Words we use: Barrack

A word used in Ulster for bragging


Where I come from to barrack means to consistently interrupt a person who is speaking. In Ulster the verb means to brag, to be boastful of one’s fighting powers.

The English Dialect Dictionary (EDD) has, from Co Antrim, “One boy will say to another, ‘He’s only barracking.’” Hence barracker, a braggart; and the verbal noun barracking, bragging.

I have a feeling that workmen in olden times would give their employers a hell of a time if they were denied their barrage, their allowance for beer. A churchwarden’s account, written up in Cheshire in 1648, contains, “Given to the carpenter’s two men for their Barrage, 8d.” I heard the word from Phil Wall, of Carne, Co Wexford, who was over 90 when I met him in 1970. I have enquired since then about the word’s existence in Carne; nobody remembers it. The word is from beer, plus age, the EDD says; for the suffix, it tells us to compare mileage.

Phil Wall gave me another word, found also in Devon, the EDD tells me: barraquail. This is a cross-bar, to which the traces are fastened in a cart. I have failed to find this word in any Irish glossary, and it is not used any longer in south-east Wexford. The word has an interesting pedigree. Let me quote the EDD: Barra, probably connected with bar (Old French barre) plus quail, a pin of wood. Miege’s 1679 glossary has “Quille de Char, the draught-tree whereon the yoke hangeth.” Compare Cotgrave’s dictionary of 1612: Quille, a keyl, a big peg or pin of wood used at nine-pins or keyls. The form quail probably represents French quille, contaminated with keyl (kail). Quille and keyl are both identical with Old High German kegil, a peg of wood (modern German kegel).

Barroughed is an interesting Co Antrim word, used for a cow having the hind legs tied together, or by tying the hind leg to an iron stake or pin driven into the ground. A cow tied by the horns was said in Co Down to be barroughed. I am told that the word is probably obsolete now in Ulster. Consider the Scots burroch, “a band put round the hinder legs of a vicious cow, when milking, to prevent her kicking.”

J Paterson’s Ballads and Songs of Ayrshire has “In the byre she’s aye cannie, nor e’er needs a burroch.”

The verb means “To fasten a cow’s legs to prevent her kicking. Hence burrochit, “restrained” and burrochless, “wild, untractable, without restraint.”

The origin is the Gaelic buarach, a cow-fetter.