I thought to use a common Regency word this month, like furbelow or Banbury tale. Then I happened upon the word “whack” and decided that was my word because it makes the old rhyme about giving a dog a bone make so much more sense. No, really!
whack [hwak, wak]
verb (used with object) — to strike with a smart, resounding blow or blows.
Slang. to divide into or take in shares (often followed by up): Whack the loot between us two.
verb (used without object) — to strike a smart, resounding blow or blows.
a smart, resounding blow: a whack with his hand.
Informal. a trial or attempt: to take a whack at a job.
Slang. a portion or share.
In Regency England, it meant a share of a booty obtained by fraud–A paddy whack; a stout brawny Irishman. So Knick, Knack, Paddy Whack, give your dog a bone had to do with an Irish con man who probably stole little curios like snuff boxes and shepherdess statues who needed to feed his poor dog. The dog was no doubt his lookout when he was inside talking the lady of the manor out of her knick knacks.
There exists a lot of interesting concepts and translations for that song. It may have started as something entirely different if you believe a woman’s Welsh nanny. It could be about the police in New York who were strongly Irish. You might be celebrating the butchering of a cow. Or you may just be remembering a song you sang as a child. The rest of the world might be reading too much into it.
I loved the song myself because it talks about feeding a dog. Often in cartoons or books that showed it, a picture of a dog showed up. A scruffy little terrier or a beautiful collie would make my day.
Let’s not even get into the term Knick Knack. It could mean a fair maiden or a fallen woman. Things changed by era, obviously. Like the term feisty and the diagnosis of the vapours. Feist was a word that meant stink or to fart in Middle English, Old English, Proto-Germanic, and Proto-Indo-European.
So be aware that your feisty heroines might come under scrutiny for their output. The vapours were associated with female hysteria and menstrual issues. More likely they were due to the very tight corsets the fashionable women had to wear. The Vapours were due to the lack of oxygen getting to the brain. What a whacky situation.
Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.