Sayings and Proverbs - 1892 Mid-Antrim Glossary

Author: ‘F.L.’ (William James Knowles)

Date: 1892

Source: Nine lists of local (mid-Antrim) words and sayings, with notes, published in the Ballymena Observer between April and August 1892. See 1892 Ballymena Observer (Mid-Antrim) Word Lists for original articles (USLS/TB/Hist/1800-1899/012).

Comments: This serialised ‘glossary’ was compiled in response to a letter published in the Ballymena Observer, 19 February, 1892, from P W Joyce, whose book, English as we Speak it in Ireland, was in preparation. Dr. Joyce was appealing throughout Ireland for help in amassing a record of Irish Dialect, including words of Scotch origin. The first response from the readers of the Ballymena Observer was a significant glossary of local words by ‘F.L.’ on April 8. This word list began with an appeal for other readers to “add to it and throw light on meanings which they will see are rather obscure to me”. Further word lists introduced by ‘F.L.’ then appeared on April 22; April 29; May 6; May 27; June 17; July 1; and August 18. The identity of F.L. as William James Knowles, MRIA (1832–1927), a distinguished antiquarian from Cullybackey, was confirmed by Joyce when English as we Speak it in Ireland was published in 1910. Numerous entries sourced from this ‘Ballymena Observer’ glossary were also published in the English Dialect Dictionary (1898) and the Scottish National Dictionary (1929–1946). A complete A–Z ‘merged’ glossary has been created from these entries, and appears as the ‘1892 Mid-Antrim Glossary’ in this website.

Doc. ref. no.: USLS/TB/Hist/1800-1899/013-sayings

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Several phrases come under the letter A:–

As busy as a nailer.

As caul as clash.

As dirty as dishwater.

As rotten as dung.

As drookit as a cra’.

As crafty as a fox.

As seek as a dug.

As thrawin’ as a dug’s hin leg.

As mirry as a cricket.

As quate as mice.

A heart as wee as a loose.

As sweet as honey.

As bitter as gall.

As happy as the day’s lang.

As lang as the day an the morn.

As aften as A hae fingers an taes,

As easy as onything.

Anything, or as it is more frequently called, onything, is often supplied when there is no handy comparative ready.

The following are some of the sayings and phrases in popular use:

A. B. buff, gie the mester a cuff; gie him yin, gie him twa, knock his heed agin the stane wa’ – children’s rhyme.

A bargain’s a bargain niver tae rue till I be black and you be blue. – children’s rhyme when bargaining.

A coo and a cloot soon rins oot. – if your savings are reduced to a small sum they will soon be spent. Spoken by way of warning or advice.

A canny see a stime o’ him. – I cannot see him.

A dear bargain – a drunken husband or a mis-managing wife would be called by the neighbours a dear bargain. Dear knows, he was a dear bargain.

A heavy chairge – A heavy han’ful – both mean that some one has been left by the death of another, perhaps the bread-winner, with a number of young children or with a helpless father or mother to support.

A haeny been at mysel – I have been ill.

A herrin’ niver spoke a word but ane, Roast my back afore my wame.

A’m no mysel since – means I have been greatly frightened about something and am still suffering from the effects of the fright.

Amang han’s – after working hours, on wet days, &c. A’ll dae it amang han’s.

A’m left my lane – an expression a woman would use whose husband had recently died.

A’m stervin’ wi’ coul – I’m very cold.

A’m no water dry – means I could drink whiskey, milk, &c., but I don’t care for water.

A’m foo – I have eaten sufficient; but if we say ‘he’s foo’ we mean he’s intoxicated.

All in a lump like a dog’s breakfast.

All sorts – gave me all sorts – scolded me greatly.

A laughin’ sport – if you do something very foolish you will make a ‘laughin’ sport’ of yourself; that is, you will become the subject of gossip.

A laughed till you could a tied me wi’ a strae.

A laughed till A nearly split my sides – both mean I laughed immoderately.

A nerrow getherin’ gets a wide scatterin’ – a penurious and miserly father often has spendthrift sons to scatter his wealth – hence the saying.

An empty nothin’ – a vain conceited person.

As dry as a whustle – thirsty.

As dry as a bane – quite dry. A housewife will use this expression about her washed clothes after being out on a fine drying day.

As hungry as a hawk – very hungry.

As slippy as an eel – frequently used in reference to a person who could not be easily bound or kept to a bargain.

As mad as a March hare – very angry.

As crafty as a fox – a term applied to a cunning person.

Ask me nae questions an’ I’ll tell you no lies – reply to an impertinent person.

A sloe year’s a woe year; a ha year’s a braw year.

Astray in the mind – said of one who had become a lunatic.

A’ll buy you a bonny new naethin’ an’ a whustle on the end of it. A promise frequently made to children when one is going to a market or fair.

A’ll lay oot my accounts – I’ll endeavour or I’ll make it my business. A’ll lay oot my accoonts tae see him.

