Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Argy-bargy (by DMcC)

 Hello all! I've enlisted some occasional help with Slang-o-rama from the euphonious DMcC (aka Devyn McConachie)—so look for entries such as this one to pop up from time to time! Now, a bit about our assistant slang-o-rama-ist:

Devyn McConachie is a designer-editor-cartoonist, currently lurking about Portland, Oregon. Were it not for her wobbly landlubber legs and love of indoor-living, she would absolutely have taken up a career as a sea-pirate. Landlocked as she is, she instead fills her days with graphic design, animation, illustration, and copy editing.

For more info and to view her visual portfolio, visit this here link. She also has an Etsy shop (arts, hats, and cards) right here

Returning to an earlier theme, here’s another nearly-nautical-sounding phrase… argy-bargy! Alas, Ann had no luck with the boat-connection with “dory” in hunky-dory, but perhaps “bargy” will prove fruitful in this hunt for a boating idiom. Let’s find out… 

According Merriam-Webster Online, an argy-bargy is a “lively discussion,” or “an argument or disagreement.” Like shilly-shally from last year, argy-bargy features rhyming reduplication—a linguistic tweak where a word or word stem is repeated for expressive effect. The stem, argy, is a Scots-English term for “argue,” with first known usage as early 1839.

The Chess Game by 19th-century painter Charles Bargue (no relation to argue-bargue, but these fellows do look ready to start an argie-bargiement), Public Domain,

The Scottish National Dictionary, contained in the Dictionaries of the Scots Language (Dictionars o the Scots Leid, or DSL for short), offers a similar definition—according to the DSL, argy-bargy (or argie-bargie) means:

  1. (Noun) A dispute in words, a quarrel, haggling, its use generally implying impatience with the speaker. (for example: “The other [hand] gesticulating in front of Tom Reid in an argy-bargy over the amount of his charge.”)
  2. (Verb) To dispute, to haggle. (for example: “Sittin' on the corner o' the table, he argy-bargied away, but a' to no purpose.”)

 The DSL defines the root word argy (or argie) as:

  1. (Verb) To argue, [generally] in a contentious or noisy fashion.
  2. (Noun) Assertion. 

… with the noun form appearing in text as early as 1808.

 Along with argie/argy, and argy-bargy / -bargie come a whole extended Scottish family of varying spellings and sayings, brimming with rhyming reduplications. To name a few...

  • Argey-reerie: (noun) a wrangle, a scolding 
  • Arg: (verb) to talk ill-temperedly and hot-headedly 
  • Argie-bargiement: (noun) a wrangling, contention 
  • Argifee (or argufee, argufy, arguify): (verb) to argue, to signify
  • Argolling: (noun) argument, reasoning
  • Argle-bargle (or argol-bargol): (noun) Contention, dispute. (verb) to dispute
  • Argle-bargling: (verbal noun) disputation
  • Argle-bargler: (noun) contentious person, disputer, debater
  • Argle-barglous (or argol-barglous, argol-bargolous): (adjective) quarrelsome, disputatious

 The DSL notes in the entry for argle-barglous that the words argue and bargain may have been the basis for these repetitive reduplicates. To plumb the depths as far as we can...

The Online Etymology Dictionary traces the verb argue back to the 1300s, from the French arguer (“maintain an opinion or view; harry, reproach, accuse, blame”), which itself came from the Latin arguere (“make clear, make known, prove, declare, demonstrate”)... An old term indeed, no argolin’ with that!

Uh-oh, looks like someone starting an argie-baaaaahrgie
Image by suju from Pixabay

As for bargain, the same etymology dictionary cites its origin to the 1400s, based on the Old French term bargaignier (“to haggle over the price”), which itself was based on a Germanic term, likely the Proto-Germanic borgan (“to pledge, lend, borrow”). However, 19th-century German philologist Friedrich Diez suggested that the French bargaignier could, in fact, have come from the Late Latin barcaa barge!—although there aren’t many sources to back this theory.

Hmmm, a tenuous conclusion, if there is one. Personally, I’m wiffle-waffling on whether this counts as a sea term… But at this point, I’ve got to either fish or cut bait—so I’ll leave it to you to decide!

What do you think? Argy-bargy, a boat-based byword, or no?


Camille Minichino said...

Never mind those elegantly dressed chess players, all I can picture is two peg-legged pirates calling for an argy-bargy!

Great to see artist Devyn McConachie here--I'm a huge fan of her work, from editing to a greeting card line and more!

Camille Minichino said...

Devyn, please edit my comment with the correct verb!

Nannette Rundle Carroll said...

I love Devyn's sense of humor! Particularly thought those sheep were hilarious and laughed out loud throughout!

Also it was great to be reminded of my Latin and French studies--I love etymology and how Devyn played with the various words!
I second Camille Minichino's comments about Devyn's artistic talent and also have enjoyed buying and using her greeting cards on Etsy!

Congratulation on the new Slang-o-rama assistant, Ann--FANTASTIC!!

Nannette Rundle Carroll

Jake Hansen said...

Great entry and art. Huzzah!
I need to remember to check Slang-o-rama a bit more often...

Ann Parker said...

Devyn -- THANK YOU for your help! I'm looking forward to your next offering (fish or cut bait? Do I hear a sea-shanty playing in the background? ;-) ).

Devyn McC. said...

Camille——ha haaa, I didn't even think of a pirate pun! That's brilliant. Those swashbucklin' scallywags were pretty famous for their arrrrrr-gle-bargles. ;)

Jake——fancy seeing you here! :)

Ann——your earlier posts definitely got me on a sea-shanty binge. I started on a Pandora station for the band "The Longest Johns" to get in the seafarin' mood, and that led to a whole caboodle of shanties and folks songs. It was a good time; I highly recommend it.

Thanks everybody for the lovely comments——I'm glad you enjoyed the show! This was a really fun one to research. Catch you on the next wave...