Can't see the wood for the trees
JMB at STRADLEY.COM
Thu Feb 25 21:24:37 UTC 2010
This is an antedating of brogue, an Irish (or other regional) dialect or pronunciation (Merriam-Webster has 1703), if that is how the word is used here. However, it seems to me that the text may mean brogue in the sense of a stout coarse shoe, which would not be an antedating. For those who want to form their own judgment, the text is online at http://xtf.lib.virginia.edu/xtf/view?docId=chadwyck_ep/uvaGenText/tei/chep_2.2037.xml.
The Oxford English Dictionary has 16th century English examples of "a man or a mouse" and "not see the wood for trees."
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Eoin C. Bairéad
Sent: Thursday, February 25, 2010 3:14 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: Can't see the wood for the trees
the 17th century humorously whimsical story in Hiberno-English - The
Irish Hudibras or Fingallian Prince, (London, 1689), has the earliest
use of the word "brogue" meaning an Irish accent I know of:
"And wore a Brogue upon his Tongue
For Tongue a Brogue supply'd the Strain"
However it also has the phrases "can't see the wood through the trees"
and "are you a man or a mouse".
I'd love to know if these are the earliest versions of what are now
standard catch phrases in the American and all other dialects of
Any ideas anyone? I'd be particularly interested if the earliest
American usages had any Irish connection - and I don't mean "Gaelic".
The Ulster Scots brought their own dialect across the Atlantic as
Eoin C. Bairéad
Áth Cliath, Éire
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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