[Ads-l] Jonathan Swift and his opinion concerning onyons

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Fri Dec 12 00:53:36 UTC 2014

I was recently asked about the origin of a verse containing the
following couplet:

There is in every cook's opinion
no savoury dish without an onion

My correspondent initial thought that the rhyme was difficult to
understand, but he later met a man who resided near the Cork-Tipperary
border in Ireland, and who pronounced onion as "inion".

I located a poem with closely matching lines that was printed in 1746
in volume 8 of "The Works of Jonathan Swift". The publication was
posthumous as Swift had died the year before in October 1745.

The spelling "onyon" was used for "onion", and the poem "Onyons"
appeared in a book section titled "Verses made for Women who cry
Apples, &c." Perhaps Swift was attempting to copy the accent of Irish
produce sellers in his locale in the 1700s.

Any other suggestions for the pronunciations of the rhymes in the poem below?:
warmer, farmer
opinion, onyon

Also, can someone find evidence of the existence of this poem before
1746 when Swift was still alive?

Year: 1746
Title: The Works of Jonathan Swift
Volume: 8, Directions to Servants and Other Pieces in Prose and Verse
Section: Verses made for Women who cry Apples, &c.
Poem: Onyons (Onions)
Quote Page: 191
Printed by and for George Faulkner, Printer, Dublin, Ireland
Database: Google Books Full View

[Begin excerpt]

COME, follow me by the Smell,
Here's delicate Onyons to sell,
I promise to use you well.
They make the Blood warmer,
You'll feed like a Farmer:
For this is ev'ry Cook's Opinion,
No sav'ry Dish without an Onyon;
But lest your Kissing should be spoyl'd,
Your Onyons must be th'roughly boyl'd;
  Or else you may spare
  Your Mistress a Share,
The Secret will never be known;
  She cannot discover
  The Breath of her Lover,
But think it as sweet as her own.
[End excerpt]


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

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