Todays word - Shenanigans - is, in my humble opinion, simply wonderful.
Just utter the word Shenanigans and a multitude of scenarios spring to mind. Until now a Board Game wasn't one of them for me. I certainly don't think Santa would have put anything to do with shenanigans in my Christmas sock. Having said that the Festive Season, particularly in Ireland, is most definitely a time of shenanigans taking place willy-nilly (now there's a phrase I must look into).
So, what exactly are shenanigans?
A few years ago I had the pleasure of a drunken chat with legendary actor Alan Devlin outside The Queens Pub here in Dalkey. Poor old Alan, winner of the 1984 Olivier Award no less, had fallen off the wagon in great style. It was Halloween, he was suitably clad as a vampire, and utterly plastered. Credit where it's due Alan was very pleasant with it. Having spent his last fiver in The King's Inn across the road he courteously asked as to whether I'd be kind enough to stand him a drink. How could any decent soul refuse? 'Would you be able to fetch it from the bar too?', he asked, 'as I was barred earlier in the day for all sorts of shenanigans.'
Alan refused to expand as to what these shenanigans might have been. Suffice it to say they were bad enough to incur the wrath of the otherwise genial Bar Manager. As he sipped his Bacardi & Coke (a surprising choice) Alan confided in me that shenanigans had pretty much ruined his life. Shenanigans had cost him two marriages and he reckoned by the end of the day in question quite possibly three. Shenanigans had lost him many an acting role including the lead in a play in Dublin after which he ended up living rough near Baggot Street for a number of months. 'Ah, but it's a great word all the same,' he added with a rueful smile.
Although I'd always assumed shenanigans to be an Irish word the OED lists its origins as 'obscure'. One theory however is that it does indeed have Celtic roots, derived and anglicised from the Gaelic for 'like a fox' - sionnachuighim. The name of the river Shannon is derived from Sionna, the River Goddess so I reckon this is quite plausible. I have my doubts as to how fox-like poor old Alan Devlin's carry-on was but it makes some sort of sense that shenanigans reflect the drunken spirit of getting away with things - i.e. sneaking out for a few pints / having a sly one etc. etc.
As Alan drained his glass my wife appeared. He immediately leapt to his feet and kindly offered to dance with her despite there being no music. She graciously declined to which Alan replied with a wink in my direction, 'Probably just as well, there may have been more shenanigans...'
As Alan wandered away I called after him, 'It was a pleasure. We'll meet again', to which he replied with a mischievous grin, 'It was, but no...we won't.'
He was right.
Alan Devlin died suddenly the following May. I guess the shenanigans finally caught up with him.
October 18th, 2013
Mojo - it's become a particularly annoying word. Frankly I blame the one-trick pony Austin Powers. Hadn't heard it used for quite a while until recently when somebody said without a trace of irony, 'I think I've just lost my mojo.' Didn't think such a thing could be instantaneous. Surely MOJO would slip away almost imperceptibly, a gradual trickle rather than a deluge?
Well, while stifling a giggle I made a mental note to do a bit of research (yes, I am that sad). Oddly enough I was led straight to John Lennon:
He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one MOJO filter
He say "One and one and one is three"
Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see
Come together right now over me
My fellow Beatles aficionados will know that's the final verse of Come Together from Abbey Road. It's my favourite album, ever, of all time. I even have a copy signed by George Martin (bragging here - sorry). For years I believed a MOJO was a musical instrument of some sort, something akin to an early Moog synthesizer. I had visions of John turning to Paul in the studio and with a knowing look saying, 'Hey Paul, think it's time for the MOJO filter, what d'you reckon?'
Suffice it to say if ever human beings were possessed of MOJO it was these four, filtered or not. So what the hell was Lennon on about? There's a theory each verse of the song relates to a fellow Beatle. The one in question here Paul. They weren't getting on at the time so perhaps McCartney was deemed to be filtering out Lennon's feelgood factor. Frankly that sounds like a load of twaddle to me. However, just for fun let's return to Abbey Road in 1969 once more:
John: 'Hey, Macca. Stop filtering my MOJO.'
Paul: 'Get rid of the Mrs. and I'll think about it.'
So, there you go. Banish the image of Austin Powers and maybe MOJO has a place in the world once more. If it was good enough for John Lennon it's good enough for me. Just wish it really was a piece of recording kit.
Edinburgh born Scottish exile living in Dublin. I love words & will be blithering on about them here. Feel free to blither back. I'd love to hear from you.