Friday, January 23, 2009

All bollixed now

Once a purely North Dublin phenomenon, the word "bollixed" is spreading far and wide.

- On Sunday, Boston's "Universal Hub" reported that "The Red Line was all bollixed up"
- Today, Yahoo Finance contains a story about the mortgage crisis, where an interviewee says "He's tried that with several lenders, but because he doesn't have any income, they won't do it ... It doesn't seem fair that it got so bollixed up."
-Back in 2006, Robert Cringely reports in Infoworld that "D-Link routers are bollixed"

I blame the Commitments. This excellent Roddy Doyle book was about American culture transplanted to Ireland, where it could "thrive like a new bacterial strain" (in the words of Kinky Friedman's 1989 New York Times review of the book). But that book, and the resulting film, had the opposite effect, of taking North Dublin street slang across the Atlantic. Now we are all bollixed.


Adam Gaffin said...

What's all this about bollocks, then?

Interesting theory. I never saw the movie, never realized that was a slang term. But it's like a good Yiddish word - it just sounds so right for the situation it describes!

Mark O'Neill said...

Yeah "bollix" is the North Dublin version of "bollocks".

But it has uses beyond just another way of saying "bollocks". For example:

"Ask me bollix" (literally "Please refer your question to my genitalia") is a convenient Irish answer to any question which you don't want to answer.

"Me bollix!" is an Irish version of "No way!". As in: A says: "I heard the Pope is Protestant", B says "Me bollix!".

The construction "In me bollix" can be used to apply the negative to a clause. e.g. "I will in me bollix" means "I will not".

For a crude slang word, there is a fair amount of subtlety there :-). And, yes, it *sounds* right too.