This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 27 May 2016

Word To Use Today: dilly.

But what sort of dilly, Australian or American?

The thing is, while an American dilly is someone remarkable (like you) an Australian dilly is, well, someone idiotic (unless dilly is short for dilly bag, which is a bag made of plaited grass that's generally used for carrying food).

In Britain, however, no one will understand either meaning of the word dilly, though dilly-dally, meaning to faff about with unimportant things instead of getting on with an important one, is well-known. Sometimes dilly-dally is split up into dilly and dally, both meaning dilly-dally, as in the famous song:

My Old Man said: 'Foller the van
And don't dilly-dally on the way.'
Off went the van wiv me 'ome packed in it
I walked be'ind wiv me old cock linnet
But I dillied and dallied,
Dallied and dillied
Lost me way and don't know where to roam.
And you can't trust a 'Special' 
Like an old-time copper
When you can't find your way home.

(Explanation: the singer and her husband are moving home. There isn't room for the lady on the removal van, so she has to walk behind carrying her pet bird. A 'Special' is a volunteer policeman; a copper is a paid policeman.)

It's a song I've always particularly disliked, but here's a version if it will give you pleasure:

I suppose it's cheerful, anyway.

Word To Use Today: dilly. The American version of this word might come from the girl's name, or perhaps as a shortening of delightful; the Australian one might be an echo of silly. The bag comes from the Native Australian Jagera language, and dilly-dally is the same word as dally, with the dilly added for fun. This word dates back to the 1600s.

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