Monday, 19 August 2013

Bloke - A Shelta'd Man

A rather dashing bloke holidaying in Ireland
(photo by Swire Chin)

BLOKE

Noun. Colloquial. Mid-19th century.
[Shelta.]

A man, a fellow. 

Also: blokey, blokeish adjective M20

Bloke is a refreshingly neutral word, and really gives no indication of a man's age, background, status or demeanour. "He's a funny old bloke, isn't he?" sits just as well as "I got jumped by a couple of drunk blokes in town last night." Most references suggest that this is a chiefly British colloquialism, though it is used in other parts of the world too, including Australia (perhaps with more emphasis on a bloke's masculinity there). What's particularly interesting about bloke, however, is its origin, which the OED unequivocally gives as Shelta, the ancient secret language of Irish Travellers. In tracing bloke back through its Traveller roots, its ultimate origin may be the Celtic ploc, meaning a stubborn person, or even Romany or Hindi loke, meaning a man. Despite its modern Britishness, therefore, bloke seems to be a rather well-travelled chap indeed.

Do you use bloke?

Have you met any nice blokes recently?

Do please comment below.

17 comments:

  1. I don't use bloke very often any more, but did a number of years back while living down under.

    Are the Irish Travellers tinkers?

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    1. Good morning Jingles : o ) Travellers in Ireland are called various names by the general population, including tinkers and knackers, both of which refer to trades originally associated with them (tinker to tinsmithing, and knacker to a knacker's yard, a place where old animals were sent to be rendered). Both words are considered offensive here, however, and would generally be used in a highly pejorative sense. The word Traveller is most often used, including when Travellers refer to themselves, and there are some older names as well, such as Pavee.

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    2. Oh gosh, I had no inkling those terms were considered offensive.
      Filed that away in things to remember!
      Ta for the info Ed.

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    3. No prob, Jingles. I didn't know either until I moved to Ireland.

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  2. It's a very convivial, harmless, friendly sort of thing to be, isn't it, compared to being a man?

    -clueless.

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  3. The foreman at my summer job this morning was the last nice bloke I met. He brought me ear plugs when he saw the noise of the machines was starting to give me a headache.

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    1. Aww. That's great. If we all met one nice bloke per day, that'd be smashing. I hope your ears, satisfactorily plugged, are now ailing you less.

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    2. I find most people are generally really nice. But then I'm one of those people who thinks being stern is part of being professional, so I'm not offended by it. A lot of people think being stern is being mean, I've come to realise throughout the years.

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  4. This weekend I ran into a bloke I had a fling with as a teenager... I hadn't seen him for years. There are a few rather nefarious memories that came to mind. Regardless, he was a decent bloke.

    (PS As a Canadian, I can't say bloke is much a part of my vernacular.)

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    1. Well you can say bloke here as often as you like, Kara, and no one will think any less of you for it.

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  5. I'm afraid this word always makes me think of ersatz Michael Caine in the SCTV trailer for My Bloody Hand.

    Why, I'm just as American as any of you blokes!

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    1. Thanks, Nick - I enjoyed that. And I wouldn't have got the bloke joke! I don't think I realised how British 'bloke' seems to be until every dictionary I checked had 'Chiefly British' marked against it.

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  6. Late to the party but I'm British and I use bloke all the time.

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