yet another word from the gutter press

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Fri Mar 10 20:51:56 UTC 2006

But this one is a perfectly decent word.

Sorry to disappoint you.

On the other hand, maybe it's not, since I don't really understand it.

The word is "fire-lally" -- when I first came on it, I supposed that
it was a typo for "fire-laddy", which is what it means.  But the word
has turned up in three passages, so it's not a typo.  I don't see a
word lally/laly/lelly/lolly in OED that would explain it.

1842:   . . . I noticed a couple of girls who are nightly in the habit
of [seeing] some boys whom I shall call fire-lallys.
        The Whip, December 10, 1842 (II:23) p. 1, col. 1.

1843:   . . . their lovers are in the habit of visiting a noted place
located there, where the johnnys, fire-lallys, and do-it-nice-boys
assemble for the purpose of laying off.
        NY Sporting Whip, January 28, 1843 (III:1) p. 2, col. 1

1843:   About this time a fire broke out in a stable in Pearl street,
and . . . I had to leave with the rest of the “lallays.”
        NY Sporting Whip, February 18, 1843 (III:4) p. 2, col. 2

And then there's "do-it-nice-boys".


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list