[From Manx Dialect, 1934]


Baare-beg and Bab, sheep-marks. See " Animal words," page 148.

Babban, a handful of corn, dressed as a doll, placed in the arms of the Queen of the Melliah (harvest) when she took her seat on her ' throne ' in the barn with the ' maiden ' (last sheaf) at her feet. After the harvesters had danced round and round her, both maiden and babban were laid on the heap of the previous year's straw. (Douglas, The Master of Raby.) Quayle, Manx Agriculture (1812), describes a slightly different procedure. He says the babban was carried from the field by the Queen at the head of a procession, passed from hand to hand among the young women, and waved above their heads during the dancing. This, he says explicitly, was on the evening of the last cutting, not at the harvest home. Manx baban, a baby or doll.

Bainney-bry (Andreas pronunciation), pieces of bread-often mouldy, according to my informant-. soaked in hot milk. This was a common supper-dish for the children of the last generation but one. Manx bainney-broie, seethed milk.

Bap or Bop, a barm-cake. I believe this is the correct definition ; at any rate, a bap used to cost a penny in a village shop, and was full value as a filler. The same word means in Scotland a small loaf or roll.

Bardoon (stress on second), an elegiac poem, with or without music. " There was a bardoon (lament) made for them "-the drowned fishermen (Cashes, Manx Folk-lore, page 29). ' Billy the Bardoonagh,' Billy the Bard, was the by-name of a ' character' living in the South of the Island some years ago, who, besides fiddling, singing and whistling for the dancers, could pour out poetry, and pour in ale at the end of each verse, with equal fluency. A more celebrated Southern bardoonagh was Tom the Dipper of Castletown, who manufactured his own poetry, and his own strong drink till he was caught at it.

' Bardoon ' or ' bardane ' developed a wider meaning in Man than it possessed in Ireland, whence the term was doubtless adopted. Dr. Sullivan, in his introduction to O'Curry's Manners and Customs, i, dcv, says: " Perhaps the kind of singing called Burdoon, which existed down to very recent times in the more remote districts of Ireland . . . transmits to us, although in a rude way, a relic of the artistic polyphonous secular music of the 13th century." The Irish ' burdoon ' was not the refrain, the English ' burden,' but a species of harmonic vocal accompaniment or faux-bourdon, of which Sullivan gives a technical description. This is the accomplishment mentioned in an Indenture of 1303 (reproduced in Cumming's Rushen Castle, page 6o), to which the Abbot of Rushen is a guarantor. A pupil of the Abbot's is bound to a Chester schoolmaster as pupil-teacher and servant, and the master engages himself to teach the youth "to sing upon the pricksong fawburdon to tunes of every measure."

Bare. "No 'bare' till the right hand we don't know from kithag " (the left), in a drinking bout (Quarrie, " The Melliah "). Meaning not ascertained. Kelly has ' interval' as one meaning of Baare.

Barra or Barrag, a channel cut in a rocky shore for boats to enter. Used both generically and in place-names, as Barra-harstal and Barra-yn-Niarbyl, both in Patrick. There is a good specimen of a barra at Straledn, Port Mooar, Maughold, and many others round the coast.

Basket. A 'basket' of herring is 124 fish-the 'long hundred.' Five 'baskets' make a ' mease.' See "Tally-stick," and " Kybbon."

Bassag or Badhag, the game, played between two children, of slapping hand down upon hand. From Manx bass, the palm. In England the game is called " Pat-a-cake," and is played to a rhyme : " Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man," etc.

Bathaging, a beating, smacking. " I hear thou got an awful bathagin' this mornin' ? " (Kneen, Yn Blaa Sooree, page 26). See " Bassag."

Batting, aiming blows with the open hands. " Suddenly sits up batting with his hands and glaring " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 17-stage direction).

Baygal, anything ugly or monstrous. " Big baygals of houses " on the Mooragh Promenade, Ramsey (Juan Noa, Manx Yarns, page 9). " Beagle, a fright, a guy, a scarecrow. N.W. of England " (E.D.D.).

