Can't see the wood for the trees

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Fri Feb 26 03:15:40 UTC 2010

OT, but you may be interested to know that my late father, a native of
the Deep South born in the early 1900's, referred to his dialect as
his "Alabama _brogue_." He was the only person that I've ever known to
use "brogue" as the term for a particular kind of *American* accent,
instead of as for an Irish accent.

In an earlier discussion of _brogue_, a few other correspondents noted
that they, too, were familiar with the use of this word for a
non-standard, but also non-Irish, American accent.

FWIW, in my own dialect, essentially that of black East Texans, the
heavy workshoe is known as a _brogan_, pronounced "bro GAN." Cf. Bo

"Them ain't no shoes. They bro GANS."


2010/2/25 Eoin C. Bairéad <ebairead at>:
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> Poster:       =?UTF-8?Q?Eoin_C=2E_Bair=C3=A9ad?= <ebairead at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Can't see the wood for the trees
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> Hi
> 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
> English.
> 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
> well.
> Thanks
> Eoin
> --
> --
> Eoin C. Bairéad
> Dublin, Ireland
> Áth Cliath, Éire
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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