Larrikin
Posted: 19 September 2013 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I would like to add the Australian word larrikin to the Big List.

Apparently, this word derives from the mid-nineteenth century when Irish policemen (ex-convicts couldn’t become policemen so the job was often given to the Irish contingent that was swelling due to the influx of potato-famine immigrants in the 1840s) collared loiterers or jay-walkers.
Defendants in court and before the judge were then tried for loitering with intent to commit a crime, and the policeman of Irish extraction would be required to state the details and reason for the arrest. “I caught these two larrikin about the wool yards at night’, might be his explanation as he read from his notebook.

The trilled pronunciation of larking into larrikin in the Irishman’s accent was, by accounts, used and written as such by journalists of the day for all to read. Thus larrikin was born.

Today, the word’s meaning has changed somewhat, the connotation of criminal or rowdy having metamorphosed into the now likable, tradition-thwarting, good-time guy.

There is conjecture regarding the actual origin of the word larrikin. Did it originate in Australia or was it imported from the UK where the Irish were also known to influence the pronunciation of some local and regional words?

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Posted: 19 September 2013 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OP, do you have a source?

Good Words for 1887 [Volume 28], by Donald Macleod, 1887, p. 758:


...An aneroid - barograph recording the curve of pressure by clockwork (similar to the instrument described in Part I.) was placed in a jarrah box well tarred and pierced with air-holes. This, fitted with a strong lock, I carefully concealed among the rocks lest a member of the genus “larrikin” should discover its where-abouts and do damage. The larrikin is a creature evolved in Australia, and allied to the “hoodlum,” whom I first heard of in California. Self-registering thermometers were placed in a louvred screen, of the Board of Trade pattern, screwed to a post, and a rain-gauge completed the outfit....

later, same page [p. 758]:

...A board with a notice entreating tourists to keep away from the instruments was fixed to the fence, a necessary precaution as Mount Lofty is a favourite holiday resort. The notice was respected by Australian men and women, ever loyal and true, but the larrikin, whom they much disliked, turned up after all.

In the city and suburbs his province is to insult respectable people, unhinge gates, wrench knockers, mutilate Dr. Schomburgk’s trees, and do other such acts of barbarism. On Mount Lofty he filled the rain-gauges; anon he emptied them; and forced the louvres from the thermometer screen. The other instruments miraculously escaped,…

.

From Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present, John Stephen Farmer, 1896, p.158:

...1884. Sala, ‘Echoes of the Week’ in Illus. London News, 4 April. « It was in a Sydney newspaper that I read about Larrikins, but the term would appeal to have spread throughout Australia. ‘II. de S. tells me that Larrikin was originally Melbourne slang, applied to rowdy youngsters, who, in the early days of the gold fever, gave much trouble to the police. ‘An Australian Born’ spells the word Larakin.... Finally, Archibald Forbes tells me: ‘A Larrikin is a cross between the street Arab and the hoodlum, with a dash of the rough thrown in to improve the mixture. It was thus the term had its origin.
A Sydney policeman of the Irish persuasion brought up a rowdy youngster before the local beak. Asked to describe the conduct of the misdemeanant, he said, ‘Av if it plase yer honnor, the blaggard wor a Larrakin’ (larking) all over the place.’ The expression was taken hold of and applied.’…

This fanciful story is likely an etymological myth, according to what I’ve been able to find.

According to an editorial article by Melissa Bellanta, entitled The Leary Larrikin, in Ozwords, April 2013:

...With its redolence of anti-authoritarian humour and Irish brogue, this story seems an apt way to account for the beginnings of the word larrikin. We have it on the authority of august lexicographers, however, that it is an urban myth. According to both Bruce Moore and G. A. Wilkes, larrikin originated in England rather than Australia. It was a dialect term meaning ‘mischievous or frolicsome youth’ hailing from Worcerstershire or Warwickshire. It was also related to the verb ‘to larrack’, meaning ‘to lark about’, in the Yorkshire dialect. Larrikin never had a large currency in its place of origin,…

from http://andc.anu.edu.au/sites/default/files/Ozwords%20Apr.%202013.pdf

Additionally:

http://www.australianreview.net/digest/2012/09/smith.html

[ Edited: 19 September 2013 08:49 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 20 September 2013 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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The OED discounts an origin from an Irish mispronunciation of larking, citing the fact that the incident can’t be found in court records. Instead the dictionary gives a likely, but uncertain, etymology of Larry + -kin, or “little Larry.”

The first recorded uses are in Australia, and most of the citations come from down under. But the OED does note that the supplement to Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary records it being used in Warwickshire and Worcestershire, and another source records it as Cornish slang, so transport from Britain is certainly a possibility.

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Posted: 21 September 2013 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Larrikin source:

Austral English: A Dictionary of Australian Words, Phrases, and Usage. E.E. Morris 1898

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Posted: 22 September 2013 06:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It’s best to be very leery of something published that long ago.  We’ve learned a lot about etymology since then.

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Posted: 22 September 2013 09:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I was going to say that, but the OED entry for the word is from 1902 (with some updated citations from the supplements). So there’s not likely to be much more recent. (I just checked Green’s, and that parrots the OED, only more confusingly.)

But then I find that Lieberman in his Word Origins (2005) says:

Australian street rowdies are called larrikins, allegedly because Larry (Lawrence) was a common name among the Irish there. Since the mythical Little Larry did not emerge from the historical records, the tale does not inspire confidence, especially because larrup, which surfaced in the eighties, means “to beat, thrash, flog”; -up resembles the suffix of wallop, lollop, and trollop. Not only do hooligans and larrikins behave in the same way: the words (hooli-gan ~ larri-kin) have a somewhat similar structure. If -kin is a diminutive suffix, a clever conjecture by A. L. Mayhew should be considered. In some dialects, d between vowels turns into a kind of r (this is how porridge developed from poddidge, ultimately from pottage [what is put in a pot]), and Mayhew believed that larrikin was a vulgar pronunciation of *laddikin (a little lad). Possibly none of the three goes back to a proper name. To find the protohooligan / -hoodlum / -larrikin is more difficult than to trace man to Mannus.

Mayhew’s suggestion appears in Notes and Queries in 1894, so it turns out there isn’t much new here either.

For my part, I wouldn’t be so swift to dismiss the Larry + -kin etymology simply because we can’t find a canonical Larry in the historical record. There doesn’t need to be an actual person behind the word.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 05:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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For my part, I wouldn’t be so swift to dismiss the Larry + -kin etymology simply because we can’t find a canonical Larry in the historical record. There doesn’t need to be an actual person behind the word.

I would go further and say there’s rarely an actual person behind the word when we’re talking about a first name rather than a surname, and there’s no reason to go far afield to try to find an alternative explanation.

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Posted: 23 September 2013 01:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The same work cited by Arga actually gives three possible etymologies, including this:

That the word is thieves’ English, promoted like swag, plant, lift, etc., into ordinary Australian English. Warders testify that for a number of years before the word appeared in print, it was used among criminals in gaol as two separate words, viz.–leary (’cute, fly, knowing), and kinchen (youngster),–‘leary kinchen ,’–shortened commonly into ‘leary kin’ and ‘leary kid.’ Australian warders and constables are Irish, almost to a man. Their pronunciation of ‘leary kin’ would be very nearly ‘lairy kin,’ which becomes the single word larrikin. . . . It is possible that Sergeant Dalton used this expression and was misunderstood by the reporter.

[ Edited: 23 September 2013 01:44 PM by Recusant ]
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Posted: 24 September 2013 05:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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So, have we come full circle?

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‹‹ Hyphenation      BL: hag (revision) ››