Beauty (as adjective), excellent in quality or size, or both. " Them's beauty potatoes, though ! " " I landed two more 'beauty troutses,' as the young fellow called them " (Rydings 13).

Bed, the name for each division in the Manx ' Scotchhop ' (hopscotch) diagram. See " Trowly-pot."

Beeal-eagh, a horse-collar (J.J.K.). Manx ; literally, ' horse-entrance.'

Bee-muck, a weed which grows in ploughed land, showing small pink and white flowers in June-July. Manx, literally 'pig-food.' Said to be called also bee ny guiy, ' food of the goose,' and ' bloody-fingers.' It is the sow-thistle, according to Cregeen, who gives it the additional name of bainney-muck, ' pig's-milk.' Beggon. See " Full-rigged."

Belt. See " Pelt."

Berna. " When part of a sod hedge slips away, the breach is called a ' berna.' A through-break, giving access to another field, is called a ' doarlish.' The latter term is obsolete, but ' berna ' is in daily use." (J.T.I.) Manx barnagh, a gap.

Besom, an opprobrious term for a woman. " Mayn't a man lave a drop in the basin without an oul' bosom obsarvin' him ? " (Cushag, Mylecharaine, page 16).

Bettermost, superior, of first-rate quality; said both of persons and things. " The bettermost people wasn' at the Cruinnaght." "The bettermost apples is all on top." " You'll find that's the bettermost way " (Brown 614). Also used in the sense of 'greater.' "She'd fill the bathermos' part of seven or eight basins of wather " (Morrison, Lioar Manninagh, iv, 156). Current also in the South-West of England. " He tookt to hiszelf a wife of a more bettermost sort " (Walter Raymond). " Bettermost " is an odd-looking union of comparative and superlative which has not acco;npanied uppermost ' into standard English.

Betwixt is commonly used for ' between,' as formerly in England. " A right good skute betwix' the eyes " ;Brown 121). Preserved from the days when the Manx learned their English from men who wrote, for example, " the Boundary betwixt Milntown and Claughbane " (1694).

Bight or Bite, the sag of a fishing-net. See " Pack."

Bink, a slate bench or slab table, usually outside the back door. " She brou;.ht out a bowl of water and soap and a clean towel on to the ' bi.nk,' as she called the flag outside " (Rydings 23). The same word is used for a bench in Orkney. In the North of England it is ' benk,' meaning particularly in the Penistone district a bench in the cellar. From a Lewis folk-tale it may be gathered that a ' beinc ' in that island is an indoor couch, under which a supply of peats is sometimes kept ; this agrees with Kelly's beinc, a couch. Old Norse being. Kelly has " thaft of a boat " as one meaning of the Manx beinc, but the usual word now for a thwart is ' taff.'

Black-leg, a cattle-disease which formerly caused much mortality in the North of the Island.

Bledge, an instrument for winding yarn or balls of wool, thread, etc. (Journal of the Manx Museum, ii, 94). This word is probably the Manx dialect form of the ' bleg ' and ' blegdt ' of the E.D.D., used in Orkney and Shetland for a wedge or pin to fasten anything ; Norwegian dialect blegg, Swedish dialect blegel, both with the same meaning. If this is the source of the Manx word, the ' bledge ' must have got its name from its essential part, the stick.

Bloody-fingers, the sow-thistle, so called from the dark stains on its leaves. Some folk-lore seems to be implied in the name. See also " Bee-muck."

Bock-bedn, white gelding. " Phil's bock-beddin, nippin' close " (Quarrie, " The Melliah "). Manx bock bane.

Body is sometimes used Scottice for a person, an individual. " A road a body is used to is no trouble to them " (Roeder in Moore's Folk-lore, page 50). " It was a favourite body they would let be Queen of the Melliah " (V.A.D., " Mhelliah ").

Boghans or Boaghans, the extinct breed of small black cattle. Manx word for 'cows' with English plural added.

* A description of these animals, as they survived 120 years ago, may be of interest.

