The "Brooklyn Boys" in Eugene O'Neil

Daniel Cassidy 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." 

Brooklyn Boys  
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.

Daniel Cassidy
Professor of Irish Studies
The Irish Studies Program
New College of California
766 Valencia Street
San Francisco, Ca, 94110
irishstudies at

copyright New College Press, 2004.

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