Monday, December 01, 2008

the dreaded lurgi

I have the lurgi. Better Half has the lurgi. Grover is recovering from the lurgi.

Lurgi, the lurgi or the dreaded lurgi (also sometimes spelt lurgy) rhymes with Fergie and is a lovely informal BrE word with comedic (and possibly dialectal) origins that can now refer to an annoying (but not serious) illness that hangs around and makes one feel miserable. World Wide Words does a lovely job of recounting its history. Wiktionary has more on its meanings. In addition to meaning 'flu-like symptoms' it has a playground use that is somewhat equivalent to AmE cooties, which you can learn more about here or in the following video:


But that's all from me now, 'cause I've got the lurgi.

47 comments:

Skwid said...

Finally, something better to call it than "The Crud!"

String said...

Wow, I [AmE in UK] would never have spelled it with an "i". Definitely "lurgy".

Thanks for the history links, and for confirming its equivalence with cooties. Hope you feel better soon!

arwel said...

Actually, I'd have spelt it lurgae myself. I had it last week...

Zhoen said...

Goobah. (US)

Doug Sundseth said...

Is there any etymological link between "lurgy" (presumably in a non-rhotic dialect) and "loogie"?

expateek said...

That video is PRICELESS! Love it.

And nothing beats the sound of the word "lurgy" intoned in a posh Brit accent. It sounds simply dire.

lynneguist said...

@Doug: no. As far as I know 'loogie' is AmE-only.

Anonymous said...

And no one has wished you (and yours) a quick recovery yet? Then let me be the first!

-h

RWMG said...

Ever since I first heard of American cooties I've often wondered if they were related to Indonesian kutu (lice). Though by what route I have no idea.

Hope your lurgy doesn't last too long.

lynneguist said...

To be fair, Anon/h, String did wish me well! But thank you for all well-wishes. Grover and BH are doing better--I'm between naps.

@RMWG: well caught! See Online Etymological Dictionary. Note that it originally came to English on the British side, but it's predominantly an American word now. I have also heard it used to mean 'lice' in the US.

lynneguist said...

Oh, and I should've mentioned the American game Cootie, which demonstrates the entomological/etymological link. Apparently a similar game was marketed in the UK as "Beetle".

town mouse said...

Yes, get well soon.

Linguistically, lurgy seems to be being taken over by the even more dreaded 'man flu' (and its female equivalent, bird flu), which is of course a complication of skiveritis.

Ginger Yellow said...

I trust you have equipped yourself with an E flat trombone, as per Grytpype's instructions.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

So sorry to hear that you're Proper Poorly, to use a very BrE expression - hope you feel better soon.

I would always spell it "lurgy", if not "lergy". I do think it is a mispronunciation of "allergy"; I know Wiktionary says not, but I don't think it quite realises the tradition of deliberate mispronunciation for comic effect that exists in BrE.

I thought cooties were specifically headlice? Here, they don't have a nickname - I don't think "lurgy" would be used for that, although I don't have a child of playground age so I don't know for sure.

@townmouse: I thought "man flu" meant a slight cold that any self-respecting male would insist was flu and refuse to take any form of cold relief "because I need to know how ill I feel"... as opposed to "real" flu that knocks you out for a fortnight and if you're an OAP/Senior Citizen (BrE/AmE) you get vaccinated against. "Lurgy" can be a tummy-upset, too, I think as well as a cold or similar virus.... at least, it can in my book!

Anonymous said...

Get well soon!
(I'm back to lurking now.)

Sarah said...

I thought cooties were nits (BrE) - headlice.
The unpopular child in the playground had germs.

lynneguist said...

@Mrs Redboots/Sarah: the 'lice' meaning of 'cooties' is long separated from the playground use--at least on the playgrounds I frequented. On the playground 'cooties' is usually 'boy germs' or 'girl germs' (depending on which sex you are--i.e. a girl can get cooties/boy germs from touching a boy), but can also be just general 'untouchableness'. For instance, I remember a certain girl in my class who was never quite as well-scrubbed as the rest of us, and she would often be said to have/give cooties.

The terms 'nit' and 'head lice' are common to both dialects, as far as I know. Nits are the eggs, rather than the insects.

Went to the doctor--who says I have sinusitis, rather than lurgi. The treatment seems to be the same.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

Ah, but you see, sinusitis is a lurgy! At least, that's how I would use the word - "I have some kind of lurgy; the doctor says it's sinusitis!"

Either way, hope you feel better soon!

Expat mum said...

I thought my mother had made that up! She will be pleased to be vindicated. She also says "stotious" (pronounced stowshus) which I'm sure is a made up word. I think it means very drunk.

Cameron said...

No no, up here in Glasgow stotious is a common word, one of the many meaning "drunk" in local dialect.