" The original Manks breed of cattle were low, deep-chested, hardy animals, of a dingy black, often -with the ridge of the back, and ears, brown; or wholly of a dark brown colour, having seldom white or light-coloured spots ; short-jointed, but not full in the hind-quarter ; the horn very thick at the root, and rather turning upwards. They gave rich milk, but in small quantities ; were easy to feed and fat, though not of early maturity. . . . From the influx of a variety of other breeds, this original race is disappearing." (Quayle, Manx Agriculture, page 106.)

Boght-keeir, the hedge-sparrow. Manx ; literally, ' gray poor one.' ' Blue Buntie ' is another popular name for the bird.

Boh (pronounced, approximately, ' bauh '), a common term of address, equivalent to 'lad.' " Yes, boh." Usually spelt thus by dialect writers, but Kelly has it both. The East Anglian ' bor ' is curiously like it both in sound and use.

Bolla, an exclamation of vague import ; Quarrie says " generally of pity or regret." " Oh bolla ! " " Bella veen augh ! " " ' Aw, bolla veen, bolla veen,' said Nancy, 'when men is getting religion there's no more inside at them than a gutted herring ' " (Caine, The Manxman, pt. 5, ch. xviii). Perhaps from the Manx bochilley, a young man ; literally a herdsman. Mr. H. P. Kelly suggests that ' bolla ' represents ' boh la ! ' or ' boy la ! ' (see " Boh La ' alone is also addressed to boys.

Bonkan, a boor, lout. In a more virile age than ours no love was lost between Peel and Dalby, and when Peel lads went to gather flitters at the Niarbyl they countered the insulting epithet of ' skitters ' (q.v.) with that of ' bonkans,' which is good Manx with an English plural. A breach of the peace might then be expected.

Booth, a bark or yelp. " The pr'achar's big dog Coley was lyin' full-lenth afore tha fire asleep every now an' then he give lil booths urruv him " (Quarrie, " Tittle-whack "). Also Scotch. " Bouch, one of a curr-dog's barks " (Gallovidian Encyclopedia).

Boomer, a big wave, a roller. " In I slips and makes these boomers Ride me as nice as possible " (Brown 295).

Braain-finolya (as pronounced), finely-powdered sea-shell, which when blown through a tube into the eye cures eye-trouble in horses, cattle, and human beings, according to a Ballaugh farmer, who has no other name for the shell. See, however, " Shuggiloon " (the razor-shell) in V.A.D. ; also A Second Manx Scrapbook, page 186, where the shell is wrongly supposed to be long and narrow ; it is between two and three inches broad. Cregeen has " Braain-olley, the shell of the razor fish bruised to powder," from braain, a quern, and probably fooilliagh, residue ; which suggests that at one time the use of the term was not limited to shells.

Bran is used by itself to mean fresh, clean, immaculate. " As bran and as new as a gull's wing " (Brown 23).

Branglis is said of something which is defective, deceptive or invalid, a miss, misfit or misfire. A fault or a let in tennis or fives, a top or a slice in golf, a mis-cue in billiards, if the Manx-speaking world had played those games, would have been ' branglis.' " Cries Tom, ' it's branglis, that's not fair at all ' " (Quarrie, " Old Times "), Manx braraglash, defined by Cregeen as " something wrong, in error, amiss."

Brass, a common word for copper coins, not money in the abstract as in Lancashire and Yorkshire. "That scrissag of a thing put on'y brass in the collection " (V.A.D., " Scriss ") ; " scrissag," a skinflint. An Insular Act of 1710 speaks of "the scarcity of brass money and want of change."

Breac, " a weed found near high-water mark, very dull until placed in sea-water, when it appears to corne to life. Used to put on ' jialgane ' to keep them cool or moist when rod-fishing " (J.T.I.). Evidently the byeigh for which Cregeen gives a similar definition. See " Jialgane."

Breaky, fragile, easily broken. " Iron skivversthey're not breaky like the wooden ones " (V.A.D., " Skivvers "). Many adjectives are formed from verbs on this plan by speakers of the dialect.

