Sleeveens in Dáil leave us banjaxed but not lost for words

SEEING as our economy is totally banjaxed, and we are about to be screwed by those sleeveens up in the Dáil in next week’s budget, there might be only one thing for it, to go out and get peloothered.

While we might be struggling to source the cash to pay our debts, at least we can source the wonderfully odd words we use everyday.

Odd though they may be, banjaxed, peloothered and sleeveen are all accepted words in the hallowed tome that is the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).

The famous book has been relaunched online, and with it, over 900 words originating in Ireland.

Some of these include terms of endearment — ‘alanna’ (a leanbh) or my child and ‘asthore’ (a stór) — my love or my darling.

A few others that Irish people are sure to recognise are ‘ballyhooly’ meaning hell and the good old Joan Burton favourite ‘banjax’, which is slang for batter or destroy.

Given the context in which Joan Burton was speaking about our rather unfortunate economic situation, the aforementioned word often used for our political classes is also in the dictionary — sleeveen — meaning a cunning or untrust- worthy person.

Other strange-looking words we have given to the English language include ‘bosthoon’ meaning an awkward fellow; ‘carnaptious’ meaning bad-tempered; deeshy and weeshy, which both mean tiny and insignificant.

The new online version contains 600,000 words, three million quotations and covers more than 1,000 years of the English language.

As well as giving words’ mean- ings, the online dictionary allows readers to trace the evolution of the language using the Historical Thesaurus of the OED, which is fully integrated into OED online (

Two of our most noted writers are sources for thousands of words, namely Jonathan Swift and James Joyce.

Joyce alone provides more than 2,000 quotations for the OED online, with his novel, Ulysses, being the source for most.

Of Joyce quotations providing first evidence of the use a particular word, there’s botch-up (mess-up; from Ulysses); obstropolos (an obstreperous mouth, also from Ulysses); pandybat, a bat used to strike or beat schoolchildren on the palm of the hand as a punishment (from Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man); and peloothered, drunk or intoxicated (Dubliners).

And as for our new favourite word ‘recession’, we can’t claim that. It’s been around since 1606 but it wasn’t until 1903 that a newspaper used the word in an economic context.

But we will always have banjaxed.


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