Wonderful English Words from Ireland – Bocketty

Hello,

This week’s word is a favourite of my own, but spotting it in Niall Williams’ excellent novel “This is Happiness” (a coming of age story set in a small Irish village when electricity was installed for the first time) reminded me that I hadn’t included it here on Wordfoolery yet. The word I’m talking about is bocketty (also spelled bockety and bockedy).

I’ve been unable to source a pronunciation audio file for this one but it’s pretty easy to say bock-et-tee (equal stress on all three parts). You won’t find it in mainstream English dictionaries but it shows up in slang dictionaries s meaning “imperfect or physically impaired” and that was the use Williams made of it when he described bocketty men walking to an early Mass who had lost a toe, or two, in farming accidents and wearing their ill-fitting Sunday-best shoes.

In my home bocketty is used to describe anything which is a tad wonky – a far-from straight line drawn without the use of a ruler, a cake whose rise was uneven but would be fine once we applied enough icing (frosting for American readers), or a anything improvised and good enough for use, but not perfect. The Burrow, home to Ron Weasley in the Harry Potter books, is perhaps the best visual example of a bocketty house.

She made the bocketty stitching into a “design feature”.

Apparently the word comes from late 1800s Irish (Oxford Dictionary) but I was unable to source the original Irish word as the spelling must have changed – there is no letter K in the Irish alphabet for a start. Despite having a lack of formal recognition, bocketty is a common word in speech here today and turns up in the writing of many Irish authors (Éamon Kelly, Anne Enright, Niall Williams, etc.). I am curious to know if bocketty is ever used in British-English or American-English – so if you use it yourself outside of Ireland, please drop me a comment. Thanks!

Until next time, happy reading, writing and bocketty wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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5 thoughts on “Wonderful English Words from Ireland – Bocketty

  1. Richard K.

    I’m here via a Google search for bocketty.
    The word, new to me, was used by “Booker-winning author Anne Enright” in an interview published in the New York Times Book Review on March 8, 2020.
    Ms. Enright says she recently read “Frankenstein” for the first time and “found it incredibly bocketty, as though stuck together from various bits of different books.”

    Reply
    1. Penny Van Amburg

      Enright also used it in her novel, The Gathering to describe the lineup in the church pew at her grandmother’s funeral: “we sat, even then, in order age; steps and stairs…though the staircase was now bocketty…”
      I love the “steps and stairs” description too.

      Reply

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