Brimmin. "When the last load [of corn] was brought home it was called the ' stook of brimmin' (sthook y brimmin), and if there were two or three carts in the field together they would strive with one another which would be the first, because they did not like to be called the ' stook of brimmin' " (Clague, Manx Reminiscences, page 79). Not a Manx dictionary word, and not generally known now. Mr. J. T. Irving of Glen Maye has found one old woman in Patrick who remembered the expression sthoogyn byimminagh, but she could associate no definite idea with it. McAlpine's Highland Dictionary has " Breamain, tail, train " ; i.e., the last of anything, which would agree with the meaning suggested in Dr. Clague's scrap of folk-lore. Tales of the West Highlands, iv, 403, has a bare allusion to " Breamman, the fiend," of whom I have no knowledge.

Brittle, changeable, unreliable , said of the weather. " The weather was very brickle " (Rydings 99). " We always get it a bit brittle in August."

Brooillagh, small broken portions, especially of food ; as, for example, broken boiled potatoes, or fragments of meat mixed up with gravy after carving. (T.D.) Manx.

Brouteraght, refuse in a field, such as weeds, scutchgrass, etc. (J.J.K.). Manx, used with a mitigated meaning in the dialect.

Bruiser, a heavy mallet, beater, or rammer, useful for killing conger in the boat, also for crushing the ' scrablag ' and ' coral' when they are found entangled in the nets. ' Scrablag,' masses of small stones cemented together by sea-water. ' Coral,' lithothamnia ; Manx crossan or crodhan.

Buddhree-mollag, a cask of ale kept in the larder or pantry. " Ger another jug of jough Out of the buddhree-mollag " (" In the Days of the Dooinney Moylley," Ramsey Courier, 23/12/1898). A hybrid ; literally, ' buttery-cask.'

Buggane, spelt also boggane, boghane, and similarly, with stress always on second syllable. Scottish ' bauchan ' has the same meaning of ' spectre.' Cheshire, Salop and Montgomery have ' buggan,' and the stem bug- or bog- is used throughout England with various suffixes to denote a terrifying apparition. Of such extensions the N.E.D. says that ' bogle ' was introduced from Scottish writers, and that 'bogy' is not found before 1840. Welsh has bwci, bwgan, and an obsolete bwg. Ireland had a goblin called bocci-n ; and the Irish piica, Old Norse püki, an imp, and English ' Puck ' are probably cousins of the Manx bugganes both in etymology and folk-lore. It is not easy, therefore, to decide whether the Manx word is native to the language or, like ferrish, a fairy, is borrowed from English.

Bumper, a straight-sided domestic vessel for liquids, up to the capacity of perhaps a gallon. Now usually enamelled-ware. " A bink with two water-crocks and a bumper " (Douglas, The Faery Tune, page 13) ; ' bink,' a stone bench. " Knocked the tin-bumper I was kerryin' clane urro me han' " (V.A.D., " Bumpo "). English dictionaries define 'bumper' merely as a glass full to the brim.

Also heard as a term of friendly abuse. " Bill, you are an oul' bumper, For all your yarns finish the same " (Faraker, " The Fisherman's Coortin', Examiner, Feb., 1908).

Bun-curran, a currant bun (Kneen, Gool' on the Cushags). A remarkable reversion to the Gaelic order of noun and adjective. Such inversions almost always contain a Manx word as one element ; e.g., ' pintjough,' a pint-measure of ale (Brown 430) ; ' punchmullag,' the washings of a liquor-cask (V.A.D., " Punch-mullag ") ; and ' buddhree-mullag ' above.

Bush. On land ' the bush ' is-or was-the Wren-bush, the big bunch of holly and ivy in which the bird or a substitute was ensconced, in the St. Stephen's Day custom. " Are ye comin' roun' with the bush this year, childher ? " " The Glen Aldyn boys used always to have a lovely bush."

The Christmas 'kissing-bush ' or ' kissing-bunch,' a hoop of holly with apples, oranges, paper roses and streamers, and mistletoe, hung up conveniently, was sometimes called simply ' the bush,' also.


Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004