " the one of the horses wouldn't draw the hearse," which meant that all four horses refused duty. It was a ' big man's ' funeral in the old days, hence the four. " The one of us hadn' a thing on our head " (Brown zoo) ; we were both bareheaded.
' One not mending the other ' means one no better than the other. " There is not one of you mending the other. A pair of boghs ! " (Shimmin, The Dooinney Moyllee, page 24). " There's Kelly's Dictionary and there's Cregeen's, and one of them isn't mending the other " would be slightly unjust to Kelly's. In a long
spell of bad weather " one day's not mending another." When more than two persons or things equally at fault, " not one of them is mending another."
To ' pull a long lip,' or to make one, is to assume a discreet, severe, or puritanical expression. " He pulled a long lip over the dancin'."
' Pulling on to ' means getting on towards, nearing. " It was pullin' on to ten o'clock " (Rydings, " Our Kerree "). " The train was pulling on to Peel."
To ' put hard on ' anyone is to cause him hardship or annoyance. " Our Jem thought it must be puttin' ter'ble hard on me " (Kneen, A Lit Smook) ; i.e., that his heavy smoking was upsetting her.
To ' put herrings down ' is to salt and barrel them, not to eat them. " Busy enough, what with putting the herrings down and getting ready for Ellie " (Kinley, Ellie's Stranger, Mannin, No. 8).
To ' put one's feet (or legs) under one ' is to rise from bed or chair and walk. " And no motion at him to put his feet under him " (Morrison, Folk-lore, xxi., 473). " Joe'll never put his legs under him again in this world."
To ' put one past ' a place is to accompany him just beyond it. " Clague supposed it was a man-spirit who had come to put him past the danger " (Roeder, Lioar zllanninagh, iii., Z59). " Come on, I'll put you past Milntown."
' Rocking-horse weather ' is a sailors' term for calm weather at sea. Explanation wanted.
" Rocks or reels, The Pazon's fields was beautiful fields " (Brown 579). The rock and the reel are the distaff and spindle of the spinning-wheel. An old Ulster rhyme says " I'll sell my rock, I'll sell my reel, I'll sell my granny's spinning-wheel." In Brown's lines the words-so far as they have any significancemight perhaps be paraphrased as 'taking the rough with the smooth,' ' one with another.' " Heel or toe," " beef or pork," are similarly used by his characters.
A ' run of fixing ' is a short spell of dusting and tidying in a house, a ' lick and a promise.' " No chance for me to be puttin' a run of fixing on things " (Cushag, Hommy Beg).
To ' run the country ' is to, leave the Island hurriedly and inconspicuously for reasons connected with the law.
A ' show to the living ' describes a person or thing of an outrageous or scandalous exterior ; a ' holy show.' " This house is gone a clane shave to the livin' "
(Shimmin, The Charm, page ii). " Goin' about in men's clothes, a show to the livin' they are ! " " His fiel's are a show to the livin' with the thistles that's on them." Also applied to anything very striking, without disparagement. " The grandhar that was at them was a show to the livin' The Ranthar's Wedding ").
' Solid sober ' or ' solid and sober.' If a man has not had a drink all day it is safe to pronounce him ' solid sober.' " I've seen them many a time, and me solid and sober " (Kneen, Gool' on the Cushags). " Them " were the fairies.
' Spark out,' of a fire, is dead out, even to the last spark. Used figuratively in " Public speaking as an art, which was then smouldering towards extinction, and which is now almost spark out " (Manx Quarterly, No. 24, page 49).
' A step above buttermilk ' (presumably the next thinnest beverage to water). People who think themselves a step above buttermilk are people with large opinions of their own importance, a foible which has a peculiarly irritating effect on the Manx temperament and provokes much yicturesque sarcasm. This, however, is mostly reserved for fellow-natives, and ' strangers from across ' are too often accepted at their own valuation.
To be 'suspicious of something may mean open to suspicion concerning it. " Stones, That they're sayin' is rather suspicious o' meltin' " (Brown 442) ; igneous rocks, that is to say.
To ' swallow the heart ' : to pluck up courage ? or to resign one's-self to fate ? In the time of the cholera epidemic a man would come in from fishing and sit for a while on the gunwale, afraid of what he might find at home: " And then he'd swallow the heart, and go, And up to the door, and puttin' in his head, And, well ? And maybe two of them dead " (Brown 365).
To 'take a shoulder' is to lend a hand at a job, share in the work ; deriving perhaps from pulling an oar in a boat. Conversely, if a man is taking matters easily and not doing his fair share, " he's not puttin' his shoulder out " is the comment.
To ' take edge ' is to sharpen your scythe, razor or carving-knife. " Well, man, the gandher was brought in, and the praecher tuk edge and started, but not a mark cud he make " (" The Ranther's Goose ").