A’ll learn you anither road to the peas – said in correcting one for doing wrong, and meaning you will not suffer the person to continue his wrong doing.

At lang an’ at last – in the end.

A tap a tow – He’s jist a tap a tow – means he’s easily made angry.

A took my end at him – I was greatly amused at him.

As you lead your life you judge your nibors – reply to one who has made an offensive insinuation.

A’ tae the yin side like the handle o’ a jug – a remark that would be made if a corn stack, load of hay, &c., had been badly built, and was inclining greatly to one side.

Bad cess tae you – Bad scran tae you – remarks that would be made jocularly; as, Bad cess tae you, why didn’t you come in when you were going by the ither night; Bad scran tae you, why didn’t you keep up the joke a while langer.

Bad look up – there’s not a good prospect.

Bad wi’ the bravelies – there’s nothing the matter with you.

Beats a’ – It beats a’ – It’s remarkable.

Beggars shouldnae be choosers – When you get a gift be satisfied, and don’t say you would have preferred something else.

Better a late thrive than niver dae weel – A saying that will be applied to one who married, or was otherwise successful, later in life.

Be to be – It be to be Jane did that; it must have been Jane did that.

Be to do it – obliged to do it.

Be to go – had to go – He be to go – he had to go.

Bid the time o’ day – wished him good morning. Saluted him.

Blaw the horns aff the kye – a remark that will be made on a cold and stormy day. A tell you that’s a day wud blaw the horns aff the kye.

Blist be the maker – an expression used prior to detailing some personal defects of another.

Brain shires – Wait till my brain shires and I’ll tell you – that is, Wait till I think.

Brash afore a shoor – a remark made principally to children who are indulging in sport and in laughter. Be quate noo. It’s a brash afore a shoor – meaning there will soon be crying.

Bred an’ born – A was bred an’ born in Ballymena, means I was born and brought up there.

Beyont the beyons, whar the aul meer foaled the fiddler – an answer to an inquisitive person, meaning nowhere, I suppose.

Broth o’ a boy – said in praise of one who did an action quickly and well.

Butter tae butter’s nae kitchen – such a remark would be made if two girls were walking together, meaning that each would prefer the companionship of a sweetheart.

Buttery fingers – this expression would be said to anyone who lifted a hot object, like a poker, and dropped it suddenly.

Butter wudnae melt in his mooth – this would be said about some sleek and quiet-looking person that you had been taken in by. You wud a thocht butter wudnae melt in his mooth.

Broken up – This day’s finely broken up, means the rain has ceased and it has become a fine day.

Catch a weezil asleep – this will be said of one who has a reputation for ability, and not often caught napping.

Cock you up wi’ it – I would like to see you getting it.

Cheetry chin will never win a pin – children’s rhyme.

Couldnae hear my ears – I could not hear. Be quate weans, A canny hear my ears for you.

Couldnae houl a candle tae him – you’re no match for him.

Couldnae wink at it – You could not do it.

Couldnae tell B frae a bull’s fit – he’s very ignorant.

Couldnae say boo tae a goose – he has no manners.

Come easy go easy – if you get money without earning it, you don’t appreciate it, and soon spend it.

Coolin’ an’ suppin’ – working from hand to mouth. Hoo ir you gettin’ on? Heth jist coolin’ an’ suppin’.

Croon o’ the cassey – sometimes given as “King o’ the cassey” – equivalent, I believe, to cock of the walk. This expression will be used in reference to the fowl or domestic animal which is able to beat all the others of its kind. Oh, it’s the croon or king o’ the cassey.

Cut my stick – I will take my leave.

Cutting capers – rollicking fun.

Chackin wi’ coul – shivering with cold.

Dark as dungeon – a remark that would be made on looking out in a very dark night.

Digs wi’ the wrang fit – he does not belong to my religious sect.

Deed an’ deed an’ doubles – a saying used among children to make their promises more binding, or to affirm strongly the truth of what they say.

Drown the miller – to put too much water in the whiskey.

Drown your shamrock – to have a drink on Patrick’s day.

Even fit forrit – regularly in line forward.

Every day braw an’ on Sunday a daw – this saying has reference to a person who will wear his best clothes at work, and is not suitably dressed on Sundays.

Ere yesterday – the day before yesterday.

Feedin’ o’ drooth – a fine mizzle of rain on a summer evening is frequently characterised as a feedin’ o’ drooth, or a sign of fine weather.

Fingers a’ thooms – this expression will be applied to an unhandy person, say in case of tying a knot, threading a needle, &c. Your fingers are a’ thooms. A’ll dae it mysel’.

Go aboot the bush – bashful, backward. A’ll no go aboot the bush tae tell it tae him.

Go farther an’ fare waur – this will be said to a son or other member of the family who is discontented with his lot at home, and is thinking of going somewhere else. You’ll maybe go farther an’ fare waur.

Glaze o’ the fire – sitting down and warming yourself at the fire would be taking a glaze o’ the fire.

Gif gaf mak’s guid freens – receiving presents in return for those given promotes friendship.

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