The "Brooklyn Boys" in Eugene O'Neil
DanCas1 at AOL.COM
Mon Aug 16 18:43:14 UTC 2004
NY-Irish dialect slang in O'Neill for "a gargantuan hangover. The DTs."
Bru/cht lionn baithis (Pron. brook-lyn-boice : "th" = "h")
Booze and bile bursting out the top of the head.
Bru/cht, m., a belch, a blast; an ejaculation. Belch forth. Burst out, rush
Lionn, leanna, m. & f., booze, liquor, drink, ale, strong beer, wine; a humor
of the body, phlegm, bile, choler, lionndubh, black humor, melancholy.
Baithis, baitheas, ("t' is silent; sounds like "boys")
Crown of the head, the pate; the head. The top. The "bean."
The Brooklyn Boys have haunted Irish America. O'Neill's older brother, Jamie
O'Neill, died at 41 from the effects of alcoholism. His maternal grandfather,
Thomas Quinlan, died from the "Brooklyn Boys" in his forties, as well.
Eugene O'Neill finally beat the Brooklyn Boys at age 38 and was sober for the
rest of his life.
Here are four quotes from the plays of Eugene O'Neill using the old NY-Irish
slang phrase Brooklyn Boys for the dread DTs.
TYRONE (Jamie): "Nuts! The Brooklyn Boys are talking again. I guess I'm more
stewed that I thought – in the center of the old bean, at least."
Tyrone/Jamie (Moon for Misbegotten, p. 375.)
ERIE: "I ain't worried. Just moaning low. Hell, who don't when they're
getting over a drunk? You know how it is. The Brooklyn Boys march over the bridge
with bloodhounds to hunt you down...Lots of guys I've been pals with, in a way,
croaked from booze...Hell, we all gotta croak." (Hughie, p. 273
WILLIE--(suddenly yells in his nightmare) It's a Goddamned lie! (He begins to
sob.) Oh, Papa! Jesus! (All the occupants of the room stir on their chairs
but none of them wakes up except Hope.)
ROCKY--(grabs his shoulder and shakes him) Hey, you! Nix! Cut out de noise!
(Willie opens his eyes to stare around him with a bewildered horror.)
HOPE--(opens one eye to peer over his spectacles--drowsily) Who's that
ROCKY--Willie, Boss. De Brooklyn boys is after him.
HOPE: (querulously) Well, why don't you give the poor feller a drink and keep
him quiet...?" (Iceman Cometh, pp. 581-582)
HARRY HOPE: "..You've told that story ten millions times and if I have to
hear it again, that'll give me the DTs anyway."
JOE MOT : "Gittin' drunk every day for twenty years ain't give you de
Brooklyn Boys. You needn't be scared of me!" (The Iceman Cometh, p. 601).
The Brooklyn Boys indeed.
Professor of Irish Studies
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
766 Valencia Street
San Francisco, Ca, 94110
irishstudies at newcollege.edu
copyright New College Press, 2004.
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