Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Phraseology

The day is lingering longer as January progresses. The darkling sky still has streaks of brightness at 4.30pm. It is growing lighter "by a cockerel's stride every day", according to my granddad. That phrase came from his granddad and he has passed it on to me.

I can picture a cockerel striding across the farmyard but I am flummoxed as to the origins of linty. One of my sister's horses had been under the weather and I asked my mum how he was doing. "Oh," she said, "he's going like a linty." "Like a what?" I asked. "Like a linty," she said. "It was one of your nanna's phrases. Have you never heard that before?" I must confesses I haven't but equally, my mum doesn't know what a linty is - other than anything that goes like one is doing very well for itself.

My nanna was born and bred Edinburgh. In addition to being an amazing woman, she had a marvellous turn of phrase. "Where do you think you are, on your granny's yacht?" was a favourite, and some poor souls were often "Up the creek without a paddle". Latterly, she would point at people (usually out of rolled down car windows on baking hot summer days) and exclaim: "The things you see when you havenae got a gun!"

As a child, I wanted to know what she meant when she described my uncle's soon to be ex-wife as a "fornicating bitch". This was one of my many questions that would elicit the reply from whichever adult was in earshot: "I'll tell you when you're 16." I wish I'd written all of those queries down in a book. But it didn't matter: miraculously, I think I knew what most of them meant once I'd reached the age of consent. I believe that's what will happen when I die - suddenly, I will understand everything.

My mum is of the opinion that if you learn something for yourself, you are less likely to forget it. "Look it up in the dictionary," was often her response when I asked for definitions or spellings. And of course, she was right. It's just a shame I can't find a definition of a linty that fits the phrase.

25 comments:

Mopsa said...

Linty is an entirely new one on me. I snatch at others' luscious phrases that slip through my dull brain, only to be remembered at the appropriate moment. But can I recall them later? No. Which makes me VERY impressed that you can and do.

Expatmum said...

Ooh, my mother (from Tyneside) says "linty" too. Must ask her what it means. She also says "Stotious" (pronounced stoshus) which I think means drunk. I also think that's from her Irish side but with Geordies, you just never know. Great stuff this language lark.

Gill said...

Linty? Never heard of it over here in the west. Fascinating.

Nunhead Mum of One said...

My nan used to say that about the cockerel's stride!

What I could never work is why she used to say, on rainy/cloudy days, "is there enough blue to make a sailor a pair of trousers?"

Well, surely it would depend on the size/age of the sailor, if he favoured bootleg, flares or drainpipes.....

Rob Clack said...

Never heard linty or the lovely cockerel's stride, but the sailor's pants I've heard since I was small.
Oh and in case you're wondering, in Cape Town pants meant trousers, not underpants.

Anonymous said...

My favourite word [which doesn't appear to be listed in Chambers] is 'discombobulated' - or maybe I am not spelling it correctly..

@themill said...

I'll ask my father.....

rilly super said...

M&M dear, we have the phrase 'fornicating bitch' in London too, I don't know what it means in the North wast but in Islington it's a cocktail

Omega Mum said...

..'on your granny's yacht' is one to relish. Thanks so much.

reluctantmemsahib said...

Oh - I love the cockerels stride. online dictionary suggests linty is "a fibrous coat of thick convoluted hairs borne by cotton seeds that yields the cotton staple". But I don't suppose the context works. My dad used to refer to a hissy fit as a ''wobbly''. wonder if linty and wobbly approximate same thing?

Winchester whisperer said...

I know a journalist who was once interviewing a Saudi minister. He asked her, "What's the difference between fornication and adultery?"

muddyboots said...

never heard of linty before. phrases do make me laugh, when l moved up north, there were so many very strange words and phrases to understand!

Iota said...

Someone out there must know about the linty. Maybe it's a historical reference? Fascinating stuff.

Is it the same as going like the clappers, and where on earth does that phrase come from?

Brom said...

Hmm. Mrs B uses a variation of the blue Sky thing... "Enough to patch a Dutchman's trousers"

I can report that "Linty" is definitely not from Wales, as you would expect really.

Barrenblog said...

Some of my favourite phrases come from my nana and granddad, too, although some of them veer towards the racist! A room that's shamefully messy is often described as either "Paddy's market" or "a Chinese laundry"...

Sarnia said...

Isn't it wonderful that the days are getting longer?

Here in Guernsey it gets darker in winter later than in southern England. But in summer we are about 20 minutes behind.

The latest wheeze from our oddball politicians is that Guernsey should adopt Central European Time. About 80% of the people are against it.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

"A cockerel's stride" - that's lovely. I will remember this. In comparison with the migration of the sun these smallscale steps show just how miniscule is the daily progression towards midsummer.

Anonymous said...

I live in the North East (Gateshead) and I first heard the expression 'linty' when I started working even farther North, in Ashington.

Over the last decade or so I've since heard it many a time and it's virtually always used to describe someone who's working too hard.

I remember eventually asking one of my older colleagues who hailed from Blythe (needles to say, an avid Spartan) and he explained that it originates from "Them blerks y' get in Bangkok that run a'rund pullin' taxi carriages aall day as th' cannit afford a herse [horse] like".

I doubted the origin at first, but shortly afterwards I was in the charming Blakelaw Working Man's Club on what I assumed was a sunny Saturday afternoon and there was only one barman serving the entire 'lounge' area, which I'd guess consisted of at least 30 seasoned (some would say picked) drinkers from Newcastle's infamous West End. The poor barman was sweating proverbial buckets trying to satisfy the thirsty clientele and whilst I was queueing at the bar (as we do in such venues up North) more than one person was heard making reference to the barman and saying "Look at that poor bugger, he's sweating like a linty-man!".

Ever since then I've always associated the term 'linty' as describing a person who's grafting ever so slightly harder than they really should be.

Laura said...

Hi there, I'm from Aberdeen and yesterday I said to my husband that our wee boat was going like a linty - he says that all the sayings I come out with are made up by my mum! I always thought a linty was a bird!!! No idea why.
Another east coast word - swicking - cheating. Smacharie ( is that how you spell it?) for lots of sweeties and yummy things.

Marilyn said...

It should be sing like a Linty, a Linty is a Linnet, a small songbird, often kept as a caged pet in Victorian Britain because of the sweetness of it's song. I'm in West Lothian in Scotland and regularly hear people saying run like a Linty, eat like a Linty, almost anything like a Linty, all wrong, singing is the only thing Linty's do exceptionally well.

Anonymous said...

'Going like a linty' in Glasgow, where I grew up in the laste 50s/early 60s, was to do something as fast as possible. When I was a kid it was used to describe a Leery [gas lamplighter] as he ran from close [common entry to tenement flats] to close lighting the gas-mantles that still lit the spaces.
Derivation assumed to be from Linnet, the small [and fast-flying] songbird.

Anonymous said...

I've heard snoring like a linty.

JB

irvy12 said...

When I was about nine years old my Dad told me to be quiet and listen to the Linty's song. He was referring to the ascending Sky Lark. I'm now seventy two and living in the Orkney Islands and just heard my first Linty song of the year. Spring is here.

Karen Dent said...

Aww, Ivy, that's lovely - and fantastic to find out what a linty actually is.

Unknown said...

Heard it all my life, and I live in the west of Scotland. Smokes like a lintie, runs like a lintie, etc, but I do believe it is a bird