Johnny E said...

Video is hilarious! I don't specifically remember lurgy having that opposite-sex-avoidance meaning when I was at school, I think if we used it at all it was more like the "untouchable" meaning you mentioned. The "circle circle dot dot" rhyme rings a bell but I can't remember how the rest of it went for us...

mollymooly said...

stocious is the usual spelling of stotious. It's mainly Irish. It's in the OED.

Fnarf said...

I grew up calling this dire illness "the dreaded mahocous". That's what my dad called it.

Fnarf said...

Mahocus, rather. Google tells me I'm not the only one, either. Sounds like something from Dr. Seuss.

Anonymous said...

"Cooties" video is an absolute riot. A wonderful parody of the STD ads.I didn't know a vaccine was available.

Anne T. said...

My mom called it "purple diabungus" - a cold. No idea where she got this.

jhm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
badVlad said...

I thought that cooties was wiped-out in the 1970s when the CDC started requiring Cooties Shots to be administered in schools.
Has it made a resurgence?

don't have one said...

I am from Glasgow and had never heard of (the)lurgy until I moved to Oxford. I think it is a regional term.

Anyone else agree?

Anonymous said...

I'm from suffolk, and i usually term it as the lurg, without the y or i. 'Oh no, you've got the lurg!'

Lyn said...

Can't believe no-one's mentioned the Goon Show, the British radio show where I believe "lurgi" was invented, probably by Spike Milligan. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Goon_Show#The_dreaded_lurgi

Lyn said...

The Macquarie Dictionary (Australia, where the word is well-known by people of a certain age):

lurgy (say 'lergee)
noun Colloquial 1. a fictitious, very infectious disease.
2. Also, the dreaded lurgy. any illness. Also, lurgi. [coined by British comedian Spike Milligan, 1919–2002]

lynneguist said...

Click on the World Wide Words link provided, and you'll see it mentioned!

Robert "Anaerin" Johnston said...

Indeed, though I've also seen it spelled "Lurghi", pronounced "Lur-ghee" (That's "Lur" as in Lurk, with a glottal gh, as in Ghastly, not a hard G as in Generator), as opposed to "Lur-ghai" or "Lur-G".

Anonymous said...

My mother called it "the epizootic." Only many years later did I learn this was a real word, apparently referring to a cattle disease, epizootic aphthosa. Rodger C

Rachel Ward said...

At school it was always plural as in "ugh, she's got lurgies!" . Singular when used by my parents though. It took me ages to get past the playground sense and use the word myself!

ella said...

appropriate that you linked to this today, as I have been in the grip of the lurgy for over 2 weeks now. Ugh. Koff. *Wooze* Where's my E-flat trombone when I need it?

Julie said...

I'm pretty sure that by the age of ten I knew that cooties were "really" head lice...but that didn't mean I could get by without a cootie vaccination. In my school you had to have the letters CV on your hand or arm in ball-point pen. Those social cooties were even more important than the six-legged ones.

Frankiemouses said...

I am currently sick with the dreaded lurgi but it could be worse I could be 'bad in bed under the doctor' as some of my welsh friends would say.

Mindy said...

Ok, so what is Lurgi? I do not see a definitive answer to what this is?

Allergies, cold, flu?

just an over all feel sick, but no clue to what it is?

unidentified virus?

Help a sister out :)

David Crosbie said...

Mindy

Ok, so what is Lurgi? I do not see a definitive answer to what this is?

That's the point. It's thingummy, it's How's your father/, it's oojamiflip it's There's a lot of it about.

As Lyn explained, it started as a comic creation the dreaded lurgi. Since the Goon Show days, it seems to have shifted from an hysterical term for something dreadful but unreal, to a low-key term for something nebulous but sort-of real.

A rough paraphrase is It's probably nothing but I'm being hypochondriac about it. Ha ha! Aren't I funny.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I wouldn't say it's a hypocritical thing (that's man-flu!), more just a minor virus one either doesn't wish to go into detail about, or doesn't know: "X won't be at work today, she has some kind of lurgy".

Or, possibly, "There's some kind of lurgy going round at school; several people in X's class are off with it."

Mindy said...

Thank you.

We would say there's something going around, or there's a virus going around.

Mindy said...

or we would say a stomach bug, or some kind of bug is going around.

lynneguist said...

Mindy, I don't think you're appreciating the humo(u)r of the term. There is no translation.

Mindo14 said...

Lynne, It is kind of hard to get the humor when you have no clue what it is :) but I think I am kind of getting it now.

John in Leeds said...

My understanding is that the Lurgi was popularised by the Goon Show, but that it had been British army slang during the second world war (all the Goons and their writers had served). Its use is consciously humourous.