some word questions

minnow at minnow at
Fri Aug 20 17:28:26 EDT 2004

Dorian consulted the brick:

>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.

In *The 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue*, "To pike" and "Pike off" are
given as "to run away".  I'd suppose that comes from the pike-road,

>> 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.

In Antonia Forest's naval Marlow family they are (according to Peter in
chapter 7 of *The Ready-Made Family*, anyhow) called "sailors".


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