some word questions

Dorian E. Gray israfel at
Fri Aug 20 14:58:19 EDT 2004

Otter wondered...

> 1.  Pikeys.  We recently watched the movie 'Snatch' and
> it appeared to me that the lowlife protagonists referred
> to people I took to be Roma as 'Pikeys'.  [I was very
> confused at first because I heard it as 'Pakkis' [or is
> it 'Pakis'?] but eventually realized [with the help of
> the English subtitles and the listing of DVD features]
> that 'Pikeys' was the word.]
> Why Pikeys?

Yes, "pikey" is (derogatory) slang for gypsy (or vagabond, or tramp).  It's
strictly British; I've never heard it here in Ireland.  A swift trip to my
Brick (otherwise known as the New Shorter OED) tells me that it seems to be
a variant of "piker" (both forms from the mid-19th century), which in turn
is apparently (OED's word) derived from "'pike', a turnpike road.  Freq. in
'come down the pike', appear on the scene; come to notice."  Presumably the
word originally referred to the people's wandering habits.
> 2.  soldiers.  I have noticed several times in the
> more recent Terry Pratchett novels a mention of
> 'soldiers' as something one makes out of toasted
> bread and butter.  Maybe?  What are these soldiers
> of which he writes?

Bread and butter (does not have to be toasted, though can be), cut into
narrow strips about a finger long, which one then dips into the yolk of
one's soft-boiled egg (if one likes that sort of thing) before eating.  Egg
and soldiers is something you give to children; hence many (British) adults
use it or see it as comfort food.



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