Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Wonderful Words and Phrases - Buckshee

A great word, meaning, "free" as in obtaining something at no financial cost, or obtaining something extra.

Example: "Eh've got tickets fir Sidney Devine going buckshee".

Now I always thought this was a Scottish word, or at the very least a longstanding part of the English language. It has also wrongly been thought that buckshee is Cockney rhyming slang for "free". However it's origins appear to be Persian, the word baksheesh meaning a gratuity or a tip to expedite service.

...the English usage origins of buckshee (also buckshees, although this can still refer to a single free entity) are firmly rooted in Middle-Eastern and Anglo-Indian language, dating back to the mid-1700s, and more widely adopted and popularised by the British army operating in the Middle-Eastern and Indian territories in the first and second world wars, who developed various meanings around the main interpretation. The root word is bakh'sheesh in Arabic, notably from what was Persia (now Iran), with variations in Urdu and Turkish, meaning a gift or a present. The early British usage of the expression would have been bakshee, backshee, but by the 1900s this had evolved into the modern buckshee/buckshees/buckshish. The modern form is buckshee/buckshees, referring to anything free, with other associated old slang meanings, mostly relating to army use, including: a light wound; a paymaster (also 'buckshee king'), and a greedy soldier at mealtimes. I am grateful for the following note from Huw Thomas in the Middle East: "...The word 'buckshee' was brought back by the British Eighth Army lads from North Africa in the Second World War. It comes from the Arabic word bakh'sheesh, meaning 'free' or 'gift'. In Arabic today, it refers to the tip given to a restaurant waiter." (ack Huw Thomas)



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