[Ads-l] Early Use of The Real Mackay

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Mon May 30 17:11:14 EDT 2016

Here is a citation that seems to be pertinent from a Scottish
newspaper dated June 10, 1856. The term "real M'Kay" was printed with
surrounding quotation marks which suggested that it was already in
use. The article was about a beggar named M'Kay who died with a
surprisingly large amount of money in the bank (700 pounds). Several
claimants emerged who wished to obtain the money. Finally, a man named
William M'Kay offered convincing evidence that he was the son of the
deceased. The article referred to him as the "real M'Kay".

Date: June 10, 1856
Newspaper: Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser
Newspaper Location: Angus, Scotland
Article: The Beggar M'Kay
Quote Page 3, Column 2
Database: British Newspaper Archive

[Begin excerpt]

Some people make more noise when dead than alive, and so it has been
with the poor beggar M'Kay. As a beggar he was unknown, and had no
friends; but when he died, leaving a large amount of money, friends
sprung up in all directions, and the man who was despised in life was
courted in the grave. But of course £700 could not be left by a
beggar, without a law-suit to divide it; and the Dundee writers, for
the last twelve months, have been entertained and amused with the
M'Kay succession, somewhat in the same way as the Edinburgh lawyers
have been entertained and amused with the Morgan succession. . . .

[Skip text]

. . . The proof produced by William were the letters which he had sent
to his father from Australia, and the letters which he had received in
return. From these letters it was perfectly apparent that he was the
only surviving child of his father; and Margaret, who had so warmly
wept over her father's grave, was obliged at last to yield the day in
favour of William, the "real M'Kay," who has now been decerned sole
executor to his father by the Sheriff.
[End excerpt]

The story appeared in other newspapers in England and Scotland and
included the reference to the "real M'Kay".

Back in 2010 Stephen Goranson posted some citations from 1846 in the
legislative domain that mentioned "the real McKay bill of 1844".


On Mon, May 30, 2016 at 3:21 PM, Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:
> In the OED, the earliest citation for "real McCoy" is "A drappie o' the real McKay" in a poem from 1856, which the OED puts in brackets.  The OED's etymology discussion says:  "Originally in form the real Mackay , and in the earliest recorded uses (quots. 1865  and 1880 at sense A. 1) echoing use in a tagline of G. McKay and Co. of Edinburgh, distillers of whisky (see quot. 1856 at sense A. 1). This may show the origin of all later use. However, the tagline is likely to reflect an existing phrase, which may have arisen by confusion for the place name Reay in the name of the Reay branch of the Mackay family."
> Here is a non-whisky example from 1861, antedating all existing examples other than the 1856 poem.  This is from The Journal of Horticulture, Cottage Gardener, and Country Gentleman, dated Nov. 19, 1861, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=UK6JT2d8W_AC&pg=PA159&dq=%22real+mackay%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjCgpuvuYLNAhWClx4KHTNCBoI4ChDoAQg8MAY#v=onepage&q=%22real%20mackay's%22.  It is from a correspondent who signs himself or herself as "A Renfrewshire Bee-Keeper" (Renfrewshire being a place in lowland Scotland) and is an account of receiving a hybridized queen and worker bees:  "I then replaced the lid with only one regret, that it was not a party of the "real Mackay's" that had so safely reached me."
> This early use supports, though it does not confirm, the OED's speculation that the G. McKay and Co. tagline reflected a pre-existing phrase.  Support for this view is also shown by a question and answer in the book 1,000 Answers to 1,000 Questions Being a Reprint of the First 1,000 Questions in Tit-Bits Inquiry Column, with the Replies Thereto (1884), https://books.google.com/books?id=vPgIAAAAQAAJ&pg=PA222&dq=%22real+mackay%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiB-aOJtoLNAhWKuB4KHR3vC344ChDoAQgzMAU#v=onepage&q=%22real%20mackay%22.  I assume that Tit-Bits was some sort of newspaper question and answer column; this Q&A, therefore, likely would have been earlier than 1884, although internal evidence elsewhere in the book suggests not much earlier.
> "673.--What is the origin of the Scotch saying, "It's no the real Mackay"?
> "It's no the real Mackay," means it is not genuine.  The ancient family or clan of Mackay was so famous for its integrity, honesty, and uprightness that its name passed into a proverb, and anything not fundamentally correct, or with the least suspicion of not being absolutely genuine, was said not to be the real Mackay (Mackai)."
> John Baker
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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