Tag Archives: Irish slang

Banjax

Hello,

This week’s word is banjax (pronunciation here). It’s an informal word which teeters on the edge of slang but does get a definition in several major dictionaries. Although it might not be acceptable in an English essay for an exam, it is a mainstream word, albeit one which is most widely used in Ireland (Hiberno English) than in other English-speaking countries.

So what does banjax mean? Well, it describes something, or someone, who is worn out, tired, broken beyond repair. If the mechanic has given up on your car then it would be banjaxed, or if you had worked nights for a month and could barely put one foot in front of another you would be banjaxed.

My Dad as a Schoolboy

The best description I ever heard of banjax came from my father. He told me when he was growing up in Killester (Dublin) there was still an undeveloped field opposite his house on the Howth Road. It was home to one sad, lonely donkey who had retired after a long life as a working animal. The way he described the creature it reminded me of Eeyore in the A.A.Milne stories. The local kids loved the donkey and would pull up juicy grass to feed it through the gate. They named it Banjax.

Sadly, like the end of the donkey’s story, banjax’s origins are lost to us. The word appeared in Ireland around the 1930s. The only guess I found was that it could be connected to the word banjo. You will sometimes hear a person say they are banjoed when they are tired, so there may be a connection, but it remains to be proven. If you’ve theories of you own, please let me know in the comments.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

This post is made in memory of my Dad who died last week. He filled his home with books, his time with crosswords, and his daughters with a love of words and history.

Rare Colours and Rare Words

As promised, I am continuing my artistic word-theme this week. I am also continuing with my blue obsession as this week’s shade is lapis lazuli, a rich blue created from a compound mineral rock source, now rarely found on artist’s palettes where it has been replaced by synthetic cobalt blue and French ultramarine (both in my paintbox). I knew from studying art history in my student years that it had been used from very ancient times but I was fascinated to discover that it was supposed to have aphrodisiac qualities by the Romans and medical properties in Medieval times.

I had hoped to add details on the blue colour in old stained glass windows which apparently cannot be re-created by modern methods but unfortunately I’ve been unable to find conclusive information on the Chartres Bleu shade. Something about me likes the idea of the medieval artisans having a secret or two up their jerkins though so I shall continue to believe it until I can find proof of its urban myth status.

My rare word for today comes courtesy of my mother’s wide and unique sland verbiage. In fact, until today I thought she’d created the word herself as she is the only person I’ve ever encountered using the word. But no, the marvellous Web has shown me the error of my ways. Apparently it is Irish slang. Considering I’ve lived here all my life, I am surprised it isn’t in wider usage. So here it is, and a suitable word it is for such a blog – codology – foolishness, nonsense, messing around for the sake of it. You can guess, I am sure, when I would hear that word from my mother and in what context … “stop that codology right now!”

But the world needs more codology, not less, in my opinion. Does anyone have any idea why a cod would be such a foolish fish? And “stop acting the maggot” would often accompany the codology admonishment so why are maggots foolish too? Because they wriggle around? And would a cod infested with maggots (yuck) be particularly lacking in wisdom and decorum? I’ll leave it with you for consideration.

For those of you seeking an author with great word-usage, I have to recommend Victoria Clayton. I recently read two of her novels and they were wonderful light-hearted stories which didn’t shy away from using any word in the dictionary if it suited the story (and not just to show off)  and she managed to send me to my bookshelf for my dictionary (a rare occurance). I mean, did you know that “carking” meant laden down with troubles and worries? Nope, me neither, but I do now. She also blogs at http://victoriaclayton.wordpress.com which you might enjoy if you’re interested in writing and reading.

Until next time, happy writing, reading, and enjoy your codology,

Grace