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Whence the derogatory epithet “wally” ? 
Posted: 25 July 2008 01:38 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I know the answer, but I am sure there are others here who do as well, perchance even some who were there at the moment of conception ...

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Posted: 25 July 2008 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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OED, for what it’s worth:

[Origin uncertain: perh. the same word as WOLLY. Said by some to be the dim. of the personal name Walter: cf. CHARLEY, CHARLIE 6. Cf. also WALLYDRAG, WALLYDRAIGLE.]
1969 Daily Mirror 10 Oct. 19/1 Wally, out of fashion. 1974 Times 8 Aug. 2/4 The successors to the flat-earthers.. are at present encamped on the perimeter of the great concentric stone circles… They choose to be known as the Wallies of Wessex, Wally being a conveniently anonymous umbrella for vulnerable individuals. 1976 Telegraph (Brisbane) 8 Oct. 10/4 The Arnolds call anybody who wears conventional clothes, such as jeans or skirts, a Wally. [...] 1985 M. STOTT Before I Go iv. 77, I shall seem more of a ‘wally’ to them than ever because I don’t know half the leading telly presenters.

Wolly [Origin unknown: cf. WALLY n.2] is “A uniformed policeman, esp. a constable,” first attested in 1970.

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Posted: 25 July 2008 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That opening post doesn’t bode well, though.

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Posted: 26 July 2008 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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You mean you think you know the answer, murrmac. But you’ve another think coming. The term was first used in public in an opera ("La Wally") by Alfredo Catalani; it’s an abbreviation of “Vulture-wally” (bet you didn’t know that, ha-ha!) and refers to a young person full of doubts and insecurities who doesn’t know her own mind.
And next time you think you know the answer to an etymological question, I suspect people would prefer you just to spill it, without beating about the bush.

There was a young lady named Wally
whose life was the converse of jolly;
She half-killed her luvver
For luvving anuvver
and perished regretting her folly.

P.S. The only moment of conception I’m reasonably sure I was present at was my own......

P.P.S. Welcome to this site.

(throws empty bottle into waste basket with a sigh)

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Posted: 26 July 2008 04:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Pay no mind to lionello, he likes being silly.  But now that he mentions it, what do you mean by “I know the answer”?  In the first place, you certainly don’t, since nobody else does, but if you thought you did, why would you post the question?

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Posted: 26 July 2008 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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lionello - 26 July 2008 12:29 PM

You mean you think you know the answer, murrmac. But you’ve another think coming. The term was first used in public in an opera ("La Wally") by Alfredo Catalani; it’s an abbreviation of “Vulture-wally” (bet you didn’t know that, ha-ha!) and refers to a young person full of doubts and insecurities who doesn’t know her own mind.
And next time you think you know the answer to an etymological question, I suspect people would prefer you just to spill it, without beating about the bush.

So, was the term “Wally” used as an epithet in the opera? 

Any speculation on why it wasn’t used again as an epithet until the late 20th Century?

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Posted: 26 July 2008 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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As far as I can tell, the original fictional “Geier-Wally” was an unusual girl named Wallburga Stromminger, called “Geier-” because she was famous for (at age 14) fighting with a mother Geier and stealing its baby from a nearly inaccessible nest. Geier means vulture, but it may be that the word was also applied to some other large raptors such as eagles.

Anyway, this “_La_ Wally” was a woman, and a formidable person.

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Posted: 27 July 2008 03:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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my, my, we do get touchy on this forum, don’t we ?

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Posted: 27 July 2008 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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As far as I know, Geier is never used to refer to eagles, as there is a perfectly good word, Adler, that does. I’m puzzled why D Wilson suggests that it might, though. Is it that he thinks that it’s somehow more impressive to steal a baby eagle, or does it sound silly to steal a vulture?

Anyway, I’m grateful to this thread for encouraging me to read up on the opera La Wally - like most people, I only know That Aria. Apparently it’s put on so rarely because the heroine dies in an avalanche, which is a bugger to stage.

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Posted: 27 July 2008 05:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Perhaps all D Wilson meant was to suggest that not everybody’s equally good at bird nomenclature, kurwamac. Mountaineers might know the difference, and storytellers and dramaturges not. In my country, the word for “eagle” is ayit and the word for vulture is nesher - yet many people say “nesher” when they mean an eagle. We’ve a popular brand of beer called “Nesher”, with a handsome picture of an eagle on the label. I get a childish, perverse pleasure from always referring to it in English as “Vulture Beer”.

P.S. I would rate stealing either a baby vulture or a baby eagle from the nest as about equally silly, myself. Who but a Wally would try a daft thing like that?

P.P.S. we’re still waiting for an answer to languagehat’s questions, murrmac.

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Posted: 27 July 2008 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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So, was the term “Wally” used as an epithet in the opera?

Any speculation on why it wasn’t used again as an epithet until the late 20th Century?

For heaven’s sake, lionello was joking.  He thought of the opera, thought it was an amusing coincidence, and tossed out a comment intended to point out the coincidence.  But, lionello, much as I can enjoy your riffs, this is exactly why you should show a little more self-restraint.  People can take them seriously.

my, my, we do get touchy on this forum, don’t we ?

OK, I was willing to cut this person some slack for the strange and apparently pointless question, but now that they have returned not to clarify but to sneer, I’ve come to the obvious conclusion: troll.

[Edit: added “should."]

[ Edited: 28 July 2008 06:01 AM by languagehat ]
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Posted: 27 July 2008 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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A little off-topic (sorry). I did not intend to express any personal opinions about eagles or vultures: I have hardly any experience with either bird. It is sometimes asserted (whether reliably or not, I don’t know) that the vulture is mostly a carrion-eater and harmless to humans and livestock, while the eagle might kill (e.g.) lambs. Then I would suppose that killing eagles would have been more sensible than killing vultures (but I don’t really know, and this notion is not original with me).

From a discussion of “Geier-Wally”:

http://www.pi-linz.ac.at/ahs/arge/deutsch/germ/germ0500.htm

//Das reale Vorbild für die Geierwally war Anna Stainer-Knittel. Die aus dem Lechtal stammende Frau wurde zur Legende, weil sie als Mädchen zweimal einen jungen Steinadler aus seinem Nest holte. Da das Muttertier sein Junges mit allen Mitteln verteidigt und das Nest in einer Felswand liegt, ist diese Unternehmen geradezu lebensgefährlich. Die Steinadler ("Geier" war in Tirol ein volkstümlicher Ausdruck für alle Raubvögel) wurden von den Bauern der Region gejagt, weil sie junge Schafe rissen.//

The novel recounted the bird-grabbing scene. I don’t know whether the opera did.

Incidentally, conventional names for this vulture include “Geieradler”. Folk taxonomy may vary, I suppose.

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Posted: 27 July 2008 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Tempting to say: “It’s clear who the wally is around here ...”

The clue to the origin of “wally” as an insult, I suspect, is in one of the useages Urban Dictionary notes, as a synonym for a pickled baby cucumber or dill pickle, glass jars of which were (?are?) common on the counters of British fish-and-chip shops. A baby cucumber is somewhat penis-shaped: if “wally” was/is a synonym for penis, it is easy to see how (1) it would be applied to the pickled cucumber and (2) it would become an insult for an ineffectual person, as have many other slang expressions for penis, such as plonker, dick, tool and so on.

Urban Dictionary also has some urban myth sources for the origins of the cry of “Walleee!” at 1970s rock festivals. If Murrmac was trying to hint that he was at one of these, was it Woodstock 69, Bickershaw 72 or the one in Sweden, Mr M?

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Posted: 28 July 2008 05:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Stonehenge Festival (the rock festival, not the bit with druids) was known as the Wally Festival for several years although the given reason that it was founded by a guy called Wally Hope is almost certainly urban myth (the name may have been adopted by one of the founders however). There were also a series of books published in the UK during the 80s/90s consisting of pages of cartoon crowds in which “Wally” a character in a stripey bobble hat was hiding - the ‘Where’s Wally’ series.

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Posted: 28 July 2008 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The title of that series here in Leftpondia is Where’s Waldo?

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Posted: 28 July 2008 10:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I first came across ‘wally’ in a fish and chip shop (England, c1972): a gherkin or pickled cucumber. Wally Smith was used by fellow students on a Russian-language trip to the USSR a few years later as a coded reference to Lenin. By extension his mausoleum became Pickled Wally.

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