"pebbledash" -- WOTY?

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU
Sun Apr 19 16:38:54 UTC 2009

On Sun, Apr 19, 2009 at 12:08 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
> I never said it was rare, or that I didn't know what it meant (at
> least after I consulted the OED!) -- in fact, I am suggesting (not
> seriously, of course) that it will become even more common and widely
> known with Sarah Boyle.

Well, if we're looking for Briticisms coming to wider notice thanks to
Sarah Boyle, how about "gobsmacked' (somewhat known in the US) and
"wellie/welly" (virtually unknown in the relevant sense):

 Boyle said she's still in shock and overwhelmed by her overnight stardom.
"I'm gobsmacked, absolutely gobsmacked," she told CNN on Friday morning.
 If she can make her way through the show's final rounds, she will get
to sing for Queen Elizabeth II at the Royal Variety Show. Boyle has
promised to be on her best behavior if she gets that far.
"Whatever comes my way, I am ready. It would be lovely to sing for the
queen. There would be less of the carry-on from me and more of the
"She is a very regal lady, very nice, so I would be nice, too, and
just get up there and give it a bit of wellie [try]," Boyle told the
show's Web site.

CNN's gloss of "try" seems off -- perhaps "try" is intended to define
"bit of wellie" rather than "wellie" on its own (a mass noun better
glossed as "acceleration, power, vigo(u)r, effort").  Michael Quinion
explains the idiom here:


(I still don't quite see how you get from Wellington boots to pressing
the accelerator, since wellies aren't exactly the best footwear for
car racing.)

--Ben Zimmer

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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