' Terrible in the world ' is used adjectivally after a copulative or adverbially to intensify an adjective. " It's terrible in the world to see the capers that's at her ! " " Our oul' man's terrible-in-the-world course if anything is goin' agin' him " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 6). " A ter'ble funeral, Ter'ble in the world howavar ! " (Brown 604) merely extols the size and magnificence of the ceremony. Other intensifying adjectives may take the place of ' terrible ' ; and ' in the world ' is used by itself adverbially for emphasis. " Specially," said an old Peel fisherman to Charles Roeder, " if you can come at it in the world, go out with the sun " ; i.e., follow the sun's course for a short distance by steering to starboard as you leave the harbour-the lucky right-hand turn.
' That's the stick ' signifies hearty approval ; ' that's it ! ' ' eureka ! ' " He's a Welshman ! a Welshman ! that's the stick ! " (Brown 464).
' That's the tap ' is about equivalent to ' that's the right way to put it,' ' that's the size of it.' " Mark was a ter'bil sorrowful chap, Lemoncholy-that's the tap " (Brown 500).
' As thin as the wind ' is a favourite comparison for a human being or animal. " The three thinnest winds that ever Finn MacCowll felt " are the subject of a Triad which was first recorded, I think, by William Harrison in his Mona Miscellany.
' A thing like ' is equivalent to ' about,' ' something like,' in such expressions as " Tha was a thing like a dozen o' them at tha table ' (Roeder in Moore's Manx Folk-lore, page 52)-a dozen fairies.
' The thing ' means in one's normal state of health, but it is used with a negative only. A man who obliged a ghost by cutting, with great difficulty, the knots in the ghost's shroud (they were so tight he couldn't untie them) " was never the thing of it after " (Blanche Nelson's MSS.). " I don't feel the thing at all " is the commonest form of the expression. ' Not quite the thing ' may also mean not coniwe il faut. To ' think hard ' is to be very reluctant, to dislike a prospect extremely. " I'm thinkin' hard mighty of leavin' me own place an' goin' to live in the town." Irish, like ' thinking long.'
' To a taste,' to a high degree of smartness. " Her hair, which was done up to a tas'e " (Rydings 37).
Also, to a nicety. " That fits it to a taste."
To ' throw out the apple ' is to make advances to one of the opposite sex, especially by woman to man. ' Toe to toe.' " How they are r'ared I don't know in my senses, no more till I'd know How a stove'd be r'arin'-toe to toe ! " (Brown 587). Presumably equivalent to ' candidly, as man to man.' A pugilistic figure of speech ?
To ' turn to look ' is to change one's expression. " She flapped her wings in the master's face-And the dignified he turned to look ! " (Brown 247). " It's turnin' to look brighter "-the weather.
'Two double,' doubled in two, doubled up. " He was walkin' two double with the rheumatics." " Fold the cloth two double before you lap it up."
' Up to the nines,' tip-top, in first-class style. " Herself all nice and up to the nines " ; " The wedd'n' breakfuss, whuch was up to the nines, I can tell you, an' fus' rate, an' couldn' be bet " (Rydings 46 and 118).
' The way ' is sometimes equivalent to ' so that,' as in Ireland: " Put up your umbrella, the way you'll not get wet." ' What way ? ' is said for ' why ? ', ' for what reason ? ' : " What way didn't you slack the sheet in time ? " ' What way' also signifies 'how ? ', 'by what means ? What way did you get that black eye ? "
' The wind's going up ' means that it is veering towards the North ; usually from the South West, a sign of improvement in the weather.
' With beauty,' easily, without effort. " I put the mare at the hedge, an' she flew it with beauty.'
' With life,' energetically and thoroughly. " The Magher-y-Breck man is gettin' his Ian' manured with life this year."
' With taste ' or ' with a taste,' stylishly, showily. " These Englishmen Can do it with a taste " (Brown 370). " He handles his boat with taste."
'The work of the world ' epitomizes a great deal of trouble and difficulty in doing something. " Gone fainted on the flure she was, an' the work of the worl' I have had to bring her to " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page Work
' Work the oars ! ' is an adjuration to ' get on with the job '-any sort of job. Brown 502 applies it to story-telling.
' Your heels ' is a derisive expression sometimes expanded into ' your heels and soot.' " Five shillings for that ? Five shillings your heels ! " " ' Now, Papa, will you have a liddle blamonge ? ' ' Pippaw
Blamonch ! Yer heels an' soot, gel ! Gimme some puddin', Sophie, an' lave ' pippaws ' alone ! ' Bill grunted." (Quarrie, "Tittle-whack.") Origin obscure. And with heels we naturally end.
* Wheat-straw was used in Wales for ratifying a bargain, contract, or engagement. Two pieces of equal length were retained, one by each party, as proof of contract. To cut either in two appears to have signified the breaking of the contract. (See Trevelyan, Folk-lore of Wales, page 75). In France, rompre la paille is still used as a metaphor for coming to a decision or agreement (Weekley, Dictionary, " Stipulate ").
' It's looking for rain,' looking like rain.
To ' put it to ' running, fighting, etc., to take to, begin. A ' strayed marriage,' a marriage out of one's class.
The form ' who Kelly ? ' is commonly used instead of ' what Kelly ? ' to identify the owner of a name which has been mentioned.
' The wind is well out,' towards the North. Cf. ' Wind going up,' p. 187.