Griggles first. Wonderful little word. I’ve just come across it by a circuitous route which I’ll explain below. Here’s OED:
griggles, n., pl.
Small apples left on the tree by the gatherer. Hence griggling vbl. n., collecting ‘griggles’.
1826 in Hone Every-day Bk. II. 1270 The small apples are called griggles… Climbing boys..commence griggling. Ibid. 1271 Their griggling perambulations. 1847 HALLIWELL, Griggles, small apples. In some cyder counties, boys who collect these after the principal ones are gathered, call it griggling. 1893 in Wilts. Gloss.
Greek-street, says Pennant, “I am sorry to degrade into Grig-street;” whether it alludes to the little vivacious eel, or to the merry character of its tenants, he does not resolve.
This intrigued me and upon checking grig in OED I found firstly the ‘vivacious eel’ and secondly, to my astonishment, that the phrase ‘merry Greek’, ie boon companion, roisterer, may well be a corruption of ‘merry grig’.
grig, n, 1
[Of obscure origin. The identity of the word in the various senses is very doubtful, but Johnson’s conjecture that it originally meant ‘anything below the natural size’ would plausibly account for all the uses. (Cf. GRIGGLES.)
Cf. also Sw. dial. krik (literary Sw. kräk) little animal, small child; Sc. crick, crike, ? a louse (Jam.); also CRICK n.4]
1. A diminutive person, a dwarf. [Perh. transf. from sense 3 (or 4, if the latter be genuine).] Obs. rare.
2. A short-legged hen. Also grig-hen. Obs. exc. dial.
3. A species of eel; a small or young eel (see quots.). Also more fully grig-eel.
1611 COTGR., Anguillette, a Grig, or little Eele. 1629 GAULE Holy Madn. 130 Silly Grigge! Come out of thy Pond and Mud. 1653 WALTON Angler x. 192 The silver-Eele, and green or greenish Eel (with which the River of Thames abounds, and are called Gregs).
4. A grasshopper or cricket. dial.
The genuineness of this sense is doubtful, as the dialect glossaries containing it usually quote as their sole example the phrase ‘merry as a grig’ (see 5).
5. a merry (or mad) grig (rarely without adj.): an extravagantly lively person, one who is full of frolic and jest. Also in phrase as merry (or lively) as a grig.
[Commonly associated with sense 4; but it is possible that sense 4 is itself merely an erroneous inference from the equivalence of the above phrases with ‘a merry crick’, ‘merry as a cricket’; if so, the allusion in ‘a merry grig’ may originally have been to sense 3 or even to sense 2. The relation of merry grig to the earlier recorded synonym merry Greek is obscure; no doubt one of them must have been a perversion of the other, but the difference of recorded date is too slight to afford ground for saying that merry Greek is the original. The probability seems indeed rather on the other side, as it is not easy to explain why Greek should be used in this sense, for which there is no precedent in Fr. Cf. also GIG.]
1566 DRANT Horace’s Sat. I. iii. Bvb, A merry grigge, a iocande frende. 1589 Hay any Work 4 A company of merrie grigs you must think them to be. 1638 BROME Antipodes I. v. Wks. 1873 III. 245 Whilst I And my mad Grigs, my men can run at base.
6. slang. A farthing; pl. money, cash, ‘dibs’.
BTW I see there’s a transitive verb, grig, to irritate, annoy, which OED marks ‘Now Anglo-Irish and U.S.’. Is this still current